First, please take note that we used the word “file” and not “document” in this blog title. It’s true that less orders, correspondence, contracts, etc. are being memorialized on paper or a “document”. However, there is still a “file” being created that looks just like the paper document only its PDF or JPG. That PDF receipt is a document and is the buyer’s proof of the transaction so they want it.
The receipt gets emailed to you (system #1) but then you forward it to an accounts payable system for processing (system #2). Later, that same file is sent to a co-worker who had a question about it. Maybe that was sent as an attachment in an instant messenger system like Slack (system #3). Or that file was pushed out to Box as part of a special project (system #4). You get the point, that file is everywhere now. Where isn’t that file is more appropriate today. But why should that be a concern?
According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median tenure of a worker age 25-34 is only 2.8 years. That means you will have a completely unfamiliar worker trying to find a contract or its supporting documents on a customer that has been in place for only three years. On a five or ten-year old relationship you could have 3 or 4 different workers, or more if your turnover is higher, wasting time trying to find the right file.
There is no simple solution to this problem but there are three places that you can get started. First, have a designated document management system of record. This is the organized and secure system where the final version gets stored. Second, connect this system of record to as many of your line of business applications as possible so that the file is easily accessible by users from within the system they use every day. Your key line of business applications will be your CRM or ERP, but it could also be an in-house portal like SharePoint.
Third, spend some time on user training to show users how they can send a link to the document from the system of record and not actually create another copy of it that resides in yet another silo. Train users how to make sure the final version goes into the system of record. Here is where you also want to make sure that your system of record makes it as easy as possible to capture the final versions and ensure the final version is tagged properly for later retrieval. That will be addressed in another blog post.
There are other reasons why you don’t want duplicate copies of files floating around your company such as privacy and litigation. However, the most important reason that you want to have a system of record is so that decisions are made based on the right information. Delayed or incorrect decisions will be more costly than the time wasted on searching. Technology has made it easy to have many copies of a file floating around. Spend some time to get that technology to work a little smarter.