It happens every day in our professional lives, we need information to make decisions or to complete tasks. To assist us in this effort we try to use our memory, the internet and information stored away in filing cabinets, desk drawers and computers.
Sometimes decisions or tasks are completed quickly from a single source of information. For instance, “was customer order 12345 invoiced?” – you can easily look it up in “the system”. This becomes more complex if the question simply expands to “and was it correct?”. Just like that you need much more information to come to the correct decision. It would be nice if there was only one place to get the complete picture.
The task of confirming the invoice can be a challenge. A manufacturing business or a service business will likely mean that there are several inputs and therefore, a more complex task. A few items that might be needed include; the contract and amendments, the quote, the actual order, parts list and materials order form, shipping documentation, tax documentation, time cards, etc.
In many businesses, some portion of the supporting information is a document, whether paper or digital. In most businesses, the true source of the supporting information is a document that was used to enter data into “the system”. The issue isn’t just about having access to the supporting information, but it also includes trust in that information because the data may have been entered incorrectly.
Information access and business processes need to incorporate the entire package of supporting data, including documents, to be optimal. When supporting documentation is actually paper, it invariably includes notes in the margin, notes that may never have been entered into “the system”, but provide valuable information. Contracts, even those that are electronic with digital signatures, almost always contain rights and obligations that aren’t entered as data but may prove crucial.
The bottom line is that “the system” either needs to include supporting documents or provide integrated access in order to give users the complete picture. Armed with the complete picture, users will accomplish great things like making better decisions, making customers happy and eliminating problems. That complete picture is powerful.