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In documents we trust, data not so much

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

via Flickr, by Alejandro MalleaSome day in the future it is plausible that paper documents in the business world will disappear.  Electronic documents, however, in the form of PDF’s, Word files or Excel spreadsheets, will continue to exist.  In fact, it will be a very long time before documents, and the content of the documents, cease to be important in the business world. 

Technology has enabled simple processes or transactions to occur entirely with online forms and direct data entry.  But there are still many instances where the content in a complex document becomes the data for accounting or ERP systems or documents.  It is easy to see what was keyed in, but In Documents we trust.

Some business processes are being converted to an entirely form based process where the concept of a document doesn’t pertain.  Take for example the process of setting up a new account with a water delivery service.  The entire process involves entering information into online forms to set up the account and start delivery.  No documents.

There are also processes where the document is created and then the document is used as the basis for inputting data into a business system.  And try as we might, we don’t always enter it correctly.  This has resulted in a lack of trust in some systems and a reliance on a quick peak at the original document to confirm the data before responding to the customer or to your boss.

There are also situations where the document may contain information that is not capable of being entered as data, like a photograph or a drawing or a long legal description. This is supporting documentation that may provide some clarity or understanding not found in data fields.  All systems should require the attachment of the supporting documents so that users can quickly verify the information. 

We used to call this “image enabling” a system - getting the images attached to the system.  There is no doubt that attaching the support after the transaction is entered is good practice and produces positive results.  But there is also the option of capturing the documents as the process occurs, thereby ensuring that supporting information is present and potentially reducing errors in the first place. 

Capturing documents as the process occurs is document management based workflow.  It is workflow that tracks in parallel with the ERP or accounting data entry process.  As the data moves along, the supporting documents come with, all in once nice neat package that can be referenced quickly at the time of the transaction and long after.  When users can have instant access to both the data and the documents, they can trust the information and provide fast and accurate responses to customers or vendors.

Millennia Group, LLC has been providing workflow and document management solutions since 1996.  www.mgdocs.com, 630-279-0577, info@mgdocs.com