Workflow Automation Software

Millennia Group Blog

Technology goggles make work flow

via Flickr - Chief RangerThe first thing that comes to mind when you hear about workflow is most likely order and process.  There is validity in that thought.  Workflow is intended to deliver efficiency and cost saving by using defined order and automated process. 

Defining what the process should be is the tricky but necessary part and it’s the fun part.  Yes, fun.  When you dig in and people realize how many time wasting tasks can be eliminated, you can feel the joy.  So how do you re-connect the dots to create an effective digital workflow and really make work flow?  Put on your technology goggles and look at the process.

The first step is to have the people involved in the process document how the process works.  This will initially result in a small number of simple steps.  The process of writing down those simple steps will produce some ah ha moments and more steps will be added.  Then with a business analyst or consultant doing some question and answer sessions, the truth will come out and now the number of steps is doubled or tripled.

The next step involves analyzing the process to understand what the actual goal of the process is and how it impacts the business and possibly other processes.  With all of this information gathered, it’s time to engage the software partner or your technology team to match the goals and process with the digital solution.  They are the ones best equipped to connect what needs to get done with how technology can get it done.

Technology will allow you to eliminate steps or enhance a process.  For instance, you might be able to eliminate a verification step by using technology to do a comparison – ensure the required documents are attached before approval can be given.  Let technology automatically create a new workflow based on conditions in another workflow – like when one new capital improvement project results in three new vendors.  That’s four workflows.

Workflows can be all data inputs or a package of documents and data.  Workflows can be sequential where a process is one step at a time or parallel so you can do multiple steps simultaneously.  To make work flow, accurately define the process and have someone look at the process through a technology googles.  The end result will be a vastly better process that will have you looking for other areas where you can have some fun.

Millennia Group has been providing workflow and document management solutions since 1996.,, (630) 279-0577.

Blockchain vs Digital Signatures

via Flickr, Jon PhillipsBitcoin continues to make news and inroads into the world of finance.  Two of the basic technologies that drive Bitcoin include blockchain and peer to peer computing.  These two concepts are relatively understandable.  Blockchain uses a distributed ledger, which is essentially a list that is shared across many computers (peer to peer).  Because many computers contain a time-stamped replica of the data, it is very difficult, and expensive to hack or change the data in a fraudulent way – and its encrypted.

These concepts are moving into other areas such as smart contracts.  However, these contracts are not documents as that term is generally understood.  The smart contract is essentially a perfectly known set of conditions and data, that when met, results in a payment or action.  The contract is essentially data points; house address, meter number and usage, bank account or Bitcoin account, electricity rate, dates.  All immutable data that can be kept in a ledger. 

As an example of a smart contract, the distributed ledger could record exactly how much electricity your house is using and it can be scripted to automatically send the electric utility money based on the set rates and dates.  However, this is not much different than the current situation of a smart electric meter and autopay.  The smart contract method may never involve a bank or fiat currency as we know it.  It involves bitcoin or “ether”, the digital currency of Ethereum, a smart contract platform.

The concept of smart contracts can strike fear into lawyers and document management specialists because on the surface it sounds like an end to documents, digital or paper.  But the reality is that the world is not comprised of a perfect set of conditions that can be scripted and that is why contracts and lawyers exist now and will for a long time.  Maybe smart transaction is a better description and digital signatures should be associated with smart contracts.

A clue to the potential adoption time frame of smart contracts would be digital signatures.  Digital signatures have been around since approximately 2003 and are still used predominantly in applications such as vendor contracts, apartment and car rentals because the contracts are standardized.  Digital signatures still affix to a digital document and have a secure private ledger to ensure authenticity.  More efficient than paper and easy to do.

These new technologies that are based on blockchain and peer to peer have the potential to radically change some back office parts of the current financial infrastructure, but not necessarily the way business gets done.  So for the time being, we need to focus on how to efficiently create, store, protect and share our documents, with digital signatures or not, to keep business running smoothly.

Since 1996 Millennia Group, LLC has been providing workflow and document management solutions.,, (630) 279-0577

Digital War Rooms – Avoid Casualties

Via Flickr - Gustav von RosenhelmFor the past 15 years or so the standard process for transaction due diligence is to upload information and documentation into cloud based digital war rooms.  These secure, online document management systems have been beneficial to buyers and sellers and especially lawyers and financial analysts.  Reduced travel and less time spent in windowless rooms reviewing and copying documents by the thousands are just two of the many benefits.

The information that is uploaded is driven to satisfy the seller’s requirement of disclosure but not optimized for the buyers post deal operations.  If the buyer leaves the information in the native structure, there will always be user frustration when searching.  Multiply one dis-organized silo by many transactions and now you have a whole lot of user frustration.  Here are some suggestions for tackling the transition so that operations is able to perform at peak levels.

First, if at all possible get an inventory of the war room contents, preferably in a spreadsheet format.  Built in Excel functionality will let you separate the data into columns by folder level.  This will usually provide a good method of sorting and analyzing the information to see how it can be incorporated into the acquiring company’s hierarchy or filing structure.  Focus on folder naming and how to match folder names to a source list like department, customers, vendors or contracts. 

Second, look at the files themselves, especially PDFs or scanned documents.  Very frequently for purposes of populating the war room, documents are scanned by folder or binder.  That is the easiest and lowest cost way to do it, but the least friendly when trying to locate a specific document later.  Will these “compound PDFs” need to be split up to make them user friendly? 

Lastly, consider whether there will be a need for de-duplication or any other type of file clean up before uploading to your system.  You may want to immediately archive some information as it may only have been useful for transaction purposes.  Are the file names cryptic and will they suffice as a document title in your system or does each file need to be renamed?

Once this analysis is completed, then you can work with your IT team to assist with the download, mapping to the desired structure, clean up and the holy grail – a batch upload into your system.  A batch upload is far and away more efficient than trying to upload one document at a time.  Don’t let your users be the casualties of a digital war room, transition the information into your organized and efficient structure.

Millennia Group has been providing document management and workflow solutions since 1996.,, (630) 279-0577

To Purge or Not to Purge

via Flickr, Liz WestBased on my observation the world consists of two types of people, purge people and non-purge people.  We all know which category we fall into, but as a reminder:  Purge people frequently empty out desk drawers, closets and the garage of useless documents, old clothes and stuff. Non-Purge people don’t.  And yet, we all co-exist.

There is a business practice that you may be familiar with called Legal Hold.  If a company is aware of or suspects litigation, that company should place all records and information related to the litigation on legal hold – don’t let the purge people get to it.  Of course, nobody is happy when there is litigation, but how is it possible to lock down (or not over accumulate [non-purge people]) information in this day and age?

This is the balancing act that all companies have to deal with.  Digital information is duplicated and stored in many places; email, the cloud, local computer drives, network drives and the company document management system.  Paper documents, yes they still exist, are in off-site storage, desk drawers, filing cabinets and boxes in the basement. 

A non-purge person puts the company at risk because nothing is ever destroyed, even if the information is past its legal requirement for retention.  The purge person puts the company at risk because something may have been destroyed when it was on hold or before its legal retention requirement expired. Document management systems and records management systems to the rescue.

Records management systems are primarily geared towards paper records and document management systems are for digital documents.  Both types of system can designate records as being on “Legal Hold”.  A search of the systems is conducted for information related to the litigation, for instance a product or customer name, and then all of those records are flagged.  A notice is also sent to all employees with the same information.

Because paper records are separate from the records management database, accidental destruction can more easily occur – keep a close eye on the purge people.  Digital records are easier to lock down because a document management system can dis-able the “Delete” function for users for some or all records.  This still doesn’t solve the issue of duplicate records that are outside the company system – keep a close eye on the non-purge people to make sure they aren’t saving files all over the cloud as a safety net.

It’s a complicated task to deal with a legal hold.  Having a records management system and a document management system will help control the process but make sure you know your purge and non-purge people and keep an eye on them.

Millennia Group is a document management solution provider serving a national client base since 1996.,, (630) 279-0577

I need a little wiggle room to be productive

via FlickrThe security of the information that our clients have entrusted us to host in our document management system is paramount.  Clients demand that their information remain private and confidential and we absolutely understand and abide by that.  The SEC, auditors and sound business practices demand it too.

Our clients concern certainly includes stopping bad actors, but it also includes the people that they set up as valid users – they should only see and share what they are allowed to see and share.  However, as far as sharing goes, some flexibility is needed so that users can be productive.  Here are some thoughts on why wiggle room is needed and how sharing information can be protected.

Generally, people don’t work in a vacuum, they need to communicate and work with others, both inside and outside the organization.  The two most popular ways that people communicate and share information remain email and cloud based file sharing sites.  We use email when the quantity of documents is few or we upload to the cloud if there are many.

The easiest way to share information is via email, just attach and send.  That makes email so efficient.  However, a user that is emailing a few documents outside the company doesn’t know how many times that email was forwarded on nor who the potential recipients were.  You want the users to have the flexibility that email provides, but you want some controls in place. 

For instance, if the files being emailed are PDF’s, you could watermark them as “Confidential”.  You could limit the number of files that can be emailed at one time or per day.  Your system might email links to the files and the links expire after a set number of days.  If your company doesn’t have a document management system, these suggestions may not be feasible.

Bulk file transfers are a different story.  More files potentially means more trouble and therefore more caution is needed.  Users frequently need to provide large collections of files to outside parties for audits, transactions or other special projects.  Typically, much more control is required for these purposes.

You could have a requirement that bulk downloads and sharing of files must be requested through the IT department.  You should restrict which users have the right to download in bulk.  You should also track all bulk downloads and ideally, if the system is capable of cloud or war room type sharing, the system should track all activity in the shared files.  Restrictions on the guest list is also recommended.

There are more extreme methods for locking down files from inappropriate sharing.  There are also plenty of systems and companies that have very limited protections and instead rely on the integrity of the users to maintain control.  Look to find solutions that provide the right amount of protection but still allow the flexibility to keep your users efficient and productive. 

Millennia Group has been providing workflow and document management solutions since 1996.,, (630) 279-0577

My PDFs are Dazed and Confused

One of the core principles that Millennia Group advocates and adheres to is that the official copy of a digital document should be a singular unit.  What this means is that the digital version, a PDF in most cases, should contain only one document.  What our users encounter, and sometimes want, is a different story.

A user may receive a single PDF from an external party that contains many documents.  The other situation is where the user receives multiple PDFs that together comprise a single document.  In one case the file needs to be split and in the other case, the files need to be merged.  Here are some examples of why this principle of a singular unit makes sense when your PDFs are dazed and confused.    

Many users will receive a single, giant PDF that contains upwards of 1,000 pages and 50 documents for a transaction closing.  Search is complicated because a user either needs to know the document exists in the PDF or they need to use the full text search capabilities to find it.  And then try sharing just one of those 50 documents with another user, it’s quite an effort to split the one document out of the whole PDF.

The other frequently encountered situation is that a document is so large that it could not all be scanned as one document.  We see that the document is then scanned as Part 1 and Part 2 or the main document as one PDF and each exhibit as PDFs.  It is not efficient to work with and have to open multiple documents to get the whole picture.  It is also imperative to keep all parts together so a user doesn’t mistakenly believe they have the whole story when they don’t.

On the flip side, we understand that the users of our document management system want to make it easy to send information to others.  Users want to gather up the documents they want and merge them into a single PDF that they can email out.  Or the users want to (gasp!) print out multiple documents all at once.

It’s all about making life easier for the users and giving them the flexibility that they want.  Of course, that means that your document management solution needs to have these split and merge functions.  Or the users need to be trained how to use the functionality in Adobe Acrobat so they can manage these tasks outside of the document management system.  Either way, the requirement is flexibility and the end result is optimal efficiency.

Millennia Group provides flexible workflow and document management solutions to optimize your users efficiency.,, (630) 279-0577

Active vs Final – Revisited

Via Flickr - Martin HostThe good thing about this blog is that I don’t really need to have answers.  That is especially good since I am re-visiting the discussion about working documents versus final documents.  It comes up in most every discussion about effective document management – how do I have one system that provides the functionality that I need for both working documents and final documents.

Recall from our earlier post about how creators of working documents tend to like fast and simple – a system where the user can create any collection of folders and subfolders to suit their needs and drag and drop files at will.  A user of final documents requires structure and certainty because having quick access to the right documents gets the job done.  However, at some point the documents in that web of active folders become the source of final documents.  So, is the method of transition from one status to the other the answer, are document police the answer or should there just be two systems?

If you have a system that permits unstructured data to be worked on in a folder hierarchy of your own creation and it provides for some type of batch tagging or indexing so that when finalized the files can be easily migrated over, you might have a winner.  But someone will still need to determine that the documents are final and which documents need to be retained.  The user will also then need to migrate the documents to a final status and at that time, make the proper associations so that other users can find the documents.  Work still needs to be done.

This could be where the document police come in.  they might be responsible for knowing when a deal or project is considered complete and then they spring to action.  The police make sure that the documents are tagged and indexed and migrated to the final status.  The problem with this is that not all situations are large batches of files like when there is a merger or acquisition or deal of some type.  In many cases it’s just a situation where the user is creating a new versions of a legal contract or PowerPoint presentation.  The document police are not going to be able to keep up on all of these daily users and their working files.

Two systems is the bane of the organization and the IT department.  Two systems means that there are two places to find information.  Two applications to manage security.  Two places to back up.  Two places that may actually have the same documents.  But, if the two systems can talk or share some information, even just a little information, maybe a transition method could exist.  Free and Open system just needs to pull one or two pieces of information from Final system at the beginning.  Then, when Free and Open system is finished, it passes those one or two bits of information to the Final system and it jump starts the identification process.

There is no right answer to this issue because every organization will function at its maximum efficiency in its own learned way.  You will know that you need to change the approach only when the efficiency level is deteriorating and users start to complain or make mistakes.  We are always looking at ways to help make our clients more efficient and this is one area that is constantly under discussion.  We will get there and when we do, we will let you all know.

Millennia Group is a document management and workflow solution provider.,, (630) 279-0577 x122

The Next Big Thing

Via Flickr - Christian SchnettelkerI participated in a webinar recently sponsored by Realcomm, an organization devoted to the advancement of technology for the commercial real estate industry.  It was about the future and hype verses reality.  My contribution was squarely on the reality side as I described how our real estate clients gain efficiency by using workflow to automate document oriented business processes. 

You might think, “do we still have documents?”  The answer in my world and the foreseeable world of our Fortune 5000 clients is, Yes.  Documents may not be in paper form any longer, but documents of some type (spreadsheet, PDF contract, etc.), are the support for data and todays decisions.  But to see the future, the next big thing, you need to believe in the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR).

There is no doubt that all of these big ideas are actually in use today and most likely touch our lives.  Buildings you work in might have elevators, chillers or pumps that are constantly communicating maintenance information that is reviewed and proactively managed.  Your phone can answer your questions via AI.  You may buy a house with only a virtual walk-through.  And doctors are receiving surgical training using VR.

What I found interesting about these big ideas was how they can and probably will transform our daily lives.  Artificial intelligence will lead us to roadways full of driverless cars.  Consequently, your local mall will have a spot for you to stop and exit your car, and then your car will drive itself to a parking lot a mile away until you are ready to have it come pick you up.  You will be able to virtually place a piece of furniture into your own virtual home to see how it fits before you purchase it. 

It is a benefit to all of us that there are people thinking far enough ahead on these issues.   Investment decisions, infrastructure projects and ideas that effect our daily lives need advanced planning and vetting.  Making todays reality more efficient also takes planning and vetting and the payoff period is probably long as big ideas always need big lead times.

Millennia Group, LLC provides workflow and document management solutions., or (630) 279-0577

Keeping it simple is not always the answer

via FlickrRecently we helped a client convert a small amount of paper documents related to a one time transaction into PDFs.  The PDFs would simply be in a folder and viewed or emailed as needed.  To keep it simple the files could be named in a structured format, ie. “ABCCo-Contract-060116-Brazil-Engine-D-JF.pdf”.  Most of that short hand is clear except the “D” is for diesel engines and that the Sales Rep was John Franklin?  Seemed simple enough and so we proceeded based on the clients requirements. 

In this case, the volume of documents was small, but the documents had a significant amount of descriptive information that could be captured. Each piece of information could be captured in a document management system database and ready for user searches. For example, find all contracts for Brazil or all diesel engine contracts.  So here is the issue – do you capture all of the rich information when converting the documents or do you keep it simple because sometimes simple is better?

In general, the answer probably has to do with the quantity of documents and the fact that this is a one time event.  If there are only 100 or 200 documents, the downside risk of using shortcuts is minimal.  A user could easily scroll the list of documents and with relatively good abbreviations, would find what they were looking for.  And if there ever was a need to pull these documents into a fully searchable document management system, it is not a gargantuan effort to go back and capture each piece of information. 

The decision would and should change if there were 10,000 or 100,000 documents involved.  First of all, there will generally be a need for automation to efficiently convert such a large quantity of documents to digital format.  That automation will include the use of a database and batch processing, which will make it easier to capture the full descriptive information.  Batch up all contracts for Brazil and scan them all at once and therefore, each document in the batch will automatically be associated with Brazil.

Secondly, it is also more reliable in a process involving that many documents and multiple data entry people to capture actual descriptions rather than rely on each person to always abbreviate in the exactly the same way.  The sales rep could be referred to as JF or JohnF or JFranklin.  Better yet, it should be a selection from the drop down list of known sales reps.

Besides quantity, the most important consideration though, concerns the next user that might need to find the document or documents.  We have all moved at least once in our lives and so we are all familiar with trying to find something that is still packed in a box.  A room with boxes is not so bad.  A garage and basement full of boxes with little to no description is not fun.  The more information written on the box the faster you will find that treasure you were looking for.  It’s just that simple.

Make my day – delete those records

via Jay Gorman from FlickrRecords retention and records management are very important principles in dealing with corporate information.  Records management being the overall guide book for employees on to how to store and classify information.  It is also about proper management of that information including legal holds (don’t destroy if litigation is in process), access to information and records retention.

Records retention is basically an information destruction plan based on business or legal requirements.  A business doesn’t necessarily want the burden of securing confidential, but outdated information for ever – ie. former patient records.  Creating a records management policy and records retention schedule requires a lot of effort and yet the actual deletion of records is a very difficult step to take. Here are some thoughts on how to feel better about pulling the trigger.

First, you need to get comfortable that you can properly identify and segregate information.  For instance, you need to have confidence that you can tell the difference between a current customer and a former customer.  Once you have the list of former customers, you need to understand how many years it has been since the last activity with that customer.  Now that you know and feel good about the subset of information that qualifies for destruction, the actual destruction is much easier.

Also, think through the reality of older information.  It is quite possible that 10 years ago you may not have been tracking as much information about the customer and their activities.  For instance, you may not have been tracking the country of origin of the source materials in their products that you purchase.  The older the information is, the less relevance it has to how you run your business today.  Provided the legal requirements to maintain those records has passed, fire up the shredder.

In regards to destroying paper documents that you have in digital form, the same prior comments apply, AND you have a digital copy.  We definitely have witnessed a growing willingness to destroy the paper copy after a review of the scanned version.  Some executed legal documents like contracts and certainly deeds and bank notes are retained in hard copy even-though the documents were scanned.  That makes sense.  But if you have a scanned version and you have taken steps to ensure that it is not tampered with, you really don’t need a paper copy of most documents.  It is called the Best Evidence Rule and it applies in most if not all states and at the Federal level.  Confirm your particular requirements.

So, make sure you have a retention policy that provides clear guidelines on when information types or classifications can be destroyed for business and legal purposes.  Make sure you can clearly identify and segregate the information on that basis and remember that old information is really not that useful anyway, then pull the trigger.

Millennia Group has been providing document management solutions since 1996.,