How to find, manage, and process documents with ease

In theory, to manage documents in digital form instead of paper form should be saving your business time and money. And, in practice, this is mostly true. However, if your staff members are wasting time looking for documents, emailing documents around, chasing approvals, and struggling to remember which version of a document is the latest one, then you may have simply swapped one set of challenges for another by digitising your paper documents.

However, a good document management solution can implement processes that help you overcome these challenges and start to see a real return on your investment in digitisation.

A document management solution (DMS) such as M-Files, also known as enterprise content management (ECM) or, an intelligent information management (IIM) solution, can help your team streamline workflows, eliminate the wasted time spent looking for documents, and ensure they’re always working with the most recent version.

Finding Documents

Digital documents are usually saved in any number of shared drives, on desktops, in emails, in transactional and informational systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, just to name a few. This siloed approach is normal in most companies but it means that your staff members often spend time just clicking around, looking for the document they need.

A DMS solution can help minimise this by directing where your employees save documents so they’re easy to find in the future. When that also includes IIM  further data intelligence is applied to this process so that it doesn’t matter where your documents are stored; the solution finds them based on what they’re about rather than where they are stored.

Using metadata, which is information tags about the document, the IIM solution can instantly surface any document across multiple systems in your business using simple search box. It can also surface related documents so you can get a contextual picture of the document, giving you the information that you need in an instant.

You staff will no longer need to worry about locating where a document is saved, and they’ll no longer need to spend more than a few seconds accessing the document they need. Importantly, the IIM solution surfaces the most recent version of a document, with tracking and visibility of previous versions, so version control issues are also minimised.

Managing Document Security

Working with documents and managing them appropriately can be made complex by various types of legislation governing how data needs to be treated. Some documents need to be retained for a set period of time, while others should be destroyed as soon as possible.

Managing and securing your documents depends on knowing exactly what documents you have, where they’re stored, and how they’re protected. Without an effective management solution in place, gaining this visibility can be all but impossible. This can put some companies in the vulnerable position of not knowing whether they comply with the Privacy Act or other legislation.

Even if your business isn’t subject to the Privacy Act, it’s just good governance to ensure all your documents are secure and those parameters are visible . When you don’t know where everything is saved, you don’t know whether you’re protected.

Putting an effective document management solution in place that leverages intelligent capabilities means you can automate a large amount of this governance work. You can gain the visibility you need to ensure your documents are secure, and you can comply with information requests and demands to delete or amend personal information without creating an administrative nightmare, because your staff members won’t have to laboriously trawl through your systems to ensure all relevant documents are provided. The IIM solution will surface all of those documents automatically. You can also set automated workflows that control who has permission to access what information based on the relevant business criteria such as role, project group or department.

Processing Documents

Document processing is a key area where your business could potentially realise cost-saving efficiencies that could dwarf any benefits you’ve achieved in the past. This is because an IIM solution can include automated workflows that completely eliminate huge chunks of the manual processing work currently done by administrative staff. This frees up those staff members to focus on work that actually contributes to business growth, rather than simply ticking boxes and shuffling paper.

Take accounts payable, for example. Some organisations have teams of people whose sole responsibility it is to manage the accounts payable process. They manually receive invoices and check them against purchase order numbers and proof of delivery to ensure the invoice is legitimate. They can then spend hours or days simply on data entry of the key information found on the invoices, before it’s passedon to the person authorised to approve the invoice for payment. Often the invoice isn’t returned, lost or perhaps forgotten requiring the AP team to chase a signed copy, or worse, repeat the process. Once signed off the accounts payable staff can then process the invoice  for paymentand then upload the details into the business’s finance system.

This process is repeated over and over again for every invoice the business receives. And, at any point in that manual workflow, errors, duplicates and delays can creep in. These include:

  • invoices could be paid twice because no one notices that the invoice is a duplicate or payment has already been made
  • fraudulent invoices could be paid because incorrect purchase order number or amounts go unnoticed
  • invoices could be paid even though the goods weren’t received because no one was able to confirm whether the goods were received
  • early-payment discounts can be missed or invoices could be paid late incurring additional costs in late fees, because the approver took too long to sign off on the invoice
  • the wrong amount could be paid due to typos when manually entering information
  • invoices could be lost altogether, resulting in non-payment, which can also affect supplier relationships.

And even if none of those errors or delays occur, the process is still incredibly costly because of the sheer amount of time it takes staff members to complete their part of the workflow.

Using an automated workflow as part of an Accounts Payable Automation solution through DMS, all of these challenges can be overcome. The automated solution automates the data extraction removing error prone manual data entry, and takes on the burden of automatically checking all the information against purchase orders, proof of delivery, previous payments, and so on, then either automatically approves the invoice for payment or sends it directly to an approver for sign off.

The approver receives an alert that an invoice is awaiting sign off, and can provide that sign off from any location, using any device. Automated emails reminders can even be implemented after a set number of days if the invoice remains unapproved.  Once approved, this triggers the payment to be made, and the details are entered into the finance system, finalising that invoice.

Admin staff only need to get involved if an anomaly or exception is identified, which means they can spend the bulk of their time doing more valuable activities that contribute to business growth and are likely far more enjoyable than the mundane tasks that are part of processing payments.

Upstream provides sophisticated document management solutions that can help not only streamline your Accounts Payable processes, but also your other areas of your business to realise significant efficiencies from better document management and automated workflows. To find out just how much we could save your business, contact us today.