What You Need to Know About Document Management Workflow

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An organization that deals with any form of paperwork needs a system to manage it. There is an approval process and lifecycle for each document that flows through a channel. In today’s landscape of business, this requires a digital solution. One way to achieve that is through workflow automation with electronic document management.

What is a Document Management Workflow?

Document management workflow is the process used to collect, store, manage, edit, remove or categorize all documents within an organization. The goal of a document management workflow is to provide clear guidelines on how to handle any task or document throughout the document management lifecycle.

Document workflow poses a challenge in every industry from healthcare to manufacturing and retail.  A document management workflow is used in a variety of facets from the approval of travel expenses to annual reports and countless other business activities. The best document management systems are used to track, manage, and store important documents in real-time, while drastically reducing the use of paper. 

Effective document management is typically performed with an intelligent software system that acts as a document repository. Most are capable of creating multiple iterations of the same document (version control) that is modified by users. These systems commonly provide a workflow process for tasks like:

  • Versioning
  • Storage
  • Security
  • Indexing
  • Retrieval
  • Metadata

Document workflow software has some overlap with other concepts like content management systems. Additional systems that relate to business process management (BPM) include:

  • Document imaging
  • Enterprise document management
  • Workflow systems
  • Records management systems
  • Enterprise content management

The software works through a technology called optical character recognition (OCR). It has a built-in scanner that reads a document and converts it into an editable format. The most common reason for using a document management solution is to streamline workflow. It makes all paperwork into digital documents that are easily searchable in a virtual space.

Elements of a DMS Workflow

Understanding the workflow of a document is the first step in business process automation. The exact function will depend on your industry, type of document, and any regulations that may apply. Generally speaking, a DMS workflow contains a few simple steps:

  1. Creation, modification, and archiving of a new document.
  2. Versioning of documents.
  3. Sharing documents and collaborating.
  4. Creation of reporting.
  5. Incorporation of search capability.

The right program can help you continually optimize this workflow and streamline operations. 

Uses for a Document Management Workflow

There are countless uses for how a document approval workflow can be adapted. Some examples of how document control benefits a business include:

  • Finance and administration: Intelligent forecasting requires the right “paperwork” to keep the budget process accurate.
  • Supply and logistics: This ensures inventory management is on point with materials received in the right quantities at the right times. It also guarantees requests are approved promptly. 
  • Compliance and policy: It helps an organization comply with industry and government regulations. A business can better prepare for an audit when necessary.
  • Employee management: Document workflow helps to track employee promotion guidelines and expectations. It makes sure everyone is considered.
  • Company culture: It can be used for morale-boosting work functions that keep employees engaged.
  • Marketing and sales: It allows these departments to access important paperwork to run and automate the right campaigns.
  • Human resources: Rather than storing employee data in an Excel file, a document management system enables the HR department to keep it in a digital repository.

Integrated document management is comprised of the technology, tools, and methods that are used to handle documents across an enterprise. This includes actions like:

  • Capture
  • Manage
  • Store
  • Preserve
  • Deliver
  • Delete

These documents act more as files and contain a myriad of data like images, office documents, contracts, graphics, and drawings. They also contain electronic objects like email, web pages, instant messages, and video media. 

Document management software that is integrated with multiple technologies is the most successful solutions for enterprise businesses. It allows you to centralize and optimize the efforts in every department. 

Types of Document Management Systems

There are four main types of document management systems. These are:

  • Server-based – This includes platforms like locally installed library cataloging systems. 
  • Database – These are programs like MySQL that can store and manage a variety of file types.
  • Cloud-based – Information in these systems is uploaded and stored remotely.
  • Web-based – Data is generated and stored using a web browser.

Each type of system has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some programs combine characteristics of all four types. One key benefit they share is that when workflow management is digital, everything is paperless. 

Understanding DMS Workflow

Document management workflow software is designed to help you embrace the optimization of workflows that power your business. Choose a solution that enables centralized document creation with room for management, modification, sharing, searching, and archiving. Effective document management requires several steps, so you need a robust system that can handle it all. 

There are many brands on the market for a DMS. SharePoint is a popular platform that integrates with MS Office. It’s highly configurable with varying usage. You can manage, store, share, and access your documents from any device (including mobile). 

You should demand that your DMS software has an intuitive user interface so the learning curve is small. Some companies utilize this technology to document discussions and versioning, while others use it to manage data with configurable web forms or allow authorized access. So, it’s important to consider your primary needs before purchasing a solution.

When documents are managed electronically, workflows are more transparent and proceed at a quicker pace. Fewer errors need to be corrected and less time is wasted searching for documents. Manual-handoffs through a chain of command are a thing of this past. It’s time to abandon paper documents and start thinking from a digital perspective. Not only does it save on costs, it saves our planet too.

Document workflow software dramatically simplifies administration. It takes away from the hassle of tracking documents when multiple parties are involved. Gone are the days of a document lost on a desk, waiting to be signed. 

The most important aspect of this technology is how it facilitates collaboration. When document management is transparent, everyone on the lifecycle feels involved. It creates accountability that leads to a higher sense of morale and a deeper trust in your business. 

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