Document Management System Workflow Overview
You've heard of workflows and you're ready to implement one. The trouble is, you don't know where to start. In this article, we'll give you a hand up and recommend a simple solution for those trying to put their first paperless workflows into place: FileCenter.
Why Do We Need Document Management Workflow?
"Document management workflow" (sometimes called "document management work flow") is a term we tend to throw around without really understanding what happens within the workflow. We intuitively understand that a workflow must be an efficient thing, but few in management positions seem to understand what goes into – or should fall into – the workflow.
A workflow is, in its simplest terms, a (hopefully) smooth path that a document can take through the hands of those who are working with it. In any given document management system, there may be multiple workflows, or multple routes, that a document may take in its lifetime. Thus when we're talking about document workflows or document management workflows, what we really need to focus on are the individual stops and phases that a document travels through. Unless each stop is made as smooth as possible, our workflows start to look more like traffic jams.
Key Stages in the Document Workflow Process
The most fundamental, universal document workflows are 1) the flow from creation to storage, and 2) the flow from storage back into users' hands. Let's look at each of those individually.
Workflows from Document Creation to Storage
Document management and workflow go hand in hand. Documents can originate in any number of places. We deal with huge volumes of paper documents – inbound invoices and contracts, legal documents carried in by a client, medical records, inbound mail, faxes (yup, still to this day), and worst of all, the paper that comes off of our own printers. Sometimes we need to capture documents from email attachments or from web pages. And, of course, there are the digital documents we produce ourselves. Our document workflow should have a way to capture all of these seamlessly and carry them into an organized position within our centralized document repositories.
What kinds of mechanisms can capture all of that? Look for software that includes all of the following:
Your workflow software must include a fast, efficient scanning interface that can pull in paper documents and desposit them directly into the document filing structure. It should provide automatic document separation and routing, automatic file naming, and automatic OCR and indexing so that the documents can be searched. Scanning is the single biggest speed bump in any document workflow. The right software will provide scanning tools to smooth it out.
Document workflow software should provide a way for users to "print" things like emails and web pages and store them directly into the shared repositories.
And finally, your software should integrate directly with all of the software you use to produce documents. This one is critical. Too many offices print out paper just to turn around and scan it back into the system. This creates loops of inefficiency within your workflow. Skip the paper and save the documents directly into your repositories. The right software will capture the Save function of any Windows program and make this a reality.
Workflows from Storage Back into Users' Hands
Once you've gotten documents smoothly into the centralized file repositories, users need a smooth, seamless way to get them back out.
A key consideration here is the structure of those repositories. A well-organized, predictable filing structure makes retrieval fast. Here we recommend the time-honored electronic filing cabinet – a filing structure that makes use of virtual filing cabinets with drawers and folders for a clean layout. Users can navigate these structures with minimal mouse-clicks and often faster than a keyword search.
For times when a search is required, your workflow software should provide an easily-accessible way to perform keyword searches. This means that all documents in the system have been indexed behind the scenes.
Finally, users should be able to easily open any document in the repository without any kind of cumbersome "check-out" procedure.
Document Management Workflow Software
As we said, workflow and document management go hand in hand. That's why it's critical to choose document management software that accommodates your document workflow process. Each stage in the document's travel must be smooth and effortless, otherwise the software itself will get in the way of your users' productivity.
Our Document Management System Workflow Recommendation
If you're just taking your first steps into implementing a paperless workflow, you can't do better than FileCenter. FileCenter has the features to streamline everything from acquisition to storage to retrieval. And it does all of this at a price the competition can't touch. Download a free trial today!
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