Picture all those boxes of historical archives shoved into your company’s warehouse or the storage closet in marketing or the empty office down the passage. The space is probably filled with hundreds of documents, papers, snapshots, financial reports – some tattered, others faded, a lot of it duplicate, many pieces unidentifiable.

By Monique Williams, regional  manager of Hyland Southern Africa

Imagine a request from your CEO to find a specific item among that wreckage: the script for a speech delivered by the previous CEO, we’ll call him Alan Hinkle, at a charitable event in Cape Town during the summer of 1998. She needs that document – and she needs it now.

You’re in for an afternoon of hunting, fishing and hoping the document exists.

Now imagine if all of those archives were stored electronically, tagged with keywords such as “speech, Alan, Cape Town, 1998”, easily searchable and quickly shareable. You could find and forward that script to your CEO in seconds.

When many people think about digitalisation, the first thing they think about is imaging or scanning – getting the paper digitised and into the system. And of course, that is a key initial part of digitalisation, but that is not where it ends.

With an information management solution, a business is also able to capture and centrally manage all related information, whether that comes in as a text report, related communications from emails and faxes, and data streams with content from another system. Such a solution enables digitised documents and files in a wide range of formats to be searched, managed and immediately made available to staff across the organisation.

Digitised documents and records are far more secure than paper that can be lost, damaged or misfiled, and drastically reduces the amount of physical storage space required to maintain these documents. Plus, personnel can access content easily, from anywhere and whenever they need it. In addition, a digital solution can facilitate remote working, lower the administrative burden associated with running a business, enable efficient disaster recovery, ensure compliance and enhance the customer experience.

For an organisation to be in a healthy state, information must flow to the right people at the right time. Workflow can take your solution to the next level by delivering documents right into the hands of the appropriate people in your business – nearly eliminating searching for documents at all.

Workflow management automates business processes allowing work to be shared efficiently between workers. It matches work tasks with the workers that can best do them. Once they’re done with their work, the work task is automatically routed to the next worker. The end benefit, regardless of the industry, is higher efficiency and speed to resolution.

With workflow management, employees at every level work more efficiently because they spend more time on tasks best suited to their individual skill. They also won’t waste work time searching for documents or supporting material, as in electronic form they will be easily retrievable. It helps put an end to the low-value task of hunting for the loose paper documentation.

One of our favourite stories about the power of a workflow management solution comes from Johns Hopkins University. In 2010, a powerful blizzard shut down much of the north-east of the US, stranding most of Johns Hopkins University’s admissions staff at home during its busiest admissions season in the school’s history with a “decision” deadline fast approaching.

This was potentially bad news because, in the world of higher education, the sooner you can accept university applicants in the admissions cycle, the better chance the student will select your university to attend. It’s also important because universities want to identify and offer admission to the best-fit students faster than the competition.

Before the storm, however, Johns Hopkins implemented a document management solution that included workflow management. So, instead of hauling files to and from work, hand-delivering “decisioned” paper files to the operations staff, and having that information manually input into a computer, the university’s admissions staff electronically “decisioned” files and had those files posted directly to the enterprise database.

The solution made life easier for everyone. Oh, and the staff recorded the most productive reading week ever.