COVID-19 has forced all companies to radically rethink their business, including document management. In fact, it is precisely from document management that companies can start to implement solutions that can help us emerge from the crisis. You just need to know which ones.
Document management, or the practice of properly managing a document throughout its life cycle, from its origin to its preservation, is an increasingly important, even strategic, aspect of business operations, especially when it comes to digital document management. This has also been underlined by AGID when talking about the recent digitization processes of Public Administration documents. However, this does not mean that digital document management doesn’t apply to private companies! (agid.gov.it).
In fact, every day, companies of every type must effectively and efficiently manage a large amount of documents. This is valid whether they need to remain within the company itself or if they must be sent to third parties. To do this, i.e. to create a document, share it, and ultimately store it, requires a document management system that is as efficient and advanced as possible.
The benefits of document management are there for all to see. In particular
- Cost reduction, thanks to a substantial reduction of the document workflow within the company. Among other things, cost reduction is not only a consequence of the greater efficiency of procedures, but is also and above all linked to reduced errors and waste caused by delays or bad processes.
- Inalterability of documents, which is fundamental given that a document’s importance is closely linked to the value of the information it contains, and this information must be as protected as possible (so that it cannot be modified). At the most, the document, if modified, must be done in such a way so that any change can be traced and, if necessary, eliminated.
- Availability of documents, which can only be achieved through an orderly and functional archiving system. Consider the fact that a document is all the more useful when it can be found at the exact moment it is needed: if it is found late or not at all, it is as if the document had never been written.
Document Management is good, digital document management is better
If these are the advantages associated with document management in general, the same benefits are also relevant when we talk about digital document management, which even enhances them even further. Just think, for example, of the reduction in costs: thanks to digitization it is possible to dematerialize all company documents, replacing paper with digital media. In this way, the company can save, both because it no longer has to use physical media in large quantities and, it no longer needs to provide internal spaces and ad hoc structures for printing and storage of items like folders and shelves, which are replaced by servers and databases.
The same can be said for the inalterability of documents, which digitization ensures by giving companies the ability to save these documents and use specific extensions that allow them to remain unchangeable. Alternatively, documents can also be uploaded within specific databases (we are clearly talking about Blockchain) that guarantee maximum protection through cryptography and also allow them to be selectively modified in such a way as to leave “traces” so that enabled users are able to chronologically trace each and every change.
Document digitization in a profoundly changed environment
It is clear, then, that organizations can gain significant benefits from the digitization of document management.
However, as a result of the healthcare emergency of recent months, document management and, more specifically, digital document management, has become a necessity that can no longer be postponed for many businesses. This is because many companies have had to make a robust transition to smart working, and so have found themselves in the position of having to reset a whole series of document processes in the light of this new way of working, which is destined to become the norm for many companies.
An entire country of people who work from home
According to the website of the Italian Ministry of Labor and Social Policies, smart working (also known as agile work) is a way of executing the employment relationship, characterized by the absence of hourly or spatial constraints and an organization by phases, cycles and objectives, established by agreement between employee and employer; a mode that helps the worker to reconcile work and life and, at the same time, promote the growth of its productivity.
If until a few months ago, this mode of work was somewhat marginal, now because of COVID-19 and the recent restrictions on movement adopted by the Government, agile work is practically an obligation for all companies who are able to implement it in a way that is compatible with their business.
As can be expected, this has greatly increased smart working, as the numbers show. According to research carried out by AIDP (the Italian Association of Personnel Managers), for nearly 60% of those surveyed, remote work concerns between 50% and over 90% of the workforce (ilsole24ore.com). Similarly, in 70% of companies, an average of 2 to 3 days a week will be used for agile work activities, partly because the first tests of re-entry have been quite timid, given that there is a tendency of companies to bring in just a few workers at a time in order to not take up too much space and thus guarantee a safer working environment. In any case, even if the numbers were to increase, the die is cast, given that 58% of companies believe that smart working will continue in 2021. In addition, even after the end of the pandemic, it’s likely that many activities will continue to maintain a regime of partial agile work, in a proportion close to 50%, alternating with days in the office.
Precisely because smart working will become a stable component of our working lives, now more than ever, companies are called upon to rethink their internal processes, especially document processes.
A transformation against a crisis
Fortunately, Italian companies are not starting totally from scratch.
According to a recent ISTAT study, ibasic digital infrastructures, such as fiber optics or 4G, cloud, and security, are widely used and diffused by companies in our country. Among other things, the larger the size, the greater the digitization. If 73.2% of companies with between 10-19 employees have made digital investments, this number increases among those with over 500 employees where the percentage reaches 97.1%. If we then go into the details of the types of software most used for the digitization of processes, we are pleasantly surprised: the data show that 67.2% of companies have some kind of digital document management program, especially those that deal with the Public Administration.
So the foundations are there, and the need to make progress is also increasing.
It is no longer possible for only companies closely linked to the Public Administration to adopt digital document management solutions within their organization; on the contrary, it is necessary for companies to completely rethink their workflow. That’s because, if it is true that basic digitization has been implemented by about 70% of companies, only 16.6% of them have adopted at least one technology among IoT, augmented reality, Big Data analysis, automation, simulation, and 3D printing, which are the solutions that would now contribute most to the leap forward of the Italian industrial sector.
Also because it is undeniable that the exit from the crisis also and above all passes through the digitalization of many business processes, precisely in light of the many benefits that can be obtained and the new production structure that is in prospect (datamanager.it).
However, returning to the area of document processes, what are the guidelines that the implementation of digital document processes must follow?
The three directions of a transformation
When we talk about innovation in document management in the times of the COVID-19 crisis, we must bear in mind that there are three sensitive points on which we must work (axioma.it).
The first is sharing: in the context of smart working, how can you manage a single copy of a document if it has to be shared among several people who are not working in the same place? The difficulty then increases if the document also needs to be reviewed. In this case, the steps are likely to multiply and the danger of confusion or errors increases significantly.
The second issue to untangle is that of approval. Once a document has completed its journey of drafting and editing, it then requires clear approval by the relevant authorities. However, in a situation where there is a large volume of emails and other messages, it’s easy to imagine the possibility of approvals being lost in a sea of notifications.
The third element to consider when deciding which solutions to implement for the digitization of document processes is archiving. While working from home, iit is necessary that the same document is accessible to anyone who needs it, at any time. At the same time, it is necessary that the content of the document is “protected,” so that not everyone can access it and risk compromising its integrity.
Given these needs, here are some solutions
On closer inspection, these three needs were already present in many companies even before the healthcare crisis. However, the current situation has made them even more urgent. In this sense, implementing some document process digitization solutions can not only be a way out of the crisis, but it can also become an incredible opportunity to permanently improve your workflow and therefore the overall business operation.
What solutions can be adopted?
One solution that has already been mentioned is Blockchain, which can come to the aid of smart working, especially in the Public Administration. By its very nature, blockchain pushes towards the decentralization of information and documents that are stored in a sort of widespread archive organized in blocks; consequently, blockchain is not very suitable for integration in private smart working, which, instead, tends to adopt centralization procedures. On the contrary, in the context of the PA, this solution can be very useful as it’s possible to make public and share the information necessary for the remote work of administrative officials.
Another smart solution that is helping is the Cloud, which has not only shown great capacity for adaptation, but has even become a key element in guaranteeing business continuity. In fact, the Cloud has made it possible to work remotely in a short period of time and has put companies in a position to realize how scalable and beneficial this technology is in the medium term.
After this phase of crisis, multicloud architectures that include public and private Clouds are destined to become the new normal, for many companies. The cloud allows companies to manage workflows such as those of smart working, made of sudden peaks and troughs. The cloud also makes it possible for the IT department to intervene quickly and efficiently on a problem, thus reducing costs and wasted time between steps.
Another technological solution that goes in this direction is the so-called “digital workplace,” where processes can also be managed remotely. In this sense, workflow automation platforms are undoubtedly a key technology, since they make it possible to keep organizations agile and efficient even in high-pressure situations, and predict future needs by gathering data on current document procedures and proposing models that anticipate needs that may emerge later.
In fact, this is exactly what is needed now: efficient and flexible technologies, capable of creating rapid and scalable workflows in a short space of time, depending on what the situation requires.
These are just a few examples of some of the “smart solutions” that can be implemented to get out of the crisis that COVID-19 has forced us into.
As always, however, technology is not enough. What’s also needed above all is for individual workers to collaborate. These figures must embrace these new ways of working as part of a new normal, since workforce resistance blocks even the most effective of solutions.
Obviously, workers must not be left alone: each company has a duty to accompany them in this transition, explaining the mechanisms and motivations of the transformation step by step, so that everyone can see its potential and know how to take advantage of its many benefits.
Discover the importance of dematerialization and all its rules for an effective and beneficial transition from paper to digital documents