What You Risk When You Neglect to Standardize Document Capture

IBM i, Windows
August 25, 2016


Too many organizations are plagued with inefficient document capture practices that lack standardization. For instance, check out the scenario below:

It’s early in the morning, and you’re headed to the break room to refill your coffee. You walk past the printer and pause—you’ve noticed something unusual. One of your coworkers has grabbed a piece of paper of the printer and promptly placed it on the scanner.

“But, it was already digital,” you think to yourself. “Why would it need to be printed and scanned?”

Though this may seem shocking to you, it’s an all-too common occurrence in too many organizations. There may be employees at your very organization who have not yet embraced technology or simply don’t realize what it can do. Instead, they keep doing it the old way: printing, scanning, and naming documents on a whim. And the old way creates a series of problems.

How will anyone find this document again? What if the same document exists in two places, but it’s named differently in each instance so that you would never know they are the same? Is it possible to enforce naming conventions so that you can actually find electronic documents when you need them? Can you ensure that a document won’t be seen by those who shouldn’t see it? How do you control what users do with documents?

These questions commonly crop up when an organization lacks standard practices for capturing and storing electronic documents and are often indicators of a document management strategy gone awry.

The Risks of Haphazard Document Capture and Management

Without an electronic document management system, it’s quite difficult to ensure that your document capture and management processes are standardized, and it’s a challenge to enforce processes for naming and securing documents.

Aimless Document Capture & Naming

Too often, documents are named and saved inconsistently across an organization. A document that is named without standardization becomes impossible to find. For instance, perhaps everyone in your organization has their own naming structure. While you may understand yours, there’s no guarantee that the future employees of your organization—or even your current coworkers—will be able to find any particular document you named.

For instance:

You might name an invoice: Company A Invoice.

Someone else might call it: Invoice_03162016

Moreover, you might digitally store a document one way on the back-end system, but someone else might print it and file it in a physical filing cabinet.

Now imagine these inconsistencies in naming conventions and document saving practices scaled across your entire organization and across every type of document your organization uses. It throws the process of filing and retrieving documents into complete chaos.

Insecure Document Management

Next, think about where you keep your documents—both paper and electronic. Can you tell if someone has accessed a certain document? Or if a document is altered or goes missing?

With paper documents especially, the risks are high that information could be lost or misplaced. After all: you don’t necessarily have visibility over everyone who goes into a filing cabinet or over what’s buried on someone’s desk. A paper document could easily be lost in the shuffle or be glimpsed by someone who ought not to have seen it.

Electronic documents, too, run risks when they are not stored in a secure document management system. Anyone might be able to access, change, or delete an electronic document without anyone else being the wiser.

What Happens When You Implement Document Management But Don’t Enforce Document Capture Standardization?

Consider a company who thought they knew exactly what they were doing in their document capture process. As a result, when the company implemented a document management system, they didn’t standardize document capture. Fast-forward two years. Every single document had an unknown naming structure, lacked indexing, and it couldn’t be found by the people who needed it.

What’s worse: there isn’t a magical way to automatically fix a document capture system gone rogue. Basically: you need to start over from scratch, rebuilding the system piece-by-piece. And that’s, quite simply, a nightmare.

The good news is: you can fix the problem before it gets to that point. Or better yet, you can prevent it from happening in the first place. All you need to do is re-think the way you—and everyone else in your organization—captures and stores electronic documents. While this may seem overwhelming, it’s actually quite straight-forward.

The Right Way to Approach Document Capture & Management

A chaotic environment is no place to manage your documents. In order to be successful, your document capture practices and document management system need order.

And order means following the right way to approach document capture, which has three main components: document indexing, document standardization, and document security.

Document Indexing

Document indexing is a crucial component to any electronic document management system. It’s your means for finding any document on demand—without needing to recall a naming structure.

Here’s how it works:

You attach key metadata to a stored document. The fields might include an invoice number, a customer name, and so on. This makes it possible for any relevant search to retrieve the document you need.

Document Standardization

The way documents are named is likely not consistent across your organization. You might name documents one way while someone else might name them a different way. As a result, it becomes a challenge for anyone looking for a document to find the right document. To have any hope of finding the document in question—or enabling the employees of the future to find a document—you need to standardize the naming structures.

An electronic document management system makes this a reality.

Here’s how it works:

You can set and standardize the titles and index values in the document management system in such a way that they will be enforced across all content. For instance, you can do a one-time setup for system-generated content with drop-down and selection boxes that enforce the way a document can be categorized and indexed. As a result, you have consistency across your documents.  

Document Security

If a paper document is sitting on a desk, anyone could look at it and see something they shouldn’t. The same goes for an electronic document that’s stored without proper security controls.

A proper electronic document management system ensures that only those authorized to view certain information can access that confidential document.

Here’s how it works:

The right document management solution offers security controls that restrict user authority. In this environment, a user needs to have certain permissions before accessing a restricted document. The document management solution also gives visibility over when and who accesses a document, as well as any changes that might have been made. As a result, a document is secure. The risk of it being inadvertently misfiled, altered, or lost is mitigated.

Your First Step to a Reliable Document Management System

Sure, the practice of indexing, standardizing, and securing documents sounds simple enough—but, with all of the documents your organization already has and continues to create on a daily basis, where do you even begin?

Take a step back and assess your documents. There are likely two main types that your organization works with: system-generated and user-generated.

System-Generated Documents

System-generated documents are those that are created by your system or by one of your applications. Common examples of system-generated content include: bills of lading, invoices, POs, user reports, and manager reports, among others. It’s often best to start with system-generated documents because it’s the easiest place to institute standard practices for naming, indexing, and filing electronic documents. Employees/users will get used to seeing documents saved in a certain way in a certain place, and it will make for an easier transition to standardize practices for capturing user-generated documents.

User-Generated Documents

Anything that a user (employee) can create on his or her computer is a user-generated document. User-generated documents can be anything but are most frequently Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF documents.

Where Do You Go From Here?

Maybe you already have an electronic management system and you simply need to get your employees on board with it. Or maybe you’re not quite there yet, but you’re looking to implement one. In either case, when you fail to standardize the way documents are captured, named, and digitally stored, you inevitably create the opportunity for chaos down the line.

Instead: capture and manage your documents the right way the first time, and avoid the stress down the line.


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