Gain control over approval and version control challenges with a document management software
20. Aug 2020 |
6 min read
Some years back, while discussing an implementation plan with a client, a manager told me that there were only two games his teams were overly familiar with: “the waiting game” and “hide and seek”. At the time, I found the remark strange, and it didn't resonate with me, but it sat with me because I found it fascinating that he referred to the work situation as games. I later found out what he was talking about.
“I sent you the file for approval a week ago”
Have you ever had a project derail because a key deliverable wasn’t approved on time, or had to ask your client for an extension, while waiting for that last sign-off? Well, then you are familiar with “the waiting game”, and sadly you are not alone.
Getting documents approved in a structured, timely fashion is one of the more understated challenges in project management. You might have everything lined up perfectly, but if a key stakeholder does not give the ‘okay’ on schedule, things can go downhill quickly.
A smooth document approval process is crucial for streamlining your operations and can dramatically increase workflow and productivity, cut cost and time to market, and last but not least ensure the quality of your work.
“Hide and Seek”
Most run right into the next time-consuming game when trying to find the latest/right version of a document. They simply do not know which document is the latest or where to find it.
You risk delaying a process, not to mention quality and compliance, and all too often you end up losing a sale or a client.
If you google finding the right information (just to get the satisfaction of knowing your competitors are dealing with the same issues of course) you´ll quickly find confirming evidence like these:
“According to a McKinsey report, employees spend 1.8 hours every day—9.3 hours per week, on average—searching and gathering information. Put another way, businesses hire 5 employees but only 4 show up to work; the fifth is off searching for answers, but not contributing any value.” Source: Time Searching for Information.
IDC data shows that “the knowledge worker spends about 2.5 hours per day, or roughly 30% of the workday, searching for information. ...60% [of company executives] felt that time constraints and lack of understanding of how to find information were preventing their employees from finding the information they needed.” Source: Information: The Lifeblood of the Enterprise.
Your Google search will result in several best practices as well as a variety of software tools that you can use to design and build custom approval processes and workflows. Some include a solution for versioning. The most common tools used today include Sharepoint, Salesforce, Microsoft programs and Google G Suite.
There is without doubt clear progress on several levels for those organizations that have taken on these technologies, so why are we still playing the same games? Has basic information management taken a back seat or has the tool landscape become too fragmented or complex – even after moving to the cloud?
How can a document management software help?
A holistic overview of operations often leads to the need to simplify. Before jumping into any conclusion on how a document management software can help, please consider this:
Ideally, there is exactly one instance of every document, instead of different versions copied into several locations. Sometimes that is hard to achieve, but it should always be the goal. Favor systems and processes that allow in-place working and collaboration on documents, with the flexibility to easily create and compare versions.
Optimally, the subject matter expert would only need to maintain one main document for a subject matter or solution, and it should be able to be used in any and all projects needed. Utilizing hyperlinked information instead of copying ensures the integrity of the information. Favor systems that offer both hyperlinked information as well as easy search and copy.
Most workers email a document to a colleague, when they should have sent a link, not the document itself. If your current system doesn’t easily support that, get a better system. When working on a document – the link should send the reviewer or approver directly to the document or section in question. Feedback, changes and approvals should be done securely in the system that holds the document.
In highly regulated business, the full Audit Trail is a big deal. But in every business just having a full and easily accessible version history on documents is priceless. Favor systems that let you see all the versions of the document and who has done what and when to the document. This should be a basic requirement.
When documents are a part of a repeated process, say, proposals, contracts or work instructions, favor systems that offer proper workflows. If you see a document that says ‘final approved version’ in its title, yet you could just go ahead and edit the document, something is very wrong. Favor systems that uphold security and have workflows integrated. Favor solutions that uphold segregated tasks, not to overwrite or delete someone else’s work by mistake.
Some favor folder tree structures while others favor searches when looking for information. Today you can find systems that operate with both. Adding metadata to your projects not only helps you avoid mishaps in your documents but also helps you find and reuse information fast. Favor systems that allow integration to other systems like CRM, BI or ERP, and you will draw even more benefit from pulling metadata from already existing solutions in your organization.
And finally: When considering a new and better solution for your organization, remember the saying ‘shit in, shit out’. Choose a system that will take you to that next level of systematic flow without pulling on old baggage. As the world is changing, so should the way we work.
By enabling your teams with a solution that streamlines teamwork – with a smooth approval process and version control naturally implemented – you will not only unleash creativity, innovation and flow to your organization, but you will also get quality-assured results and a much happier crew.
Consult us about playing a more streamlined game.
Monica holds an MBA and has 20 years of experience from the IT and Telecommunications industry, where she has held roles from Project Manager to Senior Consultant and Sales Professional. She loves finding solutions to problems. Monica is a methodology and technology enthusiast, and believes the world will be a more exciting place to live as we start adapting to a more digital world. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, but always finds time for her computer projects and helping others utilize technology.
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