Electronic workflow or what you should not do

    For several years now, I have been implementing electronic document management systems (EDMS). He began his career in a small IT company, which employed about 10 people. The company introduced boxed EDMS solutions in various government bodies. After that I worked in several other companies, some of them were very serious, with a serious approach to projects and serious budgets. But regardless of the size of the company and the “hype” of the implemented platform, most of my projects were inappropriate.
    This does not mean that all projects were unprofitable. Some of them had a feasibility study, while some even corresponded to it, and were really economically viable. But economic efficiency is not the only value determining the feasibility of a project.

    Here is an example:
    • Project Cost: $ 500,000
    • Implementation period: 6 months.
    • Payback period 2 years.
    • Accordingly, with the introduction of the system, the enterprise will have to save about $ 250,000.

    At first glance, everything looks great. The project is cost effective. The customer receives real savings, the contractor makes good money on this project. Everyone is happy and content. But this is what the calculated savings consist of, as a rule, no one thinks.
    And saving in 250 pieces is the result of various organizational measures, most of which are only indirectly associated with the introduction of an electronic document management system. Here are the main ones:
    1. Physical release of the place.
    2. Reduce copying costs.
    3. Reducing the cost of information delivery.
    4. Decrease in labor resources.
    5. Reducing the number of permanently lost documents
    6. Increase labor productivity

    And now, first things first. I am convinced that it is possible to carry out all of the above activities without getting involved in a long and expensive project to automate workflow. Moreover, any organization can increase the efficiency of working with documents on its own without resorting to the services of consulting companies. In order to prove my point of view, I propose to consider each item separately:

    1. Physical release of a place

    When automating workflow, an enterprise can have only two sources of physical release of space, namely:
    1. Reduced storage space for paper documents.
    2. Reducing the space occupied by employees, which should be less after the introduction of an electronic document management system.

    The release of areas occupied by the operational storage of documents usually occurs as follows: All documents are converted into electronic form, and work is done only with electronic images of documents. This ensures that when working in parallel with a document of several employees, the document is not photocopied, but simply opened on several computers. Fewer photocopies - less space for storing documents.
    To solve this problem without scanning, there are several methods whose application is not inferior in efficiency, and in many cases exceeds the method described above, not to mention that working with documents in traditional paper form is much more efficient than reading a scanned image from the screen. So, what can be done in order to reduce the area required for the operational storage of documents:
    1. To reduce the processing time of documents: The faster it is to process documents, the less of them lies on the table of each contractor. The most effective way to reduce document processing time is to optimize business processes. This will be discussed below.
    2. Set tighter deadlines for writing off closed files to the archive: Firstly, archived documents are stored in a more compacted form than documents in work, and secondly, the archive can be taken out of the office, in premises with cheaper rent .
    3. Apply innovative technologies for storing documents (automated archive cabinets and racks).

    Freeing up space by reducing staff is also not the most effective way, not to mention the fact that the introduction of an electronic document management system does not significantly reduce staff. In addition, there are new responsibilities for scanning documents, administration and support of an automated system, which someone must perform. Despite this, you can always find an alternative, for example:
    1. Allocate a separate zone for processing documents (printers, copiers, booklets).
    2. Review the layout of staff.

    In some cases, these events provide significant savings in office space.

    2. Reduce copying costs

    A proven way to reduce the cost of copying is the creation of a copy office - an organizational staffing unit engaged in all paper affairs: copying, scanning, binding, etc. When these people are dealt with by selected people who are qualified precisely in this field of knowledge, then highly paid employees of the organization have more time to fulfill their immediate duties, and access to copying equipment is also limited, which reduces the chances of using it for non-production purposes. Thus, paper consumption is reduced, and also, no less important, there is a denser loading of copying equipment and the risk of breakage is reduced, since access to it is limited.

    3. Reducing the cost of information delivery

    If the organization is geographically distributed, there is no other way to significantly reduce the cost of delivering information, except for the translation of this information into electronic form at the moment (teleportation has not yet been invented). With this, everything is clear and to such organizations, most likely they will not be able to function effectively without an electronic document management system.
    In other organizations, the cost of information delivery is so insignificant that there is no point in reducing these costs. Both an employee and a dedicated internal low-paid courier can deliver a document (a stack of documents) from office to office.

    Reduction of labor resources: labor resources for copying documents are taken into account in the paragraph “Reducing the cost of copying”. The labor resources for the delivery of documents (internal courier) are insignificant - the content of one low-paid courier does not cost anything for a large organization, so it makes no sense to reduce such labor resources

    4. Reducing the number of permanently lost documents

    Reducing the number of lost documents is often declared by the EDMS developers as one of the advantages of introducing the system. In fact, even the possibility of losing documents can be reduced without automation, moreover, it is often completely unrelated to automation at all. During my short career, I was present in several organizations in which the loss of a document is impossible in principle, and this is the result of organizational measures, not connected with automation in any way.

    5. Improving labor productivity

    I know only two ways to significantly increase labor productivity:
    1. Business Process Optimization
    2. Automation of business processes

    As for the first point, it is completely unrelated to automation. The business processes of any organization should be optimal and described in detail. Only in this case can we begin to automate them. Moreover, automation is often just a means of introducing new business processes and in itself does not increase labor productivity. It is possible to significantly increase productivity by automating manual operations, but in the field of paperwork this can be difficult, since the main work is intellectual, and as we know, it cannot be automated.

    So to summarize. Indications for implementation in the organization of an electronic document management system can be:
    1. The need to reduce the cost of information delivery, if the company has a geographically distributed structure.
    2. The need to increase labor productivity, if the business processes of the organization are optimized, and the information system can actually significantly reduce manual operations.

    In my practice, there were few projects that would correspond to these diagnoses, more precisely, only two. Moreover, both projects were in geographically distributed organizations, and the main effect of their implementation was the ability of employees of remote branches to quickly exchange information electronically.
    I have no examples when the electronic document management system significantly increased labor productivity. But a huge number of examples, when after the introduction of EDMS labor productivity fell, happened even at times.

    In conclusion, I would like to say that this article reflects my personal experience and does not claim to be the last truth. It is up to you to implement EDMS in your company or not to implement it. I just want to say that all costs should be justified. Sometimes it’s easier to get along with cheap, or even free analogues, to avoid a long project load and get a comparable result.

    Also popular now: