What is Document Management really for?

Tony Cheung, Director of Operations, EASYSoftware PicBy Tony Cheung, Director of Operations, EASY Software

I was asked an interesting question the other day: When you talk to CIOs or IT Managers, what is the thing they still don’t understand or their biggest problem with Document Management?

I think it’s a great question, and one which the DM community really does need to regularly come back and look at. This is my take on it, for what it’s worth: I think the biggest problem with DM is understanding the wide reach and the totality, I suppose, of what DM really is.

Many people see DM as a very discrete, bounded thing – the ‘Well, that’s just the filing cabinet stuff’ – e.g. in a large organisation in a human resources department they have those huge electrical devices which are basically big filing cabinets. A lot of people see DM starting and ending with getting rid of filing cabinets, of hiding all the paper away.

But is that executive actually really thinking about the operational side of the business when he or she says that? Have they stopped to ask, well, what do people here actually do all day? What are they doing and why are they doing it?

If they did – and I hope they shall – they will surely quickly realise that it’s not just the paperwork: it’s about information flow. It’s about control, and it’s about the reassurance that some responsible people in the administrative function are keeping things in nice neat and tidy organised fashion.

Surprisingly, you know, it’s not only the line of business exec who doesn’t always ‘get’ this either. I have to say, sometimes the head of IT can be just as constrained in their viewpoint. A lot of CIOs look at DM along the lines of ‘Well, we’ll just stick it over here. We’ll get things all scanned and electronic and we’ll put it to our data centres and our technical people will look after it.’

Well… yes. To a certain degree that is a good strategy. But what’s really going on here all too often is that technical people are not really interested in understanding or doing what operational people’s day to day challenges are either.

The reality is that these ‘operational’ people are the ones that deal with the real world – customers, employees or suppliers. Technical folk are more geared towards, ‘We’ve just got to keep things running’ and so feel less than enthusiastic in engaging with really understanding, ‘What is it that you do that demands all this paperwork, that requires you to copy it three times and then requires you to then send out emails to the centre and use the pigeon hole system?’

Is this process that way because of just all the paper?  Could it be about something more fundamental that doesn’t work right? Has it been allowed to get this messy in order to protect the business against the lack of insight or visibility of what is happening?

I think that’s the heart of the matter here, frankly. DM could be – and when done, often is – a fantastic way to not just retire all the paper and the filing cabinets or solve some operational hassles, it could be an ideal way to look deep into a broken business process and make it hundreds of times slicker, faster, more efficient, more useful towards allowing people to work together.

That, to me, is what DM is about. And I think it’s something worth being passionate about. What do you think?

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