By Dave Poyser, Director, Xpress Document Solutions
After I submitted my previous blog for review by the editor here at the DM Collaborators’ blog – one of the initial comments she made was about whether I could add in some more detail about what I’d found to be the biggest differences between the SME and micro business scenarios – for example, where the inefficiencies in my inherited processes lay. This was so that you wonderful readers would have more to take away from the post rather than just hear about my own personal challenges. If you’ve read the first blog though, then you’ll have seen that this didn’t really happen!
I’d actually decided that this would be a two part post before submitting the first part. Firstly, because I was mindful of the word count; my writing is not too shabby, but a 1000+ word post would be pushing it. But secondly, and more importantly, I needed to buy myself some time to put pen to paper.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the biggest difference I encountered, the subsequent cause of my flawed strategy and the root of the inefficient processes. If you’ve missed my point, don’t worry – don’t forget that I had as well. What I’d missed initially and subsequently identified, was a people problem – or in my case, the lack thereof.
I’d been used to wearing multiple hats when I was employed at an SME (albeit a small one) and even borrowed a few to provide cover during holidays (as did the rest of the team). But that doesn’t happen in a micro business – a business with fewer than 10 employees. You wear all of the hats, all of the time.
The inefficiencies in my new setup were the direct result of an amalgamation of processes and solutions which had originally been created to support a number of users. In their original environment, and under the guidance of the staff with the appropriate hat (knowledge/expertise), the processes and solutions scaled and adapted to the business needs. In the SME environment, unitask processes for handling document management actions such as accounts payable work. Hierarchies, access controls, workflows etc all serve a valid purpose. But in the micro business world though, these are just obstacles that add time to each action; I haven’t got time to push an invoice through an approval process – I either instigated the purchase, or I didn’t. If the former, pay it, if the latter, jump up and down screaming, then get it sorted.
What I discovered was a need for a more fluid proposition. Flatter in structure than a typical document management solution and heavily reliant on metadata, that could be adapted on a daily basis (if necessary). Obviously a heavy focus on document management, but also incorporating other aspects of the broader information management sphere, including enterprise content management (ECM), email management and business process management (BPM). Although I’ve found that I never really need to scratch the surface of any of the technologies more advanced features at this stage. “Accessible & Organised” has become my new motto in the office.
By operating this way, I can now plan for the future, knowing that I have a solid foundation to work from. I can bring in employees or possibly contractors – and they won’t struggle to locate and work with the existing documents (or create their own). If things go very well, I may need an accounts payable department at some point; utilising the metadata, the relevant existing documents could be identified and uplifted into a dedicated document management system – but I also know I can reverse that decision and the documents could be brought back into the existing infrastructure without a problem.
To say the learning curve to date has been steep would be an understatement, but in hindsight, it’s probably been one of the most beneficial experiences I’ve had in my career recently. It’s given me the time to reflect on alternate document management strategies and this new perspective can only benefit my clients new and old.