Sometimes I find that clients and potential clients don't always appreciate how critical document flows are to their businesses. Often printing documents and handling of electronic documents just become part of the background noise in busy offices.
The challenge this presents is because no one is charged with the responsibility to look at the processes involved, people just continue to do things the same way they have always done them and get frustrated by the difficulties this creates. While users may express their frustration in many instances no one is charged with the responsibility to try to remove it.
Documents are the tools that we use to communicate to clients, suppliers and others. Whether we print them or just produce them electronically and email them they are important vehicles for carrying critical information which affects your income, cash flow and other performance measures. When these processes start to break down or get overwhelmed with new volumes then the result can be bottle necks that start to have unidentified but serious implications for the business.
Customer service affected
Customer service can be reduced because the data or information needed is not getting to the right hands quickly enough. Shipments can get delayed due to poor processing of incoming inventory or stocking processes. Data entry to the inventory records delayed by even a few days can have a big impact if transaction volumes are high.
If AP processing bogs down due to manual approval processes, need to route paper between departments or locations this can affect supplier relationships that could even affect delivery schedules for products needed for clients. Client orders then get delayed or worse have back orders delaying delivery and client satisfaction. Broken badly enough this could lead to loss of business as clients start looking for more reliable supply.
Is the oil flowing through your pipeline smoothly?
Think of your document flow like an oil pipeline. Once the oil is in the pipeline it is expected to flow to the end point smoothly and efficiently. If there is poor maintenance on the pipeline there can be leaks (back orders?) or even blockages (no product being shipped till payments received?) which then impact the end point of the pipeline. The pipeline company and the end users expecting to use the oil are affected by these disruptions and the whole system can break down.
Document pipelines or flows are exactly the same. Today, poorly functioning systems are aggravated by the need to often operate in dual mode with some portions of the system being paper based and some electronic. This often leads to two types of storage (document filing), two different ways to handle the transactions involved, frustration and stress for the people in the process.
When was the last review of your processes?
If your document processes have not been reviewed with a critical eye within the past three years you can guarantee that you have some areas which will be less than optimal. Why three years. This is the approximate time frame where the adoption of PDF based email invoicing has really taken a hold especially in small to medium businesses. A lot of organizations have had to adjust to a new way to deal with documents but not recognized that is the case.
We recently talked to a potential client where they described how they have handled this trend. They accept the invoices electronically and then print them out and introduce them into a paper based system for processing and payment. Does this sound like the most efficient and cost effective system to you?
Many workflow procedures have evolved slowly over many years being built on the experiences of activities and processes that may have died away long ago. Yet the follow on activity that was originally created continues to affect the businesses involved long after the originating objectives have disappeared. Taking a critical look at these types of activities can help to streamline flows, eliminate unnecessary steps and bring time and dollar savings.
Perhaps an independent review with a new set of eyes is the recipe your organization needs to look critically for ways to streamline your flows.
Are you comfortable your pipeline is flowing optimally? Do you have a handle on what it is costing you to process information with your current procedures? Are you concerned over the high cost of postage? Is it time for a second look?
Photo credit: By Wilfra (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons