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This article was published on December 4, 2018

Why document management needs an upgrade

Why document management needs an upgrade
Pratik Dholakiya
Story by

Pratik Dholakiya

Founder of The 20 Media

Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of The 20 Media, a content marketing agency, and advisor at MoveoApps, a mobile apps development company. He Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of The 20 Media, a content marketing agency, and advisor at MoveoApps, a mobile apps development company. He regularly speaks at various conferences and events about digital marketing issues. As a passionate marketer, he regularly shares his thoughts and knowledge on high end publications like Search Engine Land, Fast Company and the Huffington Post to name a few. Search Engine Watch, one of the most respected platforms in the search industry, recognized Dholakiya as a "must follow" SEO expert. He has also been named one of the top content marketing influencers by Onalytica three years in a row.

We all love to talk about tech and the cloud as if they’ve these things dramatically changed the way we live our lives and work. And don’t get me wrong – they could. They should.

But too many of our businesses still operate like it’s 1997 when it comes to asset management.

Sure, you may have a Dropbox Business account that you use for work. Your team may have a shared Google Drive folder. But when it comes to company-wide storage and processes, things are frustratingly old school.

We haven’t changed those processes and storage structures to truly accommodate and take advantage of the cloud. We’ve just added one more piece of technology into already bloated and inefficient ones. File storage standards are “cluttered cabinets with a side of digital,” instead of fully embracing the features, systems, and advancements digital offers.

And as a result, it’s only made our document and file problems worse.

Various productivity studies have put alarming numbers to those problems in the past. For example, IDC found that over 21 percent of the average organization’s productivity loss can be caused by document-related challenges, and another study found that 26 percent of professionals describe information management at their companies as “somewhat chaotic.”

The cloud needs to be taken more seriously. Your company needs to use it for more than another place to lose your important documents if it’s going to truly optimize your team’s productivity. You need to change your mindset around collaboration, storage, versions, and more to use digital file cabinets as best they can offer.

Don’t believe me when I say your digital file cabinet needs a makeover? Consider how many of the following are true at your business.

Digital storage structures still mimic physical ones

In too many ways, our digital storage solutions still mimic our physical ones. Perhaps it’s to make them more appealing to change-averse executives who want something that feels familiar.

However, it’s using systems created for one media format to organize completely different types of documents.

Let’s look at a few reasons why this can happen within organizations.

First of all, our naming conventions and habits around labeling files are still influenced by organizing physical documents.

This leads to messes of file folders like the one below highlighted by a Stanford Library case study.

In physical form, the individual title names of these image files wouldn’t be as important because you could flip through the images in the collection and find what you need visually. However, in digital form you only have the file name to go off of when browsing. And the above file names say nothing about the image contents, leading to wasted time opening and closing apps and files.

Another big way digital storage structure mimic physical ones in outdated ways is how so many digital storage solutions only let you place files in one folder at a time. Obviously, physical papers and assets can only exist in one location at a time. To include a file in multiple places or folders, you needed multiple copies.

However, that doesn’t need to be true of digital file structures.

While simpler storage solutions like Google Drive may only let you place files in one folder at a time, more modern solutions are more willing to ditch tradition. For example, switching from paper contracts and signatures to esignatures can save businesses a lot of money. But those important files need to be easy to find and reference.

Contract management tools offer advanced options for organizing and finding files to ensure everything around them becomes simpler and faster, not just the signature process.

For example, “dataroom” solutions allow you to organize files according to custom metadata tags. You don’t need to remember the file names or folder locations at all, because you can find it quickly by searching and filtering according to intuitive parameters like use cases, formats, project statuses, and stakeholder names. So when you’re looking for services, ask about metadata tags.

Setting up filters and metadata might take a minute when creating the file, but it saves much more time long-term when you don’t tank your productivity searching for information.

Businesses still think ‘physical files first’

Not only do we still create digital storage structures based on physical storage, but businesses often still think “paper first.” Our document management, and our physical offices, are still cluttered by too many analog files.

Trying to come up with and manage a storage solution that will work for both your digital and physical documents hinders your organization options for them both. As mentioned earlier, the two require different best practices like document naming conventions and directory tree structures.

Plus, having two different storage solutions and locations leads to more confusion, wasted time, and lost productivity for your employees and coworkers. Before they can even begin searching and digging for the document they need, they need to ask themselves, “was this a hard copy in my file cabinet, or in Word on the shared drive?”

That type of disorganization is not what cloud storage was meant for. It doesn’t make things easier to go halfway paperless. It’s time to think digital first and move towards fully paper-free document management whenever possible. Especially for any files too important to lose, tear, misfile, or spill coffee on.

It’s time for businesses who haven’t to invest in smart scanners that make it easy for the whole company to digitize paper files and start storing them with everything else on their computer. Most smart scanners you can find today are small, so you can have multiple set up around the office for ease of use, and companion apps makes it easy for everyone to edit files and upload them to Dropbox, Google Drive, or whatever cloud solution you use.

Digital helpers are too siloed

Finally, because digital document management still plays second string to file cabinets and bookshelves, most businesses haven’t made much of an effort to streamline it.

When employees do work with documents in the cloud, it’s all siloed between a dozen different tools.

The average workflow for dealing with a digital contract might look something like this:

  • Create the contract in Microsoft Word and save as a PDF.
  • Upload a copy to Dropbox for multi-device access.
  • Send a second copy as an attachment to your supervisor to preview.
  • Upload a third copy to Docusign to share with the signee.
  • Download their signed copy.
  • Upload the signed copy to Dropbox.
  • Email the signed copy to your legal department for archiving.

It’s an inefficient nightmare we repeatedly put ourselves through. Even worse, the more important the document, the more steps and confusion seem to be involved.

Being able to create, store, share, and sign a proposal in one app reduces the number of different versions of it, makes all information around it easy to locate, and creates a faster workflow. Switching to a dedicated app that’s built for streamlining these processes removes all the scattering and silos.

While you might be using great software for all the different steps individually, the more apps you use, the more places there are for the ball to be dropped.

Digital-first document management is overdue

If you want your business to truly experience the benefits cloud storage and digital document management have been promising for years, it’s time to change the way you use them. Stop placing digital document workflows in the backseat and build one that works well for you.