WorkFlows and Document Management | 2018
As related to documents, workflow means moving documents through a sequence of actions that help complete business processes. This typically involves moving the document from person to person, with each person being responsible for completing certain actions, such as:
- Reviewing a received document for making any suggestions
- Approving a document for authorizing the relevant action, such as submitting a proposal to a client
- Getting signatures of persons who must sign a document before it becomes an authorized document
- Tracking progress of projects or problem solutions
- Doing any other action with a particular document, as when it needs to be translated into local language
- Approving final disposal of a document after its expiry date
Workflows in the Paper Documents Era
Paper documents are moved physically from person to person, with a person typically designated to attend to this task where the volume is large enough. Such physical movement poses several risks such as:
- Misplacing the documents resulting in the documents becoming untraceable
- Losing a document during transmission in the absence of foolproof transmittal processes
- Documents reaching unauthorized persons as when it is stolen by an interested person
- Delays in completing business processes as when a document has to be retrieved from storage
These problems made managers welcome digital workflows when technology made it a possible alternative.
Digital workflows involve creating documents in a digital format and converting paper documents into that format. Digital documents become part of an electronic workflow that has several advantages such as:
- Physical movements are eliminated as the documents typically reside in a central server of a network that can be accessed by all workstations connected to the network. This can minimize the possibility of loss and damage
- The progress of a document can be tracked from one’s own workstation as when a sender checks whether the recipient has taken needed action on the document. This can often be done simply by retrieving the document and checking it
- Recipients of documents can be alerted about pending documents by the computer program itself, through emails when the documents arrive and through system generated alerts when a document has been pending beyond a certain period
- In a busy work environment, a person might not be aware of whom to send the document or what to do next. Electronic workflows can attach rules to document categories that enables the person look up what to do next
- Routing documents becomes a flexible and convenient task. You can select a recipient and then send the document to that recipient along with any necessary instructions. This can prove a significant benefit where a document needs to be routed in a different way than usual.
- Simultaneous access to the same document is also possible as the documents in the central server can be retrieved by more than one person at the same time (though modifications might be restricted to only one of these concurrent users).
The above is only some of the major advantages. In practice, electronic workflows can improve business processes dramatically. Many of the tasks can even be automated, for example.