By Erin Swan

When you think of the word “workflow,” you likely think of the way that work is passed along through your company. For example, if you work in the construction industry, your workflow might refer to everything you do for a client, from the initial phone call, to blueprint designs, to the final construction. However, when it comes to document management, “workflow” refers to the life of each document, and how it is passed from one stage of its life to the next—from document creation to revisions to signatures, and so on.

For many people, the idea of implementing a document management system is overwhelming, primarily because they believe it will disrupt their existing workflow. These people are right. However, if you plan ahead properly and develop a workflow that works well with your new DMS, you can mitigate how disruptive the transition will be. Here are 4 tips to help you build the perfect workflow and minimize the disruption of implementing a DMS in your business.

1. Identify Your Existing Workflow

Many business owners just let documents get passed along the workflow without giving it much thought. After all, as long as each person knows where the document goes next, it’s not a problem, right? While this may be true to an extent, not knowing the full scope of your existing workflow can make transitioning to an electronic system confusing and disruptive to the work in your office.

So, take the time to sit down and map out your existing workflow, from the time the documents are created to the time they reach their “final” revision. (We use the term “final” here loosely, as most documents are constantly being updated.) Obviously, if you handle many types of documents, each common document type will have a workflow of its own; make sure you map out all of them.

2. Acknowledge Workflow Problems

Are there any issues with your existing workflow? Are there places where documents tend to get misplaced? Is there a particular point in the workflow where documents get bottlenecked? You want to pinpoint any issues that slow or stagnate the workflow process. In essence, you want to find anything that can be done more efficiently. This will allow you to address these problems as you implement a new, electronic workflow system.

It may also be worth your time to pinpoint the costs of these gaps and slowdowns. Though it won’t necessarily help you to build the better workflow you need, it will show you just how much your efficient workflow and electronic DMS are saving you in the end. And who doesn’t like knowing that they’re saving money?

3. Bridge the Gaps

Now that you know where the issues in your workflow are, it’s time to start planning how to bridge those gaps and save yourself from those money-eating slowdowns.  Depending on where the issues in your workflow lie, there can be any number of options for correcting the issues. You may be able to remove a step in the process that is redundant or unnecessary. You may have to hire additional help to ensure that documents keep moving along at a better pace. You may need to find more efficient ways of sharing documents with clients, rather than waiting for the weekly trip to the UPS store.

Whatever issues you have, find a way to either circumvent or entirely remove the issue from your workflow. Your new DMS may offer the solution to some of these issues (such as a better way to share documents with clients) but for others, you will have to find solutions yourself. If necessary, map out a few potential solutions to the problems before determining which will be best.

4. Map Your New Workflow

You know what your existing workflow looks like. You know how to overcome the gaps in that workflow. So now, it’s time to start mapping out your new workflow. Despite what you may be thinking, this doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul of your existing workflow. In fact, if you want to minimize the disruption to your daily procedures, your best option is to create a workflow that mimics your existing one as closely as possible—while implementing the fixes for existing issues, as we already discussed.

Your end goal with implementing DMS should not be to completely reinvent your existing workflow, but to assimilate the same process into an electronic solution. This is always attainable, no matter how complex your existing workflow is.

Please contact us if you want to learn more about how to build the perfect workflow?