There always has been and always will be a difference between an ethical challenge and an ethical failure: However, in this era, without proper use of the tools we are given, (technology included) it becomes easy for ethical challenges to result in ethical failures. This becomes especially true when organizational leadership wrongfully believes that ethical and profitable practices are always mutually exclusive.
The term “ethics,” as if only reserved for the likes of organizations’ mission statements, has been applicable—yet unintegrated in practice—to the world of business: Sadly, more often than not, as a 10-dollar word hiding 2-dollar practices—an idyll not meant for the harsh realities characterizing modern organizations’ emphasis on bottom-line profits, output, and return on investment.
However, ‘proper use’ of technology in the enterprise neither implies nor demands only that the technology generates ROI for an organization. ‘Proper use’ must also be examined in a moral and ethical light, and we needn’t look farther than consumer tech to see this reality in motion.
Consumer technology has altered, touched, and redefined the very core of the human experience—shifting our understanding of reality to an extent once only associated with religion, war, and drastic political change. Consumer tech provides us with knowledge, comfort, and connectedness, yet also raises significant ethical questions about privacy and use of others’ personal information.
This same debate regarding privacy has trickled down to the level of the enterprise given the increasing number of data breaches occurring in organizations worldwide. These data breaches demand that organizations themselves handle consumers’ information as securely as possible, and security of information is no longer sustainable without highly encrypted software and the sophisticated file sharing features DMS (document management software) and similar technologies provide users.
Many ethical failures in organizations within the past decade can be attributed to two things: greed, and the ‘covering up’ of information. Take the Great Recession of 2008, for instance: If implemented in mass, the cost savings document management software generates may have been enough to overthrow greed—preventing realtors from encouraging consumers to sign sub-prime mortgages. Additionally, had DMS been implemented in organizations nationwide, the information needed to connect the malfeasant dots would’ve been too traceable for auditors to deny or accept—the financial health of millions of Americans could’ve been saved.
This assertion is no reach, mind you: A lost document costs anywhere from $350-$750. A manageable cost incurred, it seems, until one learns that the average organization relying on traditional paper and storage methods loses a document every 12 seconds. That’s $72,000 per month, and $864,000 annually—roughly 4 times the median salary of a small business CEO.
This raises another argument for the use of document management software: the technology helps organizations transcend the perception of ethical business practices and profitable business practices as mutually exclusive. However, software for the enterprise (document management software in particular) has grown so sophisticated, profitable, and useful that emphasis on its bottom-line benefits overshadows the positive ethical implications of the software—including how it facilitates the accountability any ethical standard demands.
The scientific community has developed an interest in the ethics of technology, and organizations should fast-follow the scientific community’s assessments. However, while the scientific community in general is concerned with the ethical implications of technology (cloning, GMOs, etc.), the enterprise is better positioned to champion, not question, the ethical benefits of enterprise technology from the outset.
However, many enterprise technologies and environmental policies share the same objective: Upholding consideration of the environment as a crucial ethical standard. While many scientists have turned their funding, energy, and resources to reducing organizations’ environmental footprint through policy—policy itself needn’t be the only motivation for companies to go paperless: The efficiency that paperless document management software provides its users can serve as that incentive, too. Again, ethical behavior and profit are not always mutually exclusive.
The Scientific American mentioned in a recent article that the World Economic Forum (WEF) discussed the top 10 emerging technologies of the previous year (2015), using these technologies’ ability to transcend ethical issues posed by innovations preceding them as important criteria for their relevance. Artificial intelligence, a technology akin to document management software, made the list—clocking in at number 6.
Although artificial intelligence differs in many respects from document management software as a whole, many of DMS’s features automate processes that would otherwise only be completed manually. For instance, automated document deletion and retention features inherent to document management software automate the disposal of unnecessary information—drawing DMS’s features into the light of artificial intelligence.
Document management software is proof that the law and the ethical standards it upholds can keep pace with innovation in the enterprise. In fact, many document management software vendors are already compliant with governing bodies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Document management software is one of the several technologies that helps organizations reframe ethics as the means of ensuring business continuity, transparency with customers, and employee accountability in the business process. It is only through use of the software, however, that organizations will be able to fully experience its ethical and financial benefits in concert.