At eFileCabinet, one of the most underutilized features of our document management software is workflow. Part of the reason for this lack of implementation is that many organizations and professionals don’t fully understand what “workflow” actually means. In a business sense, “workflow” can refer to any controlled and repeatable pattern of processes that a project passes through to reach completion. In the document management or enterprise content management industries, “workflow” more often refers to how documents move through an organization—from creation to collaboration, revision, and versioning, all the way through to evaluation and approval.

In other words, using workflow in eFileCabinet allows organizations to plot out, automate, and send electronic files where they need to go throughout the company hierarchy. By setting up different rules and criteria for certain types of files, you can automatically determine how those files are routed in your organization. With eFileCabinet, you can design workflows that are as simple or complex as your organization requires. You can also establish multiple workflows, making it easy to map out automated file routing for the different types of documents that your organization produces or receives on a regular basis.

Email: A Worthy Stand-In?

Whether due to the confusion about what workflow is, or because it takes time to set up functional workflows for file processing, many businesses will choose to continue using email instead. The common question here is, why establish a workflow for file routing when you can just type up an email, attach a file, and send that document precisely where it needs to go in your organization? Why is workflow automation necessary?

While email may be the go-to channel for communication within an organization, though, there are three core reasons why email is not an appropriate stand-in for workflow:

  1. Security: Email communications are quick, convenient, and familiar—all reasons why many professionals choose to continue using email for file routing rather than taking advantage of workflow processing. However, email is not the most secure method of digital communication. Never designed with privacy or security in mind, email can easily be watched, intercepted, and read by users other than the intended recipients. For everyday messaging, this vulnerability is a concern, but not necessarily a huge problem.

When sending messages containing your company’s financial information, discussion of proprietary ideas or intellectual property, or other sensitive data, using email can be a liability that puts your entire organization at risk. Particularly when sending messages at the final stage of your workflow, when you are likely transferring documents (and potentially sensitive information) to external clients, customers, or other sources, email is simply not secure enough. The eFileCabinet workflow feature uses our Secure Drawer web portal to transmit files to clients in a safe and secure fashion. The rest of the workflow plays out in the eFileCabinet software itself, where you can set up user-based permissions to decide exactly who can access or edit certain files.

  1. Lost in Translation: When using workflow, it’s easy to map out where files should go and to track where they are at any stage in the process. Email allows no such comprehensive mapping or routing feature. As a result, it’s easier for things to get jumbled up in the chain of command with email, or for communications to get “lost in translation,” so to speak. Most professionals—particularly those higher up in an organization—get dozens or even hundreds of emails every single day. Email doesn’t function as workflow in part because it’s so easy for different messages to go ignored or overlooked.
  2. Individual vs. Team: Email is a largely individually based method of communication. From Microsoft Outlook to Google’s Gmail platform, email is all about the individual. Every person has his or her own inbox, his or her own messages, and his or her own priorities. Workflow—at least insofar as it relates to document management—is all about the team. A file has to flow through multiple professionals or subsets of an organization to get from creation through to approval and client transmission. It’s tough to see this kind of team mentality with email, which can bring about significant delays in the file management and approval process. Quite simply, many people have times throughout the day or week where they set aside time to go through their email, respond to messages, and clean out their inboxes. As a result, messages connected to a company’s file workflow can sit in an inbox for days before being addressed.

Workflow sets parameters for team-based project completion. Looking at a workflow routing map, it’s easy to see that a file has to go through one person before reaching the next person in the process, and it has to go through the whole process before getting to the client. Consciously or subconsciously, this clear team-based structure often leads to quicker response time and information processing than email ever would.

Are you ready to start using workflow to improve your company’s document management security, efficiency, and time management? If you need help accessing or implementing the feature on eFileCabinet, click here for a brief video tutorial.