Four painful remote working document management challenges (and how to solve them)

There's a reason 'paperwork' is a synonym for time-wasting bureaucracy. After all, moving bits of paper around from one place to another is time-consuming, inefficient, error-prone and un-private.

With more than a third of people working from home full-time and many more doing so occasionally, these problems have become even more challenging.

Document management challenges

We have identified four specific document management challenges for remote-working and hybrid organisations:

  • Physical access. If the documents you need to do your job are in a filing cabinet in a building across town, it's going to be hard to make progress. The tyranny of distance imposes additional costs for a distributed workforce. Moving documents by courier or post is slow and expensive. Moving them around yourself is a waste of time.
  • Teamwork. Even if you have access to the documents you need, if you are trying to collaborate with other members of your team, unless you distribute lots of copies in advance, they won't have access. Paper-based systems are a barrier to effective collaboration.
  • Efficiency. Electrons move faster than atoms. So any time work is done using physical objects - paper forms, written notes, paper-based patient records etc. - things will slow down compared to digital ways of working. Even printing things out or opening a filing cabinet will be slower than opening a document on a computer.
  • Privacy. As all this paper is flying about, there are obvious risks to privacy and security. Companies that deal with financial, legal, medical or HR records have specific obligations, but every business needs to protect its customers and employees' privacy as well as their trade secrets. If the Ministry of Defence cannot stop state secrets being left at a bus stop, what chance have you got of protecting your confidential information?

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Accelerating document digitisation

Of course, these problems existed before the pandemic. They already applied to organisations with multiple locations or even multiple buildings on the same campus.

For example, around one in five hospitals still rely on paper-based patient records and in one year, there were 11m instances where patients attended a hospital that could not access their full medical records.

However, the pandemic has forced every organisation to confront the reality of these challenges and has created an urgent opportunity for improvement.

Paperwork doesn't need paper

Pre-existing documents can be digitised locally on a small scale using a scanner and shared file storage system. But that quickly runs into problems of scale, i.e. how do you scan thousands or tens of thousands of records, and indexation challenges, i.e. how to classify the documents so that you can easily find what you need in future.

To overcome these challenges you need four things:

  1. A way to archive and scan documents reliably at scale.
  2. A classification taxonomy and process to digitally label the resulting files.
  3. Software to glue it all together and give you control over who can see what.
  4. A mechanism for digitising new documents as they arise, whether incoming post or new form submissions.

Here at Datatron, we can help with all four. We can archive your paper files and either scan them immediately or individually on-demand with our Virtual Records Management service. For example, we digitised 1.5 million patient notes for Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Trust. We also offer a virtual mailroom service to capture incoming post, and we can help digitise and automate the whole form creation and submission process. And we recommend Therefore software as the digital document management tool of choice.

Paperwork doesn't need to be hard work

We have 25 years of experience dealing with document management problems, large and small, and we can provide the consultancy and guidance you need to help you plan your transformation to a paper-free, high-efficiency future. Contact us for a business-minded, no-obligation discussion about how we can help.

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