posted 1 Oct 2007 in Volume 11 Issue 2
The Last Word
Better ways to work
In every office a good tidy greatly improves working efficiency – getting rid of stuff we don’t need and filing important documents, helps us work better and respond faster.
But can that improvement be measured? Suppose we extend the general idea of tidying and organising documents throughout the business, and improving access for all the staff; how much would that be worth? In a recent AIIM survey, 73 per cent of
Unfortunately, however, most of the benefits associated with investments for improved information access and better records management are in the ‘soft dollar’ category. Quicker response, more informed decision making, better collaboration, greater resilience… all these are going to benefit a business but how do you put a price on them?
Traditionally, document-scanning projects have been justified by savings in filing cabinets, or more specifically, the expensive office floor space they take up. The rise of outsourced storage services has tended to lower the profile of this argument as warehouse-stored documents tend to be out-of-sight and out-of-mind (although the costs are still high). In the parallel world of electronically generated documents, particularly e-mails, better management would greatly reduce the amount of disk space required for storage.
Some enterprise content management (ECM) projects are relatively simple to justify. Scanning invoices for automatic matching and work-flowed approval will save money in a number of ways. Time saved per invoice, multiplied by the number of invoices per day, will show staff savings. Faster turnaround of payment will give potential early-payment discounts. There are also some soft-dollar savings here – less management approval time, less switchboard activity from payment chasers, faster audits, and a better impression with trading partners.
An e-mail management project is less likely to produce hard-dollar savings but we all know that our businesses are in some jeopardy from our failure to track and record important e-mail exchanges with trading partners, and from unmanaged internal circulations for approval and discussion. Here we can resort to the concept of ‘cost of failure’. If we are involved with legal action or regulatory audit, how much damage could we incur due to poor practice in recording and archiving e-mails. How much less would a legal discovery process cost if we have an immediate way of tracking and freezing all relevant exchanges. In the AIIM survey mentioned above, 24 per cent of respondents said they would need more than a month to produce legal discovery documents, with a further 32 per cent needing one to four weeks. Companies involved in legal actions will face greater disruption if discovery processes are inefficient. Supermarket chain Somerfield estimated a saving of over £3m in disputes and claims with suppliers by storing over 11 million e-mails over three years from 3,500 users.
Hard-dollar benefits from larger ECM projects will include savings in staff from improved business processes, but with stronger ECM infrastructure, these processes can be more widespread. For example, a digital mailroom can lead to subsequent efficiencies in customer service or HR. There will also be savings in photocopying costs and paper storage space. On an even higher scale, it facilitates outsourcing and off-shoring options.
The soft dollar savings from wider ECM implementation will revolve around staff enablement, better decision making and more responsive customer service. For many business initiatives, achieving long-term gains usually requires an infrastructure investment to help staff focus on the principles. Financial benefits can be calculated – small increases in efficiency across the business, the value of customer retention, or the competitive edge of good decision-making can be reflected against total staff costs or business revenue.
You can learn more about the design of productive ECM systems from the AIIM Certificate training programmes. These professional qualifications cover Practitioner, Specialist and Master levels and are available as online modules, in-house courses, or public classes. See www.aiim.org.uk/training.
Doug Miles is the managing director of AIIM Europe, the enterprise content management association. For more information, please see www.aiim.org.uk. Or contact Doug at email@example.com