Piles of paperwork and a laptop on the desktop in the office

The State of Document Management in the Workplace

January 16, 2020 Information Management
David Roe
By David Roe

Run the term document management, or even document management system, in Google search and look what you get. There is no surprise that that are hundreds of entries about dozens of different types of software, and that doesn’t’ even count entries for its related enterprise content management systems. What is notable about the responses is that a large number of the query response close to the top of the list show that many enterprises and business are still looking for the best kind of document management system to use and the best way to implement it. It also shows that despite the emergence of the digital workplace, enterprise leaders are still looking for the best way to manage their documents, digital or otherwise.

And that's not all, according to data from our own 2019 State of the Digital Workplace survey and report, document management beat artificial intelligence, machine learning, microservices and other more nascent technology as the most important tool in the digital workplace toolkit, however when those respondents were asked how their document management systems were performing for their organization, only 12% said it was working well.

Related Article: How Document Management and Content Management Differ

Deutsche Bank And NetDocuments

Such is the case with the global financial institution Deutsche Bank. Last month the Germany-based organization announced that it has signed a contract for the Lehi, Utah-based NetDocuments cloud-based legal document management system. It will ensure secure and fast access to relevant documents for all Legal department employees of Deutsche Bank, who are in 27 countries and operating globally.

NetDocuments, the company said, will make the collaboration between legal department employees better and faster, thereby enhancing their daily working experience. The new platform will form an important part of the bank’s broader digital strategy of further modernizing and simplifying systems and working processes.

Problems With Legacy Tech

So why are enterprises still looking for document management systems? Probably because the emergence of the digital workplace has happened so quickly, and many companies were caught napping.

In a paper published in December by the Silver Spring, Md.-based Association for Information and Image Management or AIIM,  Kevin Craine, content strategist with the organization pointed out that many organizations are stuck with the legacy systems and are only looking at updated versions of older technology as digital transformation strategies are unrolled.

Whether the result of previous mergers, he wrote, a failure to keep up with technological advances, or a reluctance to budget for development, legacy platforms are certainly not uncommon. As technology develops and requirements change, businesses oftentimes find that they have a diverse collection of legacy technology platforms. There are several warnings that this may be causing problems. These include:

  1. Organizations often feel they have no choice but to continue to maintain outdated systems because the effort and expense of migration is too much to tolerate.
  2. Researchers say that up to 85% of information in an organization is redundant, obsolete, or trivial and that organizations are still struggling to overcome this.
  3. To be compliant with GDPR and other regulatory demands are too difficult to manage with older legacy systems.

“In response to these factors, many organizations are now creating digital transformation strategies and developing new systems of engagement,” Craine added. This includes providing mobile, cloud-based applications for customers, business partners, and employees, improving workflow flexibility and efficiency, and boosting security and compliance while advancing and modernizing the information infrastructure. At the heart of this is managing data and content across the enterprise in one of several ways including a modern document management system.

Change For The Sake Of Change

Vancouver-based PCIS CEO, Vaclav Vincalek warns about every enterprise moving to a newer system straight away, even to a cloud system. “In the case of Deutsche Bank, it sounds like this move to a cloud-based system makes sense,” he said.  But that won’t be true for every enterprise organization. Changing systems up adds risk and cost. The benefits must outweigh the downsides. “The question that the decision-makers need to ask is this: “is our system working well?” In that case, you’ll be hard-pressed to lobby to change it,” he said. There are other ways of looking at the problem too. For example, taking a longer-term view, management leaders might ask: “Will this kind of digital transformation enable us to take on a new line of business, or restructure our business model to make it more profitable?”

It comes down to doing an overall cost analysis to see if you’re really justified in changing to a new system. “If executives want to make a change just so they can say they’ve modernized their system, without actually bringing benefits to the business, it’s a non-starter,” he added.

Legal Platform Integration Challenges

Even taking all that into consideration, there are still advantages that many companies are weighing up. Many, for example, are adopting new integrated legal platforms due to the reduced cost and potential automation to save hours. These platforms come with inherent problems. The three main problems, Stephen Cobb, of San Diego, Calif.-based Mammalz said, are; human machine interaction, platform security, and international data laws. Let's look in a little more detail.

Human-Machine Interaction

Most anyone who works in IT knows that, the first time a person interacts with a machine is normally when an error occurs. This is no different for legal platforms. Just as a co-worker can label a file incorrectly on paper, they can do the same digitally. This is lessened by a digital search function, assuming the person has access to search the files and the search function is robust.

Platform Security

Security is and will always be a concern regarding legal documentation. Just as there is human error when inputting data, there is error when users don't protect themselves. The alteration, corruption and deletion of legal documents due to cyberattack or human error without paper backups could bankrupt a company.

Regulatory Issues

The location of your data storage for these types of legal platforms is equally important. As we move further into the digital age the disparity in legal protection from country to country varies wildly. The result of this could cost untold millions, or even billions of dollars.“This is why an onsite document management systems will always be useful. While it may never need to be used, the repercussions of not having it could be catastrophic,” Cobb said.

Perspective on Document Management Investments

Chris Tinsley is the head of Atlanta-based eVestment Research Management. Despite problems that some organizations are experiencing with what their document management system, he believes that there are two advantages to deploying a system that better services the digital workplace.

Share Data Quickly, Securely

At the highest level, companies with multiple offices and remote or mobile workforces need an easy way for all the people who need to access documents for any deal or project they may be working on be able to do that. These days, you're likely to have people at headquarters, at remote offices, at home offices and even at a WeWork or Knotel type space all working on the same project or projects. And some of these people could be around the corner or around the world. “The ability to quickly and securely share information throughout a project life cycle, regardless of location or time zone, is crucial to the efficiency of a project and its ultimate success,” he said. Increasingly, you’ve got digital and cloud-based natives at all levels of your work force. For many of them, the thought of having to share documents in person or hard copy or even of putting attachments in emails and tracking that — will seem really antiquated and inefficient.

Regulatory Demands

For  highly regulated industries like eVestment  — institutional investing — and many other industries, document management systems, which collect and retain key documents, meeting minutes, notes and more, are very important if a regulator, a stakeholder or other party questions the results of the project or the decisions made. For instance, a public pension client of eVestment will use eVestment Research Management to store all the documents and notes related to how and why they selected a particular asset manager for an investment. 

In in the case of our clients, that investment will be tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars. At any point, a regulator, a pensioner or other parties could ask — either informally or in a lawsuit — how that decision was made. And sometimes, those questions can come years after the decision was made, when some of the people who made the decision have left. Even in those cases, the organization is still on the hook to explain and defend the decision, the process and the results. “A document management system allows you to easily find and provide the information requested. Even if you know you've crossed all you’re its and dotted all your is in your process, if you can't prove it, you and your organization could be in serious trouble,” he said.


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