Every organization has to deal with documents, whether physical, digital, or a mix of both. Regardless of industry or size, your company likely processes loads of documents daily. The process your employees follow to create, digitize, share, and maintain them is called a document workflow.
Defined or not, every business has a document workflow process that gets materials from one point in the company to the other. However, an undefined document workflow creates inefficiencies across different teams and ultimately makes employees less productive. In addition, manually reading, processing, extracting, and retyping from documents opens the window for human errors. This is bad for business. 
Luckily, there are solid ways to optimize your organization’s document workflow, and this article will discuss them in detail. 

What is a document workflow?

Document workflow is the process used to create, capture, save, share, edit, track, approve, delete, categorize and manage documents within an organization. The process aims to state clear guidelines for completing tasks in the document workflow life cycle. For example: 
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Using digital document workflow can help businesses become more productive and make the switch to leaner, less paper-intensive working practices. The vast majority of businesses are significantly reliant on paper, and how they manage these documents affects their productivity, profitability, and operating costs. 
Your company's success will be greatly impacted by how well you manage documents' electronic movement between divisions or geographical locations for approvals, signatures, and revisions. An effective workflow (which can be aided by SaaS like a document management system) ensures that employees have access, control, and governance over all the documents they need to function at peak efficiency. 

Benefits of document workflow 

Business processes are a series of repeating actions required to execute tasks. Creating a document workflow enables organizations to automate the movement of documents via a series of actions. Automation of this workflow makes it even better. The requirement for manual data entry, email reminders, printed paperwork, and other time-consuming measures is eliminated. Below are some advantages of document workflow.

Cost saving

The process of defining and automating document workflow helps businesses save money. Manual processing of documents is quite expensive to manage and operate. They require more employees, leading to increased labor expenses, higher error rates, and printing and distributing documents costs. 
Document workflow combined with technology will no doubt save your company storage costs, operating costs, printing and filing costs, and make it easier to follow the procedure’s status. 

Enhances staff productivity 

Each document workflow in an organization defines the standard processes and best practices around creating, sharing, and managing every document. This helps to eliminate inefficiencies and automate various tasks throughout the organization. In addition, automation frees up time for employees to focus on higher-level initiatives and revenue-producing actions.

Improves document security 

Every organization has to be big on privacy. Security of sensitive documents is crucial. Document workflow offers better control over sensitive documents. Automating documents greatly enhances security by ensuring that only authorized users directly access sensitive information. You get an insight into who viewed a document, when it was accessed and how it may have been modified.

Improves teamwork and collaboration 

By automating document processes, businesses can make it simpler for team members to process and interact with documents, enabling remote collaboration. Document workflow allows employees to create, track, edit, and save documents in the cloud and distribute them directly to clients. 
As a result, tedious projects are simpler to handle, and teamwork within the organization is improved. Additionally, accessing and interacting with cloud-based information implies that employees may access contracts and project files, regardless of where they live or work from. 

Easier compliance

Secure and efficient document control and management are necessary to comply with many regulations and standards. Document workflow reduces the risk of non-compliance by making it simple to keep your documentation updated and safe.

Insights and analytics 

Systems used for document workflow automation offer businesses access to a huge amount of data, reports, and analytics. This data can be used to make informed decisions that better the company. Through the analysis of data and key performance indicators, companies can improve their processes to eliminate inefficiencies. 
As a result, document workflow automation increases performance, ensures a higher level of compliance, and enhances the quality of products or services.

Tips for document workflow optimization

Most companies depend on hundreds or even thousands of documents to function. These documents are usually transitioned between departments, employees, patients, clients, and other personnel for approvals, signatures, and editing. This implies that there’s already a process or procedure within the organization to deal with documents—whether defined or undefined. 
Document workflow optimization means improving the existing system for the organization's benefit. The ultimate goals of workflow optimization are to increase the speed at which processes get done, get the best from each employee, and reduce friction among team members regarding communication. Below is a list of ways to optimize the document workflow in your organization. 

Examine the previous process

A workflow optimization campaign begins with a clear understanding of the previous processes involved in documentation and of the people who participate in the workflow. Do this by writing it out on a board or using a computer to design a flowchart. The flowchart shows each step involved in your existing workflow and the connections between the steps. 
The chart must display every task that’s carried out and completed at each step, the personnel responsible, the resources and material needed, and the next step in the document workflow. Doing this will give an insight into the areas that need improvement, such as bottlenecks in the workflow (areas that slow it down, where frequent mistakes occur, and unnecessary steps).

Highlight performance indicators 

Identify the key metrics that will be used to measure performance improvement. It is important to define the purpose of each document workflow created or optimized and also to create metrics and key performance indicators that determine if the planned process has accomplished its goal. 
Examples of metrics, in this case, include the speed of processing, the prevalence and amount of errors, the employee hours consumed, or the return on investment of the document workflow. 

Start working on the new model

Once you’ve carefully analyzed the existing workflow and defined the key metrics, draw out a plan for the new document workflow, the optimized model. The new model must show what happens at each step of the workflow, where documents are routed, what documentation needs to be completed, and who needs to approve the paperwork. 

Automate, automate, automate

It’s best to automate almost, if not all, aspects of the document workflow process. These automated processes can help employees save more time by eliminating repetitive tasks and reducing the chances of human error in the process. Systems can implement all kinds of processes, like informing other team members of revisions, applying revisions all throughout multiple documents, adding signatures to certain documents, etc.
For example, if your company has a job listing, there should be a dedicated folder on the cloud to receive the candidate’s application for easy access by the hiring team. Automation can also come in the form of merging related digital documents. There are online tools available to help companies merge pdfs. Click here to merge PDFs
 Incorporate your document approval process into your workflow by letting approvers sign off on paperwork using digital signatures. That way, there’s no need for employees to manually print, sign and scan documents before they are forwarded to the next staff on the workflow. Automation is a sure way to speed up document workflow and eliminate inefficiencies. 

Document the process 

It is important to generate documentation stating each step and output of the process. The document should clearly detail the following:
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After documentation is complete, educate every concerned employee on the procedure of the document workflow to maximize its efficiency. 

Track performance 

Once you’ve implemented your process changes, you must regularly monitor your workflow functionality to ensure it outperforms your previous setup. This also helps to detect areas that need improvement. 

Start enjoying the benefits of document workflow

Document workflow provides various advantages to an organization. Manual or undefined documentation processes limit the employees. Instead of focusing on their main job roles, your team has to spend time completing administrative tasks. 
To prevent this, you need to optimize your documentation workflow by digitizing and automating the process. This article discussed six tips for document workflow optimization and will help you manage your documents effectively.


Lydia Iseh