When your employees lack access to business documents they need, it creates a bottleneck that steals your productivity and process efficiency. Here’s an example: Let’s say an accounts receivable clerk calls one of your customers to ask why they haven’t paid an invoice that’s now overdue. The customer replies, “Well, the product you sent isn’t what the salesperson promised in the proposal.”
To resolve the issue and collect on the invoice, the clerk first needs to find out what the salesperson promised. Unfortunately, the salesperson saved the proposal on his local hard drive, and all the clerk sees is that an invoice is open. So, the whole process stalls until these questions are answered.
This scenario above is typical of the problems caused by documents being stored in a variety of different physical or electronic locations – many times not accessible for team members or colleagues when these documents are needed. These document silos become a major burden for the whole organization. To overcome these obstacles you need to be able to identify the silos in your organization and then break down the barriers with a document management system or enterprise content management system.
What exactly is a document silo?
You might think of a document silo as a storage location which prevents your employees from having easy and fast access to all documents relating to one business process.
First of all, document silos are created by different document formats: paper documents stored in file cabinets, emails in Outlook folders, MS Office files on local hard disks or a server, and separate databases to keep documents for business platforms such as accounting software and customer relationship management (CRM).
In addition, different departments, such as sales, accounting and production, many times create their own document silos by using individual filing structures and procedures for their documents.
Both type of silos make it very cumbersome and time-consuming to find all relevant documents of a customer file or transaction and many times it involves asking multiples colleagues.
Detecting document silos
Here are some signs that you have a document silo issue:
- Documents reside in a variety of storage locations, both physical and electronic, which leads to time-consuming searches.
- People don’t have the access they need and end up asking colleagues for documents.
- Employees are using different versions of a document.
- Duplicate files are being stored in local hard drives, email folders and file shares.
To improve your process efficiency, eliminate these data silos, unburden your employees from tiring searches and reduce reliance on certain departments or individuals for access to documents or data.
Breaking down silos with document management
The only way to fully eliminate these silos is by implementing a document management system or enterprise content management system. Essentially, these platforms capture all of your organization’s documents, store them electronically in one central location, and then automatically organize and index the documents to create a consistent structure.
With digital document management, all of your company’s document silos are replaced with one document storage location, called a “document pool” or “document repository.” This central location gives you and your colleagues the ability to quickly file and retrieve documents, and uses automated indexing and powerful search tools to find information for specific business transactions, customers and other criteria.
Of course, you can assign very specific access rights to every user so they can only see the documents they are supposed to see!
You don’t want to just dump all of your silos into a big pile of unstructured data, or else you’re still not going to be able to find and access the information you need without sorting through lots of irrelevant data. That’s why effective document management systems also index and structure the information in ways that are meaningful for your organization and align the documents to specific business transactions.
Don’t let document silos frustrate your employees and create bottlenecks that steal your productivity. Implementing digital document management is a great way to eliminate silos and improve your process efficiency.