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How Replacing Paper With ECM Benefits All Business Departments

How Replacing Paper With ECM Benefits All Business DepartmentsMoving to an enterprise content management system (ECM) offers huge benefits for accounting departments, including improved efficiency, cost savings and — when correctly implemented — a great return on investment. But other departments may resist using an ECM system, often because they don’t see how ECM fits into their processes and ways of working.

Legal departments tend to resist ECM either due to compliance and regulations or to misconceptions about the validity of digital documents. People who have worked in legal for a long time often believe that for a contract to be enforceable they need to keep the original document with the wet (ink) signature. While that may be true in some situations, this environment is rapidly evolving, with a growing trend toward the electronic signatures provided by VeriSign and others.

Sales departments also tend to resist using digital document management because it changes customer interactions. Sales reps are accustomed to sitting down with a client or prospect and asking them to sign a paper contract. Until they’re certain that they’ll be able to maintain that quality human interaction through digital documents, it could be hard for them to make the switch.

Overcoming Resistance To ECM

When you’re making the case for ECM to departments such as legal and sales, emphasize the costs of continuing to use paper. In addition to the ongoing expenses of office supplies, document storage and the time employees must spend shuffling paper, there’s also a high cost to the department’s agility.

If you think about your sales process, for example, there’s probably a lot of back and forth between reps, customers and sales operations before you finally generate a winning quote and place the order. In situations like this, where you have several people collaborating on iterative work, a paper-based process is going to be far slower and consume more resources than if you use electronic documents in a digital workflow. 

If the finished product is a proposal, for example, creating it is typically a linear process made up of individual tasks. In this type of linear, serial process, each interaction is going to slow down those that follow it, especially when you’re routing paper documents back and forth for approvals and feedback. In a digital workflow, you not only save time by eliminating the manual handoffs, but it also allows for parallel task management with more than one task moving forward at a time. 

This faster process not only saves you time and money, but it also improves your agility and responsiveness, which has a direct impact on customer satisfaction.

That agility in the sales process could also improve speed and efficiency in accounting, with a big impact on cash flow. In a paper-based system, it could take 30 days from the time the accounting team generates a paper invoice and mails it to the customer to when the money finally arrives in your bank account. In a purely digital situation, however, you could go through the entire process within 24 hours, resulting in a much better cash position.

For the legal department, these digital workflows help to shrink the cycle time and automate much of the approval process. It allows the legal team to automatically identify and address exceptions instead of reviewing everything. In addition, the audit trails featured in many ECM systems are a great advantage to legal. For example, audit trails allow you to track who has accessed a given document and record the time, the user and any changes they made to the document. These records are readily available for review.

HR is another department that benefits from switching to ECM. When your organization is hiring new employees, your onboarding process is their first taste of how your company operates. Rather than mailing packets of employment documents back and forth, a digital process speeds up the onboarding and improves employee satisfaction. This helps get new employees up to speed more quickly, resulting in faster time to value.

Whether you’re trying to get sales, legal, HR or another department on board with ECM, start by picking out a single process where you know ECM would make the biggest impact on user satisfaction and the bottom line. In sales, for example, you could focus on the quote generation process. By going after those processes one at a time, you’re able to improve the department’s KPIs and get some early wins under your belt, making it easier to roll out ECM to the rest of the organization.

Want to learn more about how ECM could benefit your organization? Contact DocuWare today for a free consultation and your document management roadmap.

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