Organizational document management has come a long way, evolving from documents stored in bankers’ boxes to today’s enterprise content management (ECM) systems. This suite of products can be utilized on a company’s existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and across departments — human resources, accounts payable, facilities management — and locations. It drastically reduces errors and overhead associated with back-office processes by automating tedious manual work, regardless of the type of content being input.
“It’s no longer just scanned images,” says Dave Evans, senior account executive at Blue Technologies. “It’s CAD drawings, it’s emails, it’s video, it’s audio. It’s content is far beyond just documents.”
Smart Business spoke with Evans about ECM, its current evolution, applications, and how it can save organizations time and money.
How does automating the accounts payable process help an organization?
Accounts payable traditionally is a very labor-intensive process because the data that’s contained on an invoice is hand keyed into the ERP. An ECM can automatically read the invoice the moment it’s received through optical character recognition, which eliminates hand keying. That data set is then passed over to the ERP system where an image of the invoice and all its metadata routes it to its next destination(s) based on established rules — for example, if it’s from X vendor, it goes to X approver, etc. This also initiates the approval process.
This touchless, automated process significantly reduces costs compared to manual procedures. It also opens the door to pay discounts that can be negotiated between vendors and customers based on the speed of payment that can be facilitated through this system. For instance, if someone in that manual process were ill or on vacation, that invoice might wait on their desk and that prompt discount couldn’t be realized. But by automating it, timers and escalations can be trigger that dictate that an invoice that’s not reviewed in two or three days is automatically redirected to somebody else.
How can ECM help with human resources?
One common use of ECM in HR is in hiring and onboarding. Through an ECM, rather than transcribing data manually from a new hire’s application into multiple forms, data capture can automate the process so applicants’ data is read one time and then delivered not only into the necessary forms but throughout an organization. That could mean getting the necessary information from the application to facilities management to set up the workspace and security badges before the new hire’s first day, while other information goes to payroll to get the pay and benefits process underway.
It’s automating a very labor-intensive process, ensuring the right information gets to the right place at the right time while drastically reducing mistakes and overhead in the process.
Why should companies consider a change if their current processes work fine?
ECM systems, compared to older document management systems, offer greater security because document access can automatically be granted or denied based on individual permissions. It can also create repeatable processes that don’t have to be dependent upon human intervention. That creates repeatable economies of scale because processes are executed correctly every time, something that helps a lot with accounts payable.
But this is not about using ECM to reduce headcount. It’s about taking a known cost and reducing it. So, as there’s natural attrition or retirements, rather than replace folks who only do accounts payable, the organization can rely on the automation for the task and then shift those resources to higher skilled positions.
Companies that are very successful in their field are still doing back office processes the way they were 50 years ago. And that can work. But what they’re missing is ECM’s demonstrable ROI that comes by driving down the cost of manual processes, a return that more than covers the cost of the software that performs the tasks.●
INSIGHTS Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies, Inc.