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Studies made on document management reveal that its role is constantly growing. The big question is: Where will this lead to?
Document management generally starts out as a way of getting rid of preprinted forms, and then evolves into one of the main issues for a company to focus on in order to enhance business productivity and competitiveness. In other words, document management does not only refer to creating and storing documents anymore. It is steadily becoming a key feature in processes that aim to improve business flows. This way of applying document management is not new, but it comes with important innovations and opens up a broad future with a wide range of possibilities, in the short and long term.
Investment in document management
According to recent studies, document management is playing an increasingly important role in business processes. In fact, according to a recent study by Forbes, nearly two thirds of IT executives are investing in document management initiatives, which clearly demonstrates the wide range of possibilities that document management provides.
Why enterprises invest in document management
Computers and devices continue increasing their storage capacities while manufacturers are trying to keep their size within limits. However, as new digital platforms and file types are being launched, document management that goes beyond personal computers and devices has become a key issue for any company, regardless of its size.
Where document management could lead to
Studies show that, in 2014, 68% of enterprises are using a growing number of storage devices. This raises two important challenges in document management: quick and efficient content and mobility.
Therefore, many document management systems focus on providing a professional search interface that allows users to perform detailed searches and obtain results quickly and efficiently. On the other hand, all signs suggest that, in the near future, document management software companies will focus their strategies on enhancing functionalities related to content management on mobile devices, both for personal as for professional use.
We cannot talk about mobility, without mentioning an increasingly popular trend in document management: cloud storage of business documents. Apart from other, obvious, advantages, these new technologies enable employees located anywhere in the world to collaborate and work together on the same documents at the same moment.
What, not long ago, seemed impossible, isn’t anymore. After all, defenders of document management software have always promised that one day, the (nearly) paperless office, where electronic documents replace paper documents, would become a reality.
An example we all know can be found in delivery services. It seems the only paper they are still using are the stickers they put on envelopes and packages (which, by the way, could easily be replaced by printed barcodes). Clients do not sign delivery notes anymore, but just confirm reception with an unrecognizable signature on a tablet or similar device. Then the delivery is automatically registered at the company´s headquarters and the procedure ends.
I have no idea of when printed paper will actually disappear, because it seems that we are wasting much more paper than saving. However, it is clear that, meanwhile, print technologies remain important. Mobile users want to print documents while en route, and, since there are Wi-Fi networks all around us, why not also create printing sites, where documents transferred online are printed? We would only need to go the corresponding location and pick up our printed documents there. Payment would be done automatically and online, of course.
Another option for saving and reusing paper consists of assigning expiration dates to printed documents and making the ink on these printed documents disappear after the expiration date. Naturally, legal regulations would oblige the expiration date to be assigned automatically to each page of the printed document. This all may seem very futuristic, but there have been many ideas that seemed unrealistic to many and, nonetheless, have become a tangible reality.
OCR (Optical character Recognition) is another technology to be taken into account. There have been important improvements in OCR technologies, including more intelligent interpretation of content and automated document retrieval and classification processes. This is just one out of many document technologies that connect the document management process work flow with other business processes.
Then there are also documents that are internally stored in XML format. This type of documents would allow for meta data access and semantically interpreted information, thus facilitating the classification and “electronic” comprehension of the data, while multiplying data search options that are not limited to keywords.
Another example of what the future of document management could have in store, is intelligent document management. With this type of software, any changes made on a document automatically launch related processes, triggering a whole new process flow based on the type of change that was applied. Intelligent documents would also be able to automatically search for related links on the Internet or update their content based on parameters. Within the field of document management, this would be a highly automated update technology.
Then there is document security. This area cannot be overlooked, as it also needs to be adapted to the new ways in which people and devices interact with information. Electronic documents can already be encrypted, but we could also find a way to carry a confidential document with us in printed format. For example, if the content of the document is compressed and only legible when scanned by a content decryption application.
The future of document management is promising
There is no doubt that document management has a bright future, and that it comes with a wide range of possibilities. It seems that most IT executives have already understood its importance, as they are investing in a wide variety of initiatives related to document management.
On the other hand, the future of mobility is not clear. For now, it is a growing trend that is rapidly turning into a must-have for most companies. Tablets and smartphones are the future, so companies must implement mobile technologies and strategies to avoid staying behind.
The combination and interrelation between the Internet, document management software and other internal business applications is creating very favorable prospects for those, like me, who haven´t even started to scratch the surface of possibilities. This will undoubtedly enhance business processes up to levels that, today, are unimaginable.
Generally, we still consider a document as dead paper. Therefore, we sometimes forget that document management software and the documents it generates are the heart, the core, of our business and that its influence and consequences reach every section of our company.
Over the past few years, document management technology has evolved at a dizzying pace, and predictions suggest that it will continue to do so in the forthcoming years. Undoubtedly, it will be very interesting to follow up on the future of document management, and how it grows alongside other ever-evolving technologies.
One thing is clear: we must let our imagination run free, because many document management technologies that seemed completely impossible just a few years ago, have turned into a reality, or have even gone beyond reality, today.
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