One way to Measure Your Company’s Success: How Well Does It Manage Documents?

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When you think of your work, your day-to-day tasks, do you think of the documents you use as tools? Answering “yes” seems obvious, yet for most of us, it’s probably not something we consciously think about. Perhaps this attitude stems from the fact that the document has been with us since the dawn of human civilization. But however ubiquitous the company document, we can no longer afford to continue this dismissive mindset.


More information has been produced in the last thirty years than in the past five thousand years. Even more fascinating (or appalling, depending on how you look at it) is that information is expected to double every five years. And… with over 90% of information contained in documents, we’d better be able to find it and use it.

How can we do that? With a document strategy, of course! But… what exactly is a document strategy? For that matter, what defines a document? This post is Part 2 of a series that discusses the why and how of document strategy (frequently referencing Kevin Craine’s excellent book, Developing a Document Strategy). Don’t miss Part 1: “Key Documents” Can Help Open the Door to a Company-Wide Document Strategy.

A Document Converts Information into Action

Rather than falling down the rabbit hole by trying to define exactly what a document is, Kevin Craine, in his book Designing a Document Strategy, simply states that a successful document converts information into action. This applies whether your document is external and intended for customers or internal and used by your employees. Did the email convert the reader into a customer? Did the software developer use the requirements specification to create a fine piece of software? Did the client pay the invoice?

With so many internal and external business relationships relying on the humble document, it seems a bit odd that most organizations traditionally view the document as a liability. Admittedly, whether paper or pixelated, documents and the actions concerned with them – creating, storing, updating, finding, losing – can be costly. One factoid mentioned in my previous post on document strategy states that document cost is eventually going to reach about 15% of an organization’s corporate revenue.

A Document Has TWO Sides: Tactical and Strategic

The tactical view of documents as a liability is what drives organizations to reduce the amount of paper they print and store. But that’s just one side of the document. Let’s flip it over and look at the other side. In order to fully unleash its power (remember, this is your company’s information we’re talking about) you must a document both tactically and strategically.

Tactically, your company can reduce document cost and make efficient use of the labor to produce them. Strategically, your company can make sure that their documents help the business succeed. This means improving document workflow, efficiency, and security, not to mention the customer experience.

Companies with “Information Agility” Manage Documents Swiftly and Effectively

The simplest explanation of a document strategy is that it is a set of actions performed for the overall management a business’s content. The document strategy monitors, directs, and improves the way information is used. A document strategy is different for every company, and the road your business takes to develop one will be just as unique.

The thought of developing a document strategy may seem overwhelming, especially when you think of the complications of corporate culture, rapidly changing technology, and competing priorities. But if you want your business to survive the 21st century, you have no choice but to tackle the exponential growth of information.

The increasingly rapid pace of marketplace changes demands that an organization have “information agility,” which is the ability to swiftly and effectively find, use, and keep information. And since only 25% of companies actually have a document strategy, once you have one, no doubt you will already be ahead of your competition.

Remember, there’s more to come. In my next post, Part 3, I’ll discuss the steps needed for an organization to develop a document strategy.


  • Developing a Document Strategy, by Kevin Craine


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