Organizations must adopt a document strategy to manage the exponential growth of information. More information has been produced in the last 30 years than in the entire history of civilization. And that body of information is expected to double in less than five years. With over 90% of information contained in documents, it is clear that documents are the currency of human communication.
For most organizations, documents compose much, if not all, of the products they sell or the services they provide. A health insurance company, for example, does not provide diagnosis or treatment, only information about which doctor is available, what coverage is provided and what claims have been paid. For companies such as this, documents are the product the only tangible evidence of the service provided.
If firms are not competitive in using the information they have within their enterprises, they will be less able to face the competitive pressures of changing markets, shrinking margins and increasing competition. Companies must have "information agility" in order to effectively react to dynamic changes in the marketplace. Today the economic, technological and societal factors that influence change are moving simultaneously and unpredictably. And a document strategy ensures that an organization can find, use and keep information with agility and effectiveness.
Information is now the most valuable component of the entire economic chain, according to Peter Drucker, a prominent management consultant. Organizations that are able to harness the power of information and also manage, share and use information effectively are well positioned to create value for everyone involved, says Drucker.
The Cost of Information
But the cost of harnessing that value is high. Investment in information technology now accounts for over one-half of US gross investment in equipment. But documents can turn the expense of gathering information into an asset. They are one aspect of information processing that can be quantifiably measured and improved. A document strategy is vital because it monitors, directs and improves the way information is used in a very tangible way. Enhancements to document systems can provide information agility that can ultimately determine the real value of the information you have gathered and the technology used to collect it.
Documents Are Strategic
It is no longer enough for organizations to plan and implement strategies in isolation from the document. Documents play a significant role in nearly every business strategy or initiative. Therefore, documents should be given the same attention in strategic planning as other important aspects of business. A document strategy that is sensibly linked to organizational objectives can give organizations an edge. The challenge, as Peter Senge puts it, is to "think systemically and act holistically," and to adopt a document strategy as a vehicle to bring alignment and success to the entire agenda of business strategies and objectives.
How we manage documents has a great deal to do with how we manage business. And designing a document strategy for your company is the first step toward making documents part of the success of your business rather than one of the problems.
Kevin Craine, MBA, EDP, is the editor of "document" magazine. For further information about his new book, "The Document Strategy Design Workbook," visit www.document-strategy.com.