Document, Content, Knowledge: Part 1, Document Management

Information is every organisation’s most valuable asset and managing this information is essential. The amount of data and information within an organisation is growing dramatically. Efficient management of information can result in better customer service, improved internal communication, better decision making and enhanced productivity.

Information management systems provide the foundations to turn corporate data into intelligent, shared information by providing a central information source accessible to all. These systems have changed over time and evolved to meet various business requirements, such as remote working.

Document Management Definition: “Document Management is the process of managing documents through their lifecycle. From inception through creation, review, storage and dissemination all the way to their destruction” (Document Management Avenue).

Document management systems started to appear in the mid 1980’s. The original aim was to develop a system to enable the paperless office. Scanning all paper documents and retrieving them electronically was about as complex as it got. These early file and find systems were simply electronic filing cabinets.

The document management market has been revolutionised over the past 10 years by technological advances. Now document management systems capture almost any type of document not just paper but electronic documents, HTML, e-mails, EDI, XML, etc. They still allow you to store, search and retrieve documents, but the retrieval is now instant from anywhere and the search options much wider.

Another major enhancement to document management was the introduction of workflow. Workflow is defined as “an IT technology which uses electronic systems to manage and monitor business processes. It allows the flow of work between individuals and/or departments to be defined and tracked” (Document Management Avenue). It has become an integral part of many document management solutions and meant that it was possible to progress from simple file and find systems to a solution that could ‘manage’ documents; tracking the process of distributing documents, and monitoring and controlling work. The Internet is transforming the way that workflow is used and has led to a new term: eProcess. Research group Ovum defines eProcess as “workflow for the e-business. e-Process extends the concept of process automation to include a company’s partners, suppliers and customers”. Instead of monitoring organisation-wide processes, eProcess is extended to include any external organisations. For document management this means it is possible to effectively integrate documents with their partners, suppliers and customers. This increases collaboration between organisations and improves the efficiency of the supply chain.

Version Control

The definition of document management includes the ability to manage a document through its life cycle from creation to archive. While a document is live it may need to be worked on and altered by any number of people. Version control ensures you do not have clashing versions of documents. Version control gives “control over exactly who can edit documents and enter new documents into the system and avoids any update conflicts” (Cimtech). This involves checking out any documents that are being edited and locking them, allowing users to either save as newer versions or over-write old versions.

“In the future, document management will become established as a vital business tool for all organisations looking to share information on an enterprise basis” (Document Management Update)

Summary of document management:
Manage all types of document
Workflow and eProcess
Version Control
An evolved technology that forms the basis for content and knowledge management
Fast becoming a must-have for competitive business
Content management and knowledge management systems are basically extensions of the document management concept and this is where a lot of the confusion arises.

Content Management

Definition: “a set of tasks and processes for managing content explicitly targeted for publication on the Web throughout its life from creation to archive” (Ovum).
Content management solutions are essentially an extension of document management that includes managing web content. Some vendors simply re-badged their products without actually adding any functionality, but the true vendors of content management have added valuable capabilities that continue the scope of document management, beyond the confines of one organisation.

An area of much discussion in the market currently is personalisation of content. The prolific use of the Internet and the growth of customer relationship management (CRM) have made it much easier for companies to offer a personal service to customers. Content management systems often incorporate personalisation capabilities although the degree of personalisation can vary greatly, from referring to every user by name to offering the same content to a specific group of users. The technology involved today makes it possible for organisations to replicate the dialogue that a local shop owner might have with its customers, even though they may have many millions. A content management system can also be used like a document management system for capture, distribution and retrieval of information. Enterprise Content Management is a new term that is applied to a system that includes both content and document management capabilities. Content management solutions collect data or information from all required sources, organise it for ease of retrieval and deliver it using a web-compliant system. This can either be over the Internet or Intranet.

A content management solution is commonly used to keep a website up-to-date; it is likely to include web-based publishing, format management, revision control, indexing, search, and retrieval. A content management solution captures paper, media, graphic images, email, voice, video etc, and although it is usually associated with managing for the web it can be extended to include any structured and unstructured content for any channel.

Another vital difference between document management and content management is the way in which documents are classified. Document management is concerned with the external classification of a document, the index fields and keywords used to refer to it. Content management however, is concerned with internal classification methods such as author, date and time of creation and context.

Content management systems have become an essential part of a company’s IT infrastructure and this looks set to continue:

“Content management growth is slowed, not halted by the IT recession, while much of the IT industry is in recession, Strategy Partners analysis shows the CM market as continuing to display strong growth of 34.5% for software and services in Europe 1999-2003 after accounting for September 11th and current recessionary factors. This is faster than the worldwide market (29.5%)” (Strategy Partners, 2001).
Summary of content management:

Manages all content but usually focuses on managing web content
Web-publishing
Personalisation
A growing market that is becoming more established
Knowledge Management

Definition: “The process of capturing value, knowledge and understanding of corporate information, using IT systems, in order to maintain, re-use and re-deploy that knowledge” (Document Management Avenue).

Knowledge management aims to capture all the knowledge in an organisation, from paper documents, web information, electronic reports, employee knowledge or knowledge gained from informal meetings and discussions. Content or document management systems are often the backbone of knowledge management but there is a vast difference in the scope of information captured.

Knowledge management allows employees access to intelligent information and includes features such as collaboration, business intelligence, just-in-time e-learning and CRM. On an enterprise-level, knowledge management carries the largest change to the working practises of an organisation. IT solutions of this nature almost invariably require a change to the working environment. Knowledge management, is highly complex and Implementing a knowledge management solution brings about a large culture change at all levels within an organisation.

Interest in knowledge management has grown recently for several reasons; the Internet has raised users’ expectations of immediate access to relevant information; organisations are realising the value of their corporate knowledge; the shift in employment patterns, with people spending much less time in a company increases the chance of losing knowledge with an employee – it has been said that NASA wouldn’t be able to put a man on the moon now, as the knowledge was not captured at the time.

Knowledge management has a strong link with CRM, (customer relationship management) and a knowledge management system that contains all customer data can be used as a CRM system. This has made these systems especially popular in call centres. The ability to answer a customer query on the initial call not only saves time and the cost of a call back, but also improves customer relations.

Knowledge management systems are expensive and notoriously difficult to cost justify. The main reason for this is that a lot of the benefits are intangible. Improving efficiency, productivity, employee access to information and customer satisfaction are difficult to calculate. The benefits can be vast but the financial outlay and cultural change can be off-putting and hence the market is growing slowly:

“The KM market is projected to be worth between $1,500 and $4,000 millions in one to two years’ time, based on in-depth user surveys” (Strategy Partners).
Apart from the very largest of organisations, there has not been the take-up of knowledge management systems to match the hype.

Summary of knowledge management:

Manages all knowledge in an organisation
Often thought of more as a concept then a system
Strong links with CRM
Difficult to cost justify
A new market that is growing but slowly
Summary of Document, Content, Knowledge Management

Document management systems are now the definitive answer for efficient management of documents. The introduction of content management systems provided the ability to manage web content. Whereas knowledge management extends this concept to manage all knowledge existing in an organisation. So while all three manage information using similar methods, the scope and purposes remain quite distinct.

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Forethought and Training Makes Managers

Senior management in every industry is well-known for setting-up our best skilled workers for failure. It is as if we are specifically trying to sabotage our own companies by reducing the workforce skill level and using poor management to try to fix it. A fancy new title and a raise does not a manger make. A top-notch management selection process and training program is the only road to ensure future success.

Leaders Make Great Managers:

The best worker does not make the best manager, the natural-born leader does. Though scholars continue to argue the finer details, it is widely accepted that “leaders are born and managers are made.” Leaders are followed. The directives of Managers are carried out. The Leader is the person spreading news from the grapevine, teaching trade tricks, and from whom co-workers seek advice. At breaks, the Leader can be found telling “there I was” stories with an attentive audience and organizing the weekend fishing trip or bar bash. The Manager is the person given that title by executives to be in charge of people, projects, and money.

In theory, anyone can be taught to manage well. Managers can be taught efficiency, organization, project flow, and even to earn the respect of those they manage. Managers, as the theory goes, cannot be taught how to lead. Though it is possible that the best worker is also a natural leader, this is rarely the case. Instead of looking to the firm’s best workers to serve in open management roles, consider promoting and training the natural leader. Management selection processes should begin pre-hire with an eye on identifying potential leaders. These employees should then be observed in their current role for signs of leadership and future advancement.

Tiered Management Structures:

Think large when developing the structure of management. All large companies were once small. So, instead of waiting until the company is large and then having to revamp the entire reporting chain; develop the structure at the outset. It is better to have a structure with unfilled positions, or those not currently needed in the smaller organization, then it is to remodel the entire structure at a later date to adapt it to the growing firm.

In some industries, the lowest level of management is the Shift Manager, Department Director, or Section Chief. In construction, we refer to this position as Foreman, Job Supervisor, or Superintendent. Each firm must chose these titles carefully and the reporting hierarchy with which they are associated. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that the person who manages workers directly is called the Department Manager (DM). The Department Manager keeps the work flowing, assigns tasks, coordinates with other departments, ensures items are in-stock, and briefs the client, all while still working alongside their subordinates to facilitate the day’s activities. Department Managers report to the person who manages a number of departments, a position that is primarily office and paperwork intensive, usually called the General Manager (GM). GMs, in turn, report to a member of the Executive Staff, usually the Chief Operating Officer (COO).

It is not uncommon to further break up the management levels of DM and GM into subcategories. For example, the DM category could be sub-divided into: Junior Department Manager, Department Manager, and Senior Department Manager. A Junior DM may be the term used to describe a new entry into the management ranks who works under the direction of a DM or Senior DM. A DM would be an experienced manger with a bigger workforce and larger job assignments. Finally, a Senior DM would have the most experience at assisting with employee training, x-large projects, and those jobs requiring specialized skills or in dealing with detail-oriented clients. The Senior DM would likely run the largest or most complex department. The GM ranks could be similarly divided.

It is also wise to have pre-management positions that introduce potential entrants to the ranks without the accompanying official responsibilities. Thus, an Assistant Department Manager would serve as a normal crew member most of the time; but would be available to take over a portion of the project as needed by the DM. Additionally, they will fill-in as acting DM when the DM is on vacation or off work for personal reasons.

Management Training is Essential:

The most successful restaurant-chain in world history, McDonald’s, is the brunt of many jokes. They are, however, so successful because they are experts. Not only are they experts at “flipping burgers,” their world-renowned Hamburger University is a benchmark for educating management trainees on operation procedures, customer service, cleanliness, and business development. Similarly, Disney, United Parcel Service (UPS), Dell, and many others have been recognized as best-in-class for management and/or customer service training.

Unfortunately, many other industries have the opposite distinction. They are recognized as the industry that provides no management training or has the worst customer service. Digging deeper will usually find that these industries promote their best hopefuls with a new title and a pay bump, only to throw them to wolves by telling them to go run the workplace. Throwing a fellow in the Mississippi River to teach them to swim may have been accepted in Tom Sawyer’s day, but is a procedure doomed to fail with management trainees. At the very least, each level of management should be given initial training followed by annual re-occurring training that delves deeper and broader as employees move up through the ranks.

The best place to start is with the job description. What skills/tools will make the new manager improve company profitability and enhance reputation? Focus on key business areas:

Customer Service
Communicating Professionally
Reoccurring Duties
Completing Paperwork
Management & Team Building
Organization & Time Management
Technical Skill Enhancement
Role in Company’s Profitability
Official Employee Interaction
Merit Shop Responsibilities
Next, find outside vendors of one to two-day seminar-style courses and add self-study activities (books, books-on-tape, videos, webinars, etc.) that specialize in training new or advancing managers. Those activities that are specific to your company (completing a Job Report, corporate marketing soft-skills, or parts scheduling, for example) should be taught in-house by the DM team or executive staff.

Skills can be taught in week or multi-week long training intensive courses where a trainee focuses only on management training until completed. Or, conversely, management trainees can complete classroom training intermixed with field-work over an extended period of time (say, six months for management training).

Whatever your company’s approach, it must incorporate four overarching themes to profit and succeed in the new economy:

Develop a management structure for where you want your firm to be, not where it is.
Hire even entry-level technicians (apprentices) with potential management in mind.
Constantly analyze the workforce to identify leaders for future management positions.
Train, train, and re-train.
Christian D. Malesic provides insight on personal finance, business ope

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