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If you work in a small or medium-sized business (SME) and feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data your business has to consume, you are not alone.

Recent research by AIIM, “Automating Compliance and Governance”, identified that 75% of large businesses consider ‘information chaos’ a major problem.

The same AIIM research suggests that the problem is going to accelerate over the next couple of years. The survey participants expect on average a 317% increase in the volume of data they have to deal with over the next two years.

Much of this data is contained within documents or other content, like email (“unstructured data”), rather than in a format that can be readily used (“structured data”). It has been suggested that 80% is held as unstructured data.

There is some irony in the fact that there is little data to support this 80% figure. But, there is a consensus that unstructured data is a significant proportion of the data held by each business.

A common frustration is that while many businesses are swimming in data, few are capable of processing it to produce information that can be used effectively to provide insights and add value.

One factor in this is the reliance on manual systems and processes

The AIIM survey identifies that 60% of these large businesses use manual processes for document retention and disposition management. Many also decide it’s just easier to keep everything.

This theme of manual processes is seen in research from our own report: ‘Changing trends in the purchasing processes of UK businesses’, which shows 33% of SMEs managing the purchase processes manually.

The problem exists whether the documents themselves are manual or held in a digital form in disparate electronic filing systems. The AIIM survey identified that 67% of these companies could not identify basic metadata, document owner or version for more than 50% of documents held.

As an SME, you may wonder how you can be expected to control your documents if larger businesses can’t

The answer lies in Electronic Document Management (eDM).

SMEs have an advantage over larger companies as it’s likely to be easier to introduce one central electronic repository. Large businesses often have created many separate repositories.

An eDM deals with the document management basics, enabling the storage of documents regardless of what form they are originally received in. Centralised storage and access control ensure that only those authorised to see data have access to it. Retrieval is fast and based either on metadata or content using search capabilities coupled with Optical Character Recognition (OCR).

Powerful search improves discoverability and you know what documents you have; with the audit trail, you know who has accessed them and if they were amended.

Concern about which version of the document is the latest or final version?

This can be reduced as users collaborate on a single version-controlled copy.

OCR can be used to extract data from the documents, even if they are attachments to or content of an email. This data can be processed to create information and insights that add value to your business.

The eDM enables the establishment of retention controls so documents can only be held as long as they are required. This, combined with the reduction in the storage of uncontrolled duplicates, will help reduce the volume of data stored.

Knowing what information you have, who has access to it, and how it is used, is often critical for compliance with regulations like GDPR. Fears concerning disruption to your business due to subject access requests are reduced when you have confidence that you can produce the information quickly and reliably.

The introduction of an eDM not only brings access to your hidden information assets. It can also reduce the cost of managing and storing documents.

Additionally, if you add workflow to the eDM you can, using process automation, significantly improve efficiency, visibility and control in your business.

If you’d like to untangle the information chaos, contact us.