Blog Post

Document Workflows Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Approach

September 28, 2023

Implementing document workflows that are tailored to your organization’s requirements create a more collaborative, productive, and error-free workplace. However, the task of creating document workflows can be daunting. In this article, you’ll find a comprehensive step-by-step guide to implement workflows throughout your organization. 

What is a document workflow? 

A document workflow is a system designed to manage how documents pass through an organization with the goal of providing clear guidelines on how to handle any task or document throughout the document life cycle. This system can include actionable processes such as creating, storing, accessing, editing, tracking, and managing documents. 

4 benefits of implementing a document workflow solution

The primary purpose of document workflows are to ensure that all relevant information is available for employees to access as easily and efficiently as possible. Some organizations achieve this by implementing a document management system. Whether your organization chooses to use a DMS or not, you can expect the following benefits of a document workflow. 

Improved efficiency 

Any enterprise-level organization generates and handles hundreds of documents a day. Without sufficient processes in place, this volume can quickly lead to confusion, errors, and inefficiencies. An intelligent document management workflow will reduce organizational chaos and make it clear to everyone exactly when and how to upload, store, access, and edit certain documents. This level of transparency fosters a firmer understanding of business processes, which in turn can help teams work much more efficiently. 

Better compliance and security 

The best way to achieve compliance is to maintain compliance. Well-organized and carefully tracked documentation can help private businesses and government agencies prepare for any necessary audits with speed, efficiency, and accuracy—a feature which relieves some of the anxiety associated with audits. 

Furthermore, document workflows control who can access which documents and when. Advanced security features like encryption, role-based permissions, and access control reduce the risk of inappropriate exposure, ensuring  that the wrong documents will never land in the wrong hands, and only approved users can access documents. 

Enhanced collaboration and communication 

With the right document workflow in place, it’s easier than ever for multiple parties to collaborate on a task via a centralized platform. Real-time document access and automated notifications make working together even more efficient, even when teams are operating remotely. 

Cost savings 

A good digital document management system workflow is less resource-intensive than paper-based processes. This is because digital document management workflow reduces the demand for paper-hungry processes like printing, mailing, and physical storage (which also leaves documents vulnerable to damage, decay, and inaccessibility). 

Automated workflows also require fewer manual interventions, which frees up labor for higher-value tasks and facilitates the handling of higher document volumes. 

4 key components of a document workflow 

The components that make up a document workflow may vary depending on the specific requirements of your industry and your organization. However, any given document management workflow comprises the following key components. 

Document creation and capture 

A document workflow can be leveraged to generate files in digital formats, like PDFs or online documents. However, it can also be used to scan physical documents, converting them into searchable digital files that can be stored securely, categorized, and indexed for instant retrieval. 

Document storage and organization 

A document management workflow makes it possible to generate or convert documents as digital files. It’s easier and more efficient to securely store digital files in a centralized location because they can be organized according to type, version, date, and other criteria. This sets the scene for more efficient versioning and access control further along in the document life cycle. 

Document approval and distribution 

As anyone working in an enterprise-level company or government agency can attest, documents need to be approved before they can be implemented or used—and, although it is crucial, it can be a time-consuming process. A document workflow can automate the approval process and distribute approved documents to the right people at the right time. 

Document retention 

Once they’ve been approved, documents need to be retained so that they can be accessed and used in the future. A well-designed document management system workflow makes long-term document archiving and access possible without putting the documents at risk of damage, decay, or inaccessibility. 

Implementing document workflows: a step-by-step guide 

Until this point, this article has defined what a document workflow is and discussed both its components and the benefits of its installations. The remainder of the article will deliver a step-by-step guide to implementing and using a document workflow in your organization.  

Step 1: Assess current document processes

First, review your current document processes to see where they could be improved upon. Establishing a document management workflow tailored to your organization’s needs is key, and finding existing blindspots and bottlenecks is a good place to start. 

Start by asking questions like, “What document types do we regularly manage? What workflow steps are required to reduce administrative costs and improve the quality of our document management processes? Does our current document process include a plan for updates to new processes, technologies, and policies?” This should give you a clear idea of where your document process could be improved with the application of a document management workflow. 

Step 2: Select the right document workflow solution 

Once you’ve determined where your document processes stand to be improved, it’s time to select the document workflow solution that will help facilitate an effective document management workflow. Ensure that the tool you select supports a level of document security that is suitable to the needs of your organization. Look for features that allow users to access documents through role-based permissions with a clear audit trail. 

Step 3: Design efficient workflows

Involving the relevant stakeholders in the document workflow design process is a great way to set up efficient workflows, as everyone from IT to HR will already be clued in to how the workflow should operate to relieve department-specific pain points. To avoid future bottlenecks, develop policies and procedures that outline how documents are stored, secured, accessed, edited, and destroyed or deleted. 

Step 4: Train employees on document management workflow protocols 

Document management workflows are only effective if they’re consistently employed by everyone. Train your staff on how to use the new document management system workflow. Training should include an overview of the policies and procedures governing document-related processes, as well as any new technologies that are introduced into the workflow. 

Step 5: Monitor and optimize 

Monitor the document management workflow regularly to ensure that documents are being properly managed. This can include testing security features, regular system audits, and putting plans in place to respond to any safety incidents. Performing regular check-ins and making necessary adjustments ensures that the document workflow is working to the organization’s advantage at every phase of the document life cycle. 

Document workflow in real-life: How Image API helped 3 leading government agencies streamline their workflows 

Using Image API’s fully-featured digital document management application, Axiom Pro, these three leading government agencies were able to streamline their workflows and reduce the paper drag slowing down their day-to-day operations.

Florida Department of Health’s Division of Medical Quality Assurance achieves secure digital content management 

The Florida Department of Health, Division of Medical Quality Assurance (MQA) licenses and regulates 26 boards and over 100 professionals. Before they implemented Axiom Pro, the paper-based licensing process was time-consuming and labor-intensive, and paper files were scattered across disparate locations, which made retrieval difficult. 

By implementing a document workflow using Axiom Pro, the Florida DOH was able to centralize all their licensure documentation, which simplified how they retrieve and use information. Furthermore, Axiom Pro was integrated with the department’s existing MQA systems, making it easier to access and synchronize information—especially for disciplinary cases. 

Finally, because the DOH stores and maintains sensitive and protected licensure documentation for healthcare professionals such as personal information, applications, certifications, correspondence, and enforcement data, document security was a serious consideration for their document workflow design. Axiom Pro is powered by Amazon Web Service (AWS) cloud technology and maintains the highest levels of security and data protection compliance, which made the DOH confident in their decision to entrust the solution with managing such large volumes of private data. 

Nassau County improves security, simplifies document retrieval, and frees up valuable office space 

When Nassau County in New York was still using a paper-based records management system, a file room of probation records monopolized an entire floor in the County’s office building. Files were difficult to locate and were frequently lost or misplaced. The Department reached out to Image API to help develop a more efficient digital document workflow. 

Image API digitized these probation records, thereby freeing up significant office space and eliminating the error-prone and time-consuming manual processes that were in place to manage those records. With a new, automated document workflow in place, users enjoyed more efficient, accurate, and secure management of records across County agencies. 

Texas Department of Insurance eliminates $300,000 in file storage and management costs 

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) was incurring more than $300,000 annually to store Worker’s Compensation files, an expense that was only growing with increasing volumes and the labor required to manually manage over 20,000 boxes of paper case files. 

Not only did Image API work with TDI to transport and digitize more than 800,000 case files before the upcoming expiry of a lease on their warehouse, but the expert Image API team was able to implement a document workflow that included the careful  tracking of important records and files, from receipt to destruction, to maintain strict control and confidentiality. 

Once it implemented Image API’s digital content management solutions, TDI was able  to protect their files from loss, improve document management and retention, and protect the confidentiality of their records—all while saving thousands of dollars and expediting turnaround times for record requests.  

Creating a document workflow custom-built for state and local government 

Now that you understand how to design, implement, and optimize a document workflow, you’re in the best possible position to reap the benefits in your organization. By following the five steps in our step-by-step guide, you’ll be able to manage your most crucial and sensitive files with improved efficiency and sophisticated security. 

Creating a document workflow custom-built for state and local government has never been easier than with Axiom Pro. Start improving service delivery by managing content from a single document management platform today.

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