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Document Management Lessons from the Zombie Apocalypse
Lately it seems as if we’re surrounded by zombies. I’m not speaking literally, of course (in spite of the fact that I may harbor some conspiracy theories about one or two of my neighbors). No, I’m talking about the onslaught of books, movies, and TV shows that are featuring hordes of the undead. Who (with the possible exception of the late Michael Jackson) could have foreseen this rise in popularity of the living dead? Like it or not, these days, zombies are hot.
I’m not sure how we, as a culture, came to be so fascinated by the walking dead. After all, it’s been 45 years since the first George Romero classic first took to the silver screen. Nonetheless, obsessed we are. So in that spirit, we’ve decided to take a cold, hard, reanimated look at four document management lessons that we can learn from a zombie apocalypse. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
1. Don’t be complacent
Staying alive during a zombie apocalypse isn’t easy. You’ve got to be agile, reactive, and proactive. Do you think that fortified farmhouse is safe? Or that seemingly deserted prison? Think again. Even when it seems like you’ve found a secure space, you have to be constantly on guard. And as we have learned from some of the better works in the zombie genre, just when you think you’re safe in your surroundings, you are hit with the realization that sometimes the living are far more dangerous than the (un)dead. Threats arise where you least expect them. Complacency is not an option.
This is true in the business world as well. Successful organizations, too, have to be agile, reactive, and proactive. They recognize that survival depends on continual self-examination and improvement – like addressing the fact that filing cabinets are not safe places for their critical and sensitive information. And they employ the tools necessary to make this goal a reality. Like implementing electronic document management (EDM) and workflow, which ensures that content is not only secure, but is routed to the right person for the right action at the right time. They’re also automating tasks wherever possible so that time and energy can be placed on the jobs that require real brain power.
When you combine your EDM system with workflow, you enable meaningful use of your information. Workflow lets you transform a stagnant electronic filing cabinet to a dynamic system that leverages your critical business knowledge, making it more valuable. It allows you to continually improve accuracy, efficiency, processing speed, and customer service, more quickly and with less manpower. Dashboards enable workflows and automated processes to be monitored and critically analyzed, providing the feedback that is necessary for continual system enhancement. In short, whether you are overseeing a large enterprise, a single department, or a small business, document management will help you expedite turnaround and improve your business processes. If you are truly looking for the competitive edge that EDM and workflow offer, there is no room for complacency.
2. Don’t let fear drive your decisions
During the zombie apocalypse, if you’re not afraid, you’re not paying attention. Threats are all around you. Whether you are combating the archetypal shuffling zombies or the less traditional Rage virus fueled speedy zombies, a single bite can spread infection—with disastrous consequences. In order to thrive, you need a clear head and an analytical demeanor. Logic—not fear, should drive your decisions.
This holds true in the business world as well, where threats take a different form but can be equally as deadly. Even though enterprise document management software makes it easy to produce documents on demand, many companies let fear dictate their records management strategies. If individuals are making decisions about what constitutes a record, how long it should be retained, and when it should be destroyed, your strategy intrinsically is prone to error. Consequently, you may be tempted to retain documents and records indefinitely—a surefire recipe for disaster.
Fortunately, there is an alternative. Seamless records management can be implemented using a state-of-the-art EDM system. Each document is considered to be a record. Each record is then measured by its value against your corporate retention policies. This strategy takes the potential for human error out of the equation and allows you to automate records retention and disposition schedules. Audit trails of records are preserved throughout the document life cycle, and compliance requirements are satisfied. When your records management strategy is driven by logic rather than fear, you can demonstrate that you have enacted standardization with respect to your information governance procedures.
3. It never hurts to plan ahead.
In a best-case scenario, if you’ve managed to survive the zombie apocalypse, you will have aligned yourself with a rag-tag team of fellow survivors. Ideally, each member of your team would have important survival skills, such as hotwiring a car, crossbow marksmanship, or the ability to wield a katana sword like nobody’s business. Surrounding yourself with a good team affords you the luxury of looking ahead. It lets you evaluate conditions and plan ways to meet environmental challenges head-on.
In the business world, too, successful organizations must be able to thrive in a constantly-changing (and sometimes threatening) environment. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. The reality of a zombie apocalypse is far fetched. Nonetheless, as I write this, New Orleans is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. New York is still recovering from Sandy. And New England is cleaning up from a snowfall of epic proportions that resulted in significant power outages. We’ve experienced earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes far more frequently than in the past. Is your organization set up to weather the onslaught of natural disasters that seems to be only increasing in intensity?
Electronic document management is a critical component to survival in the face of disaster. A business continuity plan can help ensure that you implement the right procedures and automation to guarantee that your records, customer database, and other important business information will still be accessible in the face of catastrophe.
An important consideration is whether to implement EDM on site or in the cloud. The best document management systems include a SaaS option, whereby the technology can be securely accessed through any web browser. There is no upfront capital required, and it’s easier on your IT staff (if you even have one) since there’s no maintenance, no hardware to buy, and no software to install. This option offers redundancy, business continuity, and disaster recovery, and is worthy of examination since no area seems to be weather-proof from tornadoes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes or other natural disasters these days.
4. Make the most with what you have
In the zombie apocalypse, staying alive means making the most out of what you have. Guns may be hard to come by (and gunfire might attract more zombies), so WMZDs (weapons of mass zombie destruction) might include crossbows, swords, shovels, screwdrivers, or, in a pinch, a pointy stick. Refrigeration and cooking are luxuries of the past, so survivors usually scrounge canned or other non-perishable food items. Transportation becomes more difficult with the collapse of the highway infrastructure, so survivors may have to rely on walking or hot wiring motorcycles or other nimble, fuel efficient vehicles. People may dream about a more comfortable existence, but they make do with what they have.
Most organizations also learn to make do with what they have. They fantasize about replacing their old core business applications with contemporary, state-of-the-art upgrades, but in this economy, it is not always financially feasible to upgrade. That said, there is no reason to suffer through bottlenecks, slowdowns, and process inefficiencies just because your technology may be a little outdated.
An electronic document management system can help you extend the life of core systems by integrating them into your business processes. Instead of using your aged line-of-business applications as stand-alone systems, you can make the information housed within those systems available with the click of a mouse. Conversely, information from your EDM system can be accessed from within your core systems. That information can be used to drive business processes and expedite the flow of information throughout your organization. Integrating your core systems with EDM enables meaningful use of all of your business information — regardless of where it is housed.
During the zombie apocalypse, most of the survivors have skeletons in their closet. Of course you know that we are speaking metaphorically. A skeleton could manifest itself in the breakdown of morals as the fabric of civilization becomes unraveled. It could also be a seemingly real phone call or sighting of a recently-deceased loved one. It could even be a mental escape to a more normal time by brushing the zombie hair of a beloved zombie daughter cinched up in a zombie straitjacket. Things are bad. People do what they have to do in order to persevere and survive.
Fortunately, in the business world, things are not nearly as bleak. Competition may be fierce and turnaround may be a challenge at times, but on a good day you shouldn’t have to make any decisions that have life or death consequences. A robust EDM system can ensure that your business not only survives, but thrives. Discover the benefits that integration, seamless records management, workflow, and business process management (BPM) can offer your enterprise—no matter what its size. EDM is all about improved business performance. And as zombies far and wide will appreciate, sometimes that’s all about brains.