Documents, their inception, generation, approval, retirement and retention, are key elements of technical, business and legal processes in industry today.
The use of documents is pervasive and much of the day-to-day activity that engages industry is based on and uses documents for numerous purposes, including specification, design, recording, controlling, etc.
The importance of documents to organisations is well accepted, hence the enormous resource, in terms of manpower, finance and time that is spent every year on maintaining documents across all industries worldwide.
However, the area of document management is still a problematic one, and much effort has been spent on improving or replacing the processes that are used to generate and maintain documents in organisations of all sizes.
Correct and Consistent
The single largest pervasive problem is in keeping documents correct, consistent and current. The core of this problem is in the following:
- Data/content is often repeated in a document
- Data/content is often repeated across multiple documents (See Figure 1)
- Documents are often worked on and managed by multiple people
Combining these three cases leads to the very obvious problem of keeping data and content consistent and relevant within and across documents. Inconsistent data and content can lead to:
- Poor processes
- Poor product
- And more
Problems with Inconsistency
However, within regulated industries, inconsistent data and content in documents can lead to very grave problems, such as:
- Threat to human safety
- Threat to environmental protection
- Regulatory fines and penalties
- Product recall
- Financial waste
- Project overruns and delay to market
The generation, maintenance and management of legal documents in industry, that is documents that are signed off by authors, approvers, or both, and that constitute evidence of some activity having being done and agreed to, costs regulated industries billions of dollars yearly and yet is an area of much pain and uncertainty.