Lean Document Management and CogniDox


Lean Document Management and CogniDox

If CogniDox had to have a mission statement, it would be "to promote Lean principles in the adoption of Document Management software solutions". We'll call that Lean DM, for short.

The readership of this blog includes a number of Quality Assurance experts, so forgive me if I go through the basics for everyone else about what is meant by Lean.

The classic book Lean Thinking (Womack and Jones, 1996) defined Lean as a way of thinking that allows companies to "specify value, line up value-creating actions in the best sequence, conduct these activities without interruption whenever someone requests them, and perform them more and more effectively."

They propose five key principles of lean thinking, the first and foremost of which is customer value. Their definition of value is a "capability provided to customer at the right time at an appropriate price, as defined in each case by the customer." Notice that value can only be defined by the ultimate end-customer. There are a lot of 'interim customers' such as marketing, operations and sales team; but the end-customer is key.

The other four principles are Value Stream, Flow, Pull and Perfection. 'Value Stream' is what many of us associate with the Lean model. It is the ongoing removal of waste from processes so that the product or service proceeds in the most effective and efficient way possible. 'Flow' means that a smooth, continuous process will always be more effective and efficient in adding value than a batch process (or any erratic process) can be. 'Pull' is the 'just in time' principle, but dictated by what your customers need rather than anything else. 'Perfection' may sound like a request to focus on the ideal, but has more to do with using continuous reviews so that flows can adapt to changing customer requirements.

When we apply this to Lean DM, it means that we want to adopt and follow practices that make the product lifecycle efficient and cost-effective by removing everything not essential to customer satisfaction. If we cut out documentation then we certainly don't improve value, because the organisation has not retained knowledge in a format that can be shared with customers. When we do produce documentation, we want the flow of the process to be as streamlined as possible. Each non-unique email attachment has the potential to waste time and decrease productivity; sending a link instead for a controlled document part number has the opposite result. Lean DM can reduce waste; increase productivity, and use existing resources to their full potential.

There are some obvious opportunities for waste reduction where documents are concerned. Centralised, online documentation that saves on unnecessary printing may be an old-school notion, but it is still valid.

Customer satisfaction is the single-minded focus of Lean DM. It improves customer satisfaction through better knowledge transfer to customers, partners, and suppliers via extranet portals.

The Lean DM model helps to replace the 'information silos' of isolated departments with an efficient information-sharing process across teams, projects, and locations. It results in better design reuse; elimination of errors and rework caused by poor document control; and time savings through workflow automation.

Security and control are at the heart of Lean DM. When an authorised person needs information from a document, the correct version must be readily available to them. The document control requirements for quality certification such as ISO 9001 or ISO 27001; or regulatory expectations such as HIPAA or SOX, are met.

Lean DM also helps to answer a question often heard: what documents need to be controlled? The answer: all documents that have an impact on your products, services or company.

So, if you were to ask what CogniDox is about, the answer would be: Lean DM.

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Tags: Document Management and Control

Paul Walsh

Written by Paul Walsh

Paul Walsh was one of the founders of Cognidox. After a period as an academic working in user experience (UX) research, Paul started a 25-year career in software development. He's worked for multinational telecom companies (Nortel), two $1B Cambridge companies (Ionica, Virata), and co-founded a couple of startup companies. His experience includes network management software, embedded software on silicon, enterprise software, and cloud computing.

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