The outlook for many companies might be unpredictable at the moment, but access to the right document management software is helping the most dynamic remain innovative, organised and agile. Even as they face the continued waves of disruption that is ‘the new normal’.9 ways Innovative companies are using their Document Management Software
1. They are digitising work flows, development processes and supply chains for ultimate flexibility and efficiency.
This instructive article from McKinsey talks about how the specific challenges of Coronavirus have favoured those who were set up for digital agility. And it points up the kind of operational flexibility that will become yet more critical to survival in the Post-Covid world and the ‘next normal’. These include:
- The tools to collaborate intensely to develop new products and services in response to rapidly changing demands -
We would echo this - and argue that true agility is really underpinned by good governance - having the ability to quickly ignite new development projects through effective communications, while absorbing and controlling changes to project requirements as they appear.
As Christian Ashby, Industry Architect for Google recently put it:Ramping up end to end digitisation of supply chains - ensuring you are able to access required services easily and on demand will be key to controlling unpredictable costs and availability scenarios. With the flexibility to switch to new partners and even strike up new relationships with non-traditional partners, you can insulate your business against the shock of potential changes to your supply chain.
“Agile is not a synonym for ‘throw away the rules’. One of the challenges in adopting agile, is that for some it means ‘you can do anything , anything goes, it’s all cool”. Actually, I’d say the opposite is true. In an agile development life cycle you’ve got more sprints, you’ve got a backlog building up. You need to develop governance, you need to develop ground rules that enable your project delivery to continue. KPIs, documentation… all of those things don’t go away, in fact they become more important because they’re assets you have to build out and understand across a broader group of your project team
- Accelerating the embrace of more administrative automation and remote working
Those companies who have the document management tools to support, control and automate a diverse range of virtual development, collaborative and customer service activity - are more likely to be the winners in a volatile marketplace.
2. They are collaborating anywhere. Your most important customers, suppliers and even employees could be anywhere in the world right now. Innovative companies have the tools for connecting at will with the ‘best fit’ clients and collaborators wherever they are - without compromising IP or the flexibility of their product development and release processes. They have the digital tools that enable them to:
- Open up shared and secure digital spaces for collaboration
- Control levels of access for different kinds of collaborators
- Enable the formal and trackable release of software products and updates to clients in ways that minimise error and increase their service capacity.
3. They are making their own rules. Innovative companies have unique ways of working that bring new products to market to solve customer problems in unique ways. Even in med tech (one of the most demanding and tightly regulated sectors in the world) the most successful companies have developed distinctive ways of working that support their individual approach.
Consider Menlo Innovations, whose agile working practices have produced some of the most groundbreaking medical devices on the market. They don’t work like any other company. Their trade mark ‘High Tech Anthropology’ development method includes studying end-users in their ‘native habitat’, producing a variety of design inputs and user requirements that are captured and documented in a number of different formats.
These act as vital stimuli for the development process, but need to be documented, indexed and stored for future verification and validation like everything else. These trailblazing med tech organisations are still bound by the same FDA regulations and documentary requirements as others, yet they have adopted the digital tools and approaches that allow them to work in their own unique way.
4. They don’t send vital messages via Slack. There’s no doubt that the trend in technology and other companies has been for more and more frictionless communication. Favoured by Agile teams working in fast-paced environments, instant messaging apps like Slack have taken the emphasis away from log jammed email accounts and encouraged more transparency and accountability in the management of teams and their projects.
But even as adoption of these communication tools spikes, teams are increasingly realising they risk fragmenting their focus and causing vital information to disappear between the gaps. Digital Document Management tools that require approvals to trigger activity, that store comments and record actions taken, are still needed to operate as definitive accounts of what has been done and what still needs to be done. They are required if you are going to be able to track the development of a project in the future and have a proper system of change control within an organisation.
A bit of friction can be necessary - if it creates ‘circuit breaks’ at the right time in a process to allow for required review and approval.
7. They facilitate ‘deep work’ - while avoiding silos. Beyond the distraction of the endless emails, and notifications of multiple pieces of Project Management and IM software - teams need digital spaces where they can focus on the job in hand. In these spaces all the latest information about a project can be made available, while feedback can be collated and approval given for next steps. A Document Management System that stores files in every format, and allows all stakeholders to view them in PDF form, will ensure that every project output can be inspected by those who need to see them. With the right integrations, a single Document Management System can become a central repository of required information for all your team - where they can keep connected but work on a particular project without unnecessary distraction.
8. They shift from looser, collaborative states to more formal processes as required. One of the major lessons we’ve learnt from years working with some of the most innovative and exciting development teams in the world is that their needs change. And not just over extended periods of time, but within the timelines of individual projects, too. So, high tech development teams want to ideate in an unstructured way on a project to start with - sharing inspriation to get feedback and start building a business case. However, later on this approach needs to morph into a highly structured phase-gated product development process. Having the digital tools to gradually impose formal product development controls on a project is a feature of an agile Document Management System that many high tech companies find extremely valuable.
9. They can replicate their success. The most innovative companies have brilliant ideas, brilliant people and agile processes. But we would argue that unless these winning processes can be effectively repeated - the next brilliant idea could struggle to be born.
Many of the innovating, high tech companies we work with use their document management systems as the structuring device for future successful, development projects. They set up templates for required and standard documentation (user requirements, engineering specifications, verification and validation matrices etc) grouping them together in ‘document holders’ ready to be completed.
Using these software tools they configure their own system of approvals and notifications to track and control its progress. As each project develops they then iterate and tweak their project requirements and phase gates to optimise for best results. We talk about this kind of flexible approach to product development in this free ebook, but you can also read about its successful application in the fabless semiconductor industry in this article.
In times of change, agility is vital for success. But finding the balance between flexibility and control throughout your operations will help you achieve success that is both sustainable and repeatable.