Data Centric Vs. Document Centric

Data Centric Vs. Document Centric

Posted by: Mark Fuqua

Data Centric Vs. Document Centric

One change we try and get all of our clients to make is to begin thinking in terms of managing their data rather than simply managing documents.

The Document Centered Model

Although the term 'Document Management' may be a relatively new one, the concept of managing documents is not. As soon as businesses moved from handwritten ledgers to typewriters and carbon paper, they have been managing documents. There are basically three steps on the Document Management scale and most companies are somewhere between steps two and three on the 'Document Management' evolution:

The first step on the document management evolutionary path is pushing physical paper. Documents, file folders, filing cabinets and report covers, passing paper back and forth. Most companies have moved away from this system, or at least, mostly away.

The second step on the document evolutionary path is electronic documents created and stored on desktop computers and shared via email. This is a big step forward from step one and where most small businesses and many medium sized businesses are today.

The Third step on the document management evolutionary path is having a "Document Management System". This is where the train really starts to come off the rails. The one most people are familiar with is Microsoft Share Point. All document management systems share some common features: while the documents are still created on a desktop, they are stored and shared via a server which is accessed over the internet and the access to documents can be restricted to people according to their security level. In addition, many document management systems also allow for 'checking out' a document for editing, tracking changes and for version control. This is where many mid-sized and most large businesses are today.

While each step on the document management evolutionary path is a big improvement on the one before, each one is still basically the same 1940's office paradigm, except using more modern tools.

Problems With A Document Management Centered Approach

There are many problems with a Document Management centered approach, but these are the biggies: a Document Management centered approach leads to using documents as databases (which clearly they are not designed to be) and as a result creates data silos, a document centered approach leads to numerous entry points for individual pieces of data and a document centered approach requires tons of wasted effort and redundant data entry.

Data Silos

Documents contain lots of data. However, that data is pretty much locked in the documents. Once you add version control and roles based sharing with a Document Management system, you basically create a mini database out of each of your documents. Unfortunately, these mini databases are disconnected and therefore are actually data silos, totally cut off from each other. You now have a server based solution to use as a foundation upon which to build your business.

Unfortunately, your foundation is fundamentally flawed. If you want to view the data, you have to view the document. If you want to edit the data, you have to edit the document. What if you want to reuse the data in another document (data silo)? Well, you have to retype the data or at best copy and paste. What if you want to use that data in a mobile application? Well...too bad, but, maybe you can download a copy of the document and view it on your phone's screen. What if you want to filter, sort or query your data across multiple documents? Well, you can't.

If you have hundreds of documents, it means you have hundreds of data silos. Tons of disconnected data, leading to unnecessary errors, lots wasted energy and time and unfortunately, as you add more and more documents (with time and/or as your business grows) it actually gets worse, as what you end up doing is adding more and more data silos.

Numerous Entry Points for Data

Every time you create a new document, you replicate data entry which has already been done in other documents. This greatly increases the possibility of errors, not to mention the hassle when data changes. Any time an address or price changes, you have to go through all the documents and change all the instances of that data. Not only is this incredibly wasteful, but it inevitably leads to multiple values for the same data across different documents, as each document has its own disconnected data.

Wasted Efforts

Finally, having a Document Management centered approach requires tons of wasted effort and redundant data entry. Not only does this cause your overhead to continue to grow and expand, but even worse, in many cases, it will doom the implementation of new business processes as they simply consume too much time.

The Solution

The solution involves a paradigm shift: developing a Data Management approach to business. We’ll cover that in part two.

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