ESCRIBA – The Administrative Digital Twin

Data and document-intensive processes in the context of digitization

The procurement and processing of goods and the provision of services are collectively referred to as the real economy. Real economic processes always include an opposing monetary cash flow. Each of these tuples of real goods flow and monetary payment flow is mirrored by a documenting process in which data is processed. It is therefore not surprising that the amount of costs for the creation and management of documents is on average about 15% of a company’s revenue (source IDC 2003, E&E 2008 and 2012).

Separation of data and documents

Documents are as diverse as real economic processes and companies themselves, but they always serve the sole purpose of bindingly regulating facts and the rights and obligations associated with them. In business life, documents are the time-related representation of facts, the explanation of data in their concrete context of meaning, with probative value. Documents establish and describe the legal relationships that a company enters into or has entered into consciously or unconsciously.

The written document historically stands for integrity (immutability), the signature for authenticity (authorship), and the sealing of scrolls and envelopes for confidentiality (information security). Historically, documents were of course addressed to humans, and in this sense they are human-readable.

The use of software systems, especially databases, has fundamentally changed the possibilities and habits of documenting economic transactions. In many places, an artificial dichotomy of data and documents can be observed, although they are inseparable. This separation results in unnecessary costs, additional risks and, above all, unused value creation potential.

Resulting additional costs and risks

Additional costs arise from the duplicate capture and processing of data in systems and documents, and from the redundant management of the same facts in systems and documents. In this context, document management continues to pose major challenges for many companies and is often associated with high inefficiencies because documents are mistakenly viewed as unstructured content. As a result, document management is often placed in enterprise content management instead of in process and data management, where it actually belongs.

Risks arise because data and content recorded in documents differ significantly from the data in the back-end systems. In this case, the documents establish the legal relationships and not the databases. One reason for the discrepancy is often unintentional errors due to the high manual creation effort. On average, the automation rate for document creation is shockingly low.

Equally significant in this context are the lack of risk awareness and the inadequate technical system support for comprehensive document governance and maintenance. Authorization concepts today usually refer to systems and, if to documents at all, then at most to the reading and modification of an entire document as well as to the release or signature. Regulations for creation – who provides which data, texts and text variants, who is allowed to change these building blocks and what happens in the event of a change – are usually completely absent. Systematic maintenance and updating of document content and building blocks is also non-existent in most companies.

The use of software systems, especially databases, has fundamentally changed the possibilities and habits of documenting economic processes. In many places, an artificial dichotomy of data and documents can be observed, although they are inseparably linked. This separation results in unnecessary costs, additional risks and, above all, unused value creation potential.

Additional costs arise from the duplicate capture and processing of data in systems and documents, as well as from the redundant management of the same facts in systems and documents. In this context, document management continues to pose major challenges for many companies and is often associated with high inefficiencies because documents are mistakenly viewed as unstructured content. As a result, document management is often placed in enterprise content management instead of in process and data management, where it actually belongs.

Risks arise because data and content recorded in documents differ significantly from the data in the back systems. In this case, the documents establish the legal relationships and not the databases. One reason for the deviation is often unintentional errors due to the high manual creation effort. The automation rate for document creation is, on average, shockingly low.

Document governance and maintenance

Equally significant in this context are the lack of risk awareness and the inadequate technical system support for comprehensive document governance and maintenance. Today, authorization concepts usually refer to systems and, if at all to documents, then at most to the reading and modification of an entire document as well as to the release or signature. Regulations for creation – who provides which data, texts and text variants, who is allowed to change these building blocks and what happens in the event of a change – are usually completely absent. Systematic maintenance and updating of document content and building blocks is also non-existent in most companies.

The risk of data falling apart in systems and documents will become increasingly important in the future, as it becomes easier and easier to have documents read “by machine.” Even though we are far from true artificial intelligence, the power of machine-based document analysis is growing exponentially. In the future, auditors will increasingly refer to a company’s document inventory if they are to testify to its economic situation.

Added value is lost where real economic processes are slowed down or even prevented by the documents. Time to market is the relevant keyword here. Even today, documents are still one of the most important contact points of all, and here, too, there is great potential for optimization. The buzzword is customer experience.

Value creation potential and the question of responsibility

However, the greatest potential for value creation lies in the systematic evaluation of documents and the associated creation processes. On the one hand, it is important to create transparency as to which data and facts are hidden in which documents – it is not for nothing that we speak of dark data here. Secondly, the creation processes and document content must be improved on the basis of the dark data. Why does it take so long to create an offer? Which paragraphs are negotiated over and over again? Where are we in the standard and when is the standard being abandoned? Based on this data, a continuous improvement process can be set up and significant value creation potential can be unlocked.

The responsibility for documents and the associated creation processes undeniably lies with the management. The strategic task is to design and anchor a suitable governance model for dealing with documents. The content of the documents and specifications for handling documents can come from the legal department, for example.

The operational implementation of the strategic guidelines should be supported by a suitable IT system. Document creation and handling must be seen as an inseparable part of the company’s core processes. The use of data in documents and the use of data from documents should proceed smoothly without media discontinuity. Authorization concepts and release workflows must be extended to the level of document modules. In this way, the collection and evaluation of dark (document and process) data becomes possible and must be a matter of course for all departments involved, from procurement and production to marketing, sales and human resources. Operational management includes requesting reports on this data and the continuous improvement process.

As an inseparable unit, data and documents belong at the center of any modern and sustainable compliance model. So far, this has received far too little attention within the framework of ISO standard 19600.

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