Every business, whatever it’s size and whatever it’s industry requires documentation of some form or another. This may predominantly be in electronic form, although there are still many tax and legal documents that are also required in paper form. But what about old historic documents? Companies that have been around for a long time will have plenty of paper documentation that may still be required for legal or regulatory reasons or even just because of its historical value.

Newish companies, particlularly those in the new digital fields of content marketing, business blogging or  internet marketing and search engine optimisation, may only have electronic documentation but its management and archiving is just as important as for paper documentation so an effective document management strategy is important for all businesses; small, large, new or well-established. A good strategy can have a positive impact on customer satisfaction, process improvement and growth.

Documentation has always been a valuable business asset but, perhaps, now that much of it is held electronically its value may not be fully recognised. But old documentation can help staff to understand business concepts and company ethos; it can be a valuable source for learning lessons from past failures and successes and it can also be the source of new opportunities going forward.

But there are, of course, downsides to all that documentation; if poorly managed it can simply be a highly inefficient process. Sometimes companies err on the side of caution and keep every document ever produced, whether necessary or beneficial, or not. Where several versions of a document exist companies sometimes keep all versions, leading to problems in the future when an incorrect version is retrieved from the archive. So the documentation retained has to have some use or fulfil some requirement (such as a legal obligation).

Companies need to understand the value of their documentation if it is not being retained just for legal or regulatory purposes and appreciate the potential benefits, otherwise it is simply a waste of space (physical or otherwise) and a waste of resources maintaining the archive. Archive documentation, whether as electronic versions or as physical paper copies, need to be well managed and filed in a logical, easy to understand way if it is to be of real use to a business.

Consider, for instance, a business with a poor filing system that nobody currently employed by the company understands. Staff can waste time looking for a document that is not filed where it should be or, worse, cannot find a document that may be required by law or retrieve the wrong version. Such inefficiencies affect the reputation and profits of a company all because of the lack of a good documentation management strategy.

So instead of leaving documents to gather dust in storage think about what you could gain by assigning some staff to organise your archives efficiently. It may seem like a resource outlay but will put a stop to the drip, drip inefficiencies and drain on resources in the future and place the company in a better position to improve customer satisfaction, improve processes and remove inefficiencies, which will all contribute to increased profits.