The Shortcut Guide to Using e-Documents for Collaboration

by Dan Sullivan


In today's enterprises, IT departments are faced with a wide array of challenges when it comes to document sharing and collaboration. Keeping costs down, sharing documents across and outside of the enterprise, following compliance and security standards, and optimizing business processes are each high priority concerns when determining a methodology for document creation, collaboration, and exchange. Fortunately, e-document tools are evolving to meet these needs.

The Shortcut Guide to Using e-Documents for Collaboration offers an expert examination into the specific challenges of document creation, collaboration and exchange, as well as how e-Document technology features can be incorporated to address them. Both business requirements (cost savings, environmental concerns, productivity goals, etc.) as well as functional requirements (document creation, data collection, review and approval processes, etc.) are discussed. Lastly, the eBook offers a set of best practices to align business strategy with document and forms management, as well as establish supportive workflow processes and security policies for the entire e-Document creation process.


Chapter 1: The Evolution of Content Sharing and the Changing Concept of the "Document"

Collaboration and information exchange are ubiquitous in today’s business, government, and non-profit organizations. We have many ways to share information, from emails and instant messages to forums and social networking services. Along with new ways to share information, the traditional business document has evolved. The first major evolution of the document came with word processing, which made the production and revision of documents more efficient. Today, electronic content-sharing tools go beyond basic word processing to support collaborative content development, the use of complex workflows, and even the creation of audit trails to track document revisions. This guide describes how to effectively and efficiently use electronic content sharing to the complex information exchange and collaboration requirements of today’s organizations.

This guide is presented in four chapters:

  • Chapter 1, this chapter, examines how document-sharing methods are changing and how new business drivers and ways of collaborating with electronic document sharing are helping us move beyond traditional word processing documents to more efficient means of collaborating and sharing information.
  • Chapter 2 examines the diverse array of factors affecting content creation and how different industries can use information exchange practices to meet their particular needs. Examples are drawn from life sciences, financial services, manufacturing, and government.
  • Chapter 3 describes ways to realize productivity gains and cost savings by streamlining around e-document technologies. Topics include document creation, data collection forms, collaboration services, review-and-approve workflows, and security measures for e-documents.
  • Chapter 4 discusses the need to align content and forms management with business strategy. Emphasis is placed on identifying potential areas for efficient content and forms management and establishing supportive business practices for efficient content sharing.

We begin our discussion of productivity and cost savings through collaboration and information sharing by considering some of the challenges today’s organizations face.

Chapter 2: The Top Four Considerations in Improving Document Creation and Collaboration

Controlling costs is a fundamental concern to any business. In today’s economic climate, no business process, including collaboration and information exchange, can be overlooked when trying to improve the efficiency of operations. Uncovering inefficient information exchanges can be difficult because information flows can be ad hoc, nebulous, and outside the scope of formal management procedures. For example,

  • Product development is delayed because business partners lack confidence in Internet security and will not share confidential design documents over the network
  • Poor document management practices result in leaks of private information leading to regulation violations and fines
  • Employees waste time converting between document types because they use different tools or different versions of tools

In this chapter, we will examine process optimization, workflows, and compliance concerns as they are related to document creation and document collaboration. This chapter goes on to discuss content and document collaboration requirements from specific industries, including life sciences, manufacturing, and financial, as well as government. Lastly, Chapter 2 concludes with a discussion of forms creation, data collection, document archival, and other factors for optimizing content and document collaboration.

Chapter 3: Using e-Documents to Meet Business and Operational Requirements

Collaboration and information exchange are fundamental aspects of many business processes. This makes them obvious targets for streamlining and optimization, especially because improvements in one part of the business can quickly become best practices adopted in other areas. In the previous two chapters, we looked into the pervasive need for content creation, the evolving methods of content creation, and the business drivers for improving document collaboration and information change. In this chapter, we turn our attention to technologies that enable efficient collaboration. The chapter is divided into three sections:

  • Productivity and cost savings realized by streamlining around e-document technology
  • Reasons to adapt to characteristics of modern content and information exchange
  • Essential features of e-document technology that are required to realize the advantages of electronic collaboration

The purpose of this chapter provides you with the background on collaboration as an optimized business process. This chapter goes on to discuss data collection forms, collaboration services, digital signature and encryption, and other necessary features that you will need to evaluate in an electronic document product or service.

Chapter 4: Best Practices for e-Document Collaboration and Exchange

Efficient document collaboration and exchange stem from a combination of suitable technology and management acumen. Without both, we risk either a sound technical solution that never delivers on expected return on investment (ROI) because of poor implementation, or a deficient application that will never deliver essential collaboration services in spite of an implementation team's best efforts. In the final chapter of this guide, we turn our attention to the management aspects of collaboration:

  • Aligning content and forms management with business strategy
  • Identifying areas for more efficient content and forms management
  • Enabling collaboration through supportive business processes

The structure of the chapter follows a top‐down approach, which can be used to help deploy collaboration technologies in your business. First, we identify collaboration and information exchange in major business operations and assess how well it aligns with broad business strategy. Next, we identify potential areas for more efficient content and forms management, especially in areas deemed essential for the business strategy. Then, with target areas identified, we move on to implementing solutions following a seven‐step framework described in detail.

Content and forms management, and even collaboration itself, is not the ultimate goal of our efforts. Efficiently executing business or organizational strategy is our objective, and collaboration services are a means to meet that goal.