Watch any pre-1980s movie or show and you’ll hear a detective, advertising executive, or doctor saying with much authority, “Bring me the file on Smith” (or whatever name given to the criminal, company or patient).
Though today’s technology is driving significant improvements in how we handle crimes, manage customer accounts and treat patients, the very amount of data created by the technology is more than most companies can take in. There’s no longer one file.
And in between the ongoing process of moving traditional hardcopy files to online environments, businesses must resort to alternatively sifting through various offline and online data sources to access the information they need. It’s a process that can prove especially cumbersome when it comes to providing adequate detail for something like research requests, which usually require input from various departments and can pre-date an organization’s transition to electronic processing.
How long it actually takes for research requests differs by nature of request, complexity of process and researcher/requestor capabilities, but certainly, adding any amount of speed to a process increases productivity, profitability and customer service metrics.
Let’s walk step-by-step through one millennial-era research request and solutions for reducing resolution time from weeks to minutes:
A major university uses an internal prospect request form to screen donors and route them to various people/teams involved in fundraising for the school. The form is available in one segment of the university website as a .pdf only.
Processing time instructions state: "A minimum of 10 business days is needed for each request; however, the amount of time needed to complete your request may vary according to level of research requested, department workload and/or priorities. Requests without a 'Due Date' will be handled with the lowest priority. Please do not use 'ASAP' as a due date.
What specific actions could be contributing to a minimum 2-week processing time?
Printing out, completing and routing a physical form can create several significant delays:
- Forms can be misdelivered or lost.
- Handwritten responses may be illegible.
- Forms are often received incomplete.
- Request workloads may not be accurately distributed as its hard to tell by looking at a piece of paper the “level of research” involved in one request vs. another.
These missteps equal time wasted between the team, with the requestor and anyone else affected by the delay before a request can even begin to be processed.
What can be done to cut response time from weeks to minutes?
Automating the request process from form to follow-up simplifies processes, prevents mistakes and creates efficiencies that everyone can benefit from.
- Document management software allows every campus-related document to exist within a single environment for easier access (anyone can find it easily), version control (you won’t have two different forms floating around), improved site auditing (IT will know instantly when its down), etc.
- Converting to electronic forms means that documents can be completed, even signed online, removing the issue of legibility, incompleteness (required fields can be set), and incorrect routing (intelligent routing can determine who gets the form and when based on any number of factors like purpose of request or type of research).
- Digital data (vs handwritten data) can be tagged and retrieved and used again in any number of ways, making data more valuable. For example, you can pull up every request that a department or person made. Or, you can use information like date request opened and closed to cite productivity metrics that can help you even further streamline the process.
- Process automation allows teams to set up online workflows to move the process along. Example: “If request is for initial contact requiring basic information, it is routed to team A,” or “When form is accepted, an automatic response will be sent to requestor with follow-up related information.”
- Document management applications can allow documents to be accessed, changed, and shared in real-time. Requestor could simply login to see the status instead of emailing again or calling. Required research from general contact information to more complicated input regarding affiliations, gift history, biography and political giving can be assigned to different people or departments at the same time allowing for a parallel workflow instead of the more traditional, linear approach.
Using technology, research requests no longer have to be seen as slowing down the “real work” of an organization, but rather a part of a larger cohesive system for collecting and sharing increasingly valuable data. Learn how DocuPhase is helping companies improve business process and increase the value of your data.