Adobe Acrobat Sign

Navigate the art and science of document workflows.

From intake to storage, a well-oiled document workflow system can dramatically increase your productivity. Learn how to use proven tools and business processes with an assist from Acrobat Sign.

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A businessperson works on laying out a document workflow

What is a document workflow?

A document workflow is a system of managing the way documents pass through your organization. A good workflow (which can be amplified by technology like a document management system) ensures that you, your employees, and coworkers have access, control, and governance over all the documents you need to function at peak efficiency.

But before you can start to develop a workflow process, you have to ask some existential questions about your organization.

Ask the important questions about workflows.

A classic writing dictum, asking who, what, when, where, and why can help you brainstorm a solid document workflow. Ask yourself these questions, and maybe put them in flowchart form:

  • Who needs access to documents within the organization? How can you balance those permissions with the security of sensitive information? Will there be notifications to remind relevant stakeholders?
  • What types of documents fit within the workflow?
  • When will a new document enter the workflow, and how long should it take for a document to move through it?
  • Where will you store documents, and how will you organize that system? Will you use metadata, version control, or other methods of digital document control?
  • Why will you take these steps with these specific documents?

Say you have a sales contract template. The sales team needs access control to these contracts, which can include different variants and versions. The contracts enter the workflow when a sales team member needs one for a potential sale, so it must be accessible anywhere. If you store the documents in Adobe Document Cloud, the sales lead can maintain access control while giving the sales team easy access. They can create contracts quickly while the sales iron is hot.

While it might seem obvious, clarifying the process with a document workflow (perhaps in a document) helps make sure that everyone is on the same page without the need for time-wasting bureaucratic methods. Plus, documenting it all helps develop KPIs (key performance indicators) that measure the progress of your process automation.

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The steps to solid workflow management.

Once you understand the needs of your organization, you can start to actually design and streamline the system. Break down every document workflow into three parts: intake, storage, and retrieval.

Automate and intake your documents.

Once you assess what items you need to add to your workflow, you can create a document workflow that tracks where everything needs to go. For example, if you have a job listing, documents that arrive from applicants ought to be sorted into a convenient, secure, and private space where a hiring manager can review them.

Automation is one way to speed up the process and get rid of inefficiencies. It can be awfully tedious to sort and sift through every electronic document that comes through your organization. This used to be the entire job of a filing clerk, but now it’s easy to bust through bottlenecks by simply creating labels, filters, and other automated processes that do intake for you. For instance, you can jump-start your workflow with a filter that reads email titles and automatically sorts them into predetermined folders so they’re easy to find.

Store, store, store.

A fact of life: Everything takes up space. Storing documents is no exception. Whether you’re dealing with electronic or paper documents, one of the greatest difficulties is not just storing said documents, but storing them intelligently.

With powerful cloud storage tools like Adobe Document Cloud, it’s so easy to go paperless you might be tempted to store files without organizing them. This is the bane of a document workflow. If you establish a reason for storing a document in a specific place, your team members can reverse-engineer that logic to find documents when they need them. Routing documents to the right place in storage is an essential part of workflow automation.

Work with your team to identify what you want to do with the documents after you retrieve them from storage and how to better store different types of documents and files. This will help you come up with automated processes to avoid errors.

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Retrieve in moments.

A document workflow is only as good as its retrieval system. In this context, retrieval means being able to access documents without taking many complicated steps. If you’re working in Microsoft Word, determine how easy it is to access the documents you need for a project. Do you have to go through several folders and access screens? Is that proposal ready when you need it? If that’s not the case, your retrieval system might need tweaking.

Acrobat Sign provides a wealth of integrations, an easy-to-use dashboard, performance metrics, and more.

Get the right tools.

With Acrobat Sign as the linchpin of your document management workflow, you can collaborate more easily than ever. Acrobat Sign provides an overall picture of the document workflow, including automatic alerts for uncompleted tasks, so project management and the approval process are easier.

Integrations come standard, so you can collaborate across all Microsoft applications, including SharePoint. Other services — like Salesforce, Workday, and ServiceNow — integrate with Acrobat Sign as well.

Whether you need a dashboard to measure, automate, and control document flow, kick off a new process, or just optimize your document workflow, Acrobat Sign has the tools to help.