PaperworkGuest Post by Jeff Frankel

The cloud has changed everything, far more than merely how we communicate. It’s altered how we function on a day-to-day basis: our productivity, interactions, and the way we get information.

Image: flyfarther79 via Flickr, CC 2.0

Consequently, many professionals I encounter are looking at cloud-based solutions as a do-or-die scenario. However, some industries are embracing cloud-based ECM solutions in a creative, proactive fashion.

Among the range of organizations we’ve worked with to leverage the advantages of the automated content management and workflow efficiency are United Way, the Cleveland Indians, Michigan State University, Harley Davidson, and Wendy’s, just to name a few. But one of the most interesting applications I’ve seen to date has been with state and local political press agents.

Press agents have a lot riding on their shoulders.

In no uncertain terms, their job description is based on ensuring the positive reputation of their client or employer. Yet, they haven’t direct control over actions, impromptu answers, or spontaneous interviews that very often arise for their counterparts.  While it may not be as down and dirty as depicted in the 1957 hit Sweet Smell of Success, CYA is still a fundamental part of the job.

In the past, these individuals would rely on boxes of transcripts or, even worse, old recordings as a means for determining what their clients had said, and make sure it aligned with anything they intended to say or do in the future. Needless to say, this was a tedious and highly time-consuming process.

Prior to state and local politicians leveraging electronic content management (ECM) technology, I was informed that senior press officials were frequently called on after-hours to retrieve and review archived statements. They’d be forced to leave their house and head to the storage room for who knew how long.

Now, however, the same press agents are able to retrieve and review content regardless of where they are or what the topic of conversation may be. No more evenings in the dusty confines of the storage room searching for statements/responses to or for the politicians they represent.

It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

But wait, before you start lumping cloud-based ECM with other digital repositories like Google Drive and Dropbox, let me explain further. Comprehensive ECM solutions offer the whole gamut – capture, workflow, and retrieval. Imagine transferring entire storage rooms of files into Dropbox. It would take months of manual activity and, at the end of it all, you’d just have thousands of images that didn’t intrinsically offer much data and were only minimally searchable.

With ECM, however, these press agents can automate much of the capture process, instantly pulling key data from the images and filling in critical search fields with a variety of tags. The result is a fast initial upload and a subsequent cache of secure, organized data. Simple searches based on keywords or dates allow them to filter through thousands of files in milliseconds, quickly identifying all relevant archives.

This type of solution also allowed press agents to facilitate faster workflows. The documents they work with – and there are a lot of them – are often touched by multiple people before meeting their end destination.

With ECM, this process is tracked and, whenever possible, automated.

What’s more, this solution allows for a variety of document manipulation activities that are perfect for press agents. For example, consider a press release that’s being issued. The process is initiated with a request to the secretary, transferred to the press agent, submitted to the writer, and then goes through a variety of hands for draft edits before the politician finally signs off. During the editorial process, everyone can make comments and suggestions through sticky notes that don’t alter the initial document, meaning everyone is allowed to see the original, any existing sticky notes if the authorization is there, and then add their own thoughts.

The best part (that you likely have figured out) is that they can do all of this from anywhere they have wi-fi access. Whether they’re sitting next to an assembly member, on their way to an interview, or at a local function or meeting,

Accessibility presents no problem.

In turn, they’re able to generate real results in a fraction of the time. This allows government representatives to respond to interviewers, fellow politicians, and constituents with less down time, greater efficacy, and improved content authenticity – avoiding the deadly flip-flopping that is highlighted in every election.

The moral of the story is that companies shouldn’t be looking at the cloud with such beleaguered interest. Instead, they should be looking at how it can best be used to improve existing processes. If press agents can configure it as a means to accomplish CYA, then there’s opportunity for us all to leverage it effectively in one way or another.

Jeff FrankelJeff Frankel is Vice President of Business Development and Marketing at docSTAR, a B2B software firm specializing in cloud content management and business process automation. He has more than two decades experience in corporate business development, working with industry-leading firms including Authentidate Holding Corp, Med-Flash, Health Focus of NY, and Ernst & Young. You can follow Jeff and the DocStar team on Twitter.