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Death of the Paper Trail (And Why System Must Replace It)

Death of Paper Trail

There was a time not so many years ago when digital agency management systems (AMS) were poorly designed at best, leaving most smaller agencies to create their own hybrid digital and custom systems. This usually involved a ton of paperwork. (We cringe at the thought of all those dead trees…)

Today, we operate in the era of paperless workflow. We generate far less paper as part of the daily workflow and management systems available to modern ad agencies and marketing firms… providing that we use the systems, that is. Full adoption of AMS and workflow management systems (WMS) remains a problem. Our non-corporate-minded creative employees tend to regard system as burdensome, and are difficult to persuade into spending time to create a digital “paper trail.” But that digital record serves several purposes:

  • Protects the agency in billing discussions
  • Assists with internal financial management
  • Makes it easier to track job budgets
  • Enables workload management and personnel assignments
  • Promotes more efficient scheduling
  • Ensures a record of client approvals, etc.
     

Record Creation Is Built In

The nice thing about today’s systems is that much of the paper trail is auto-generated. We no longer need requisitions to track who opened a job and by whose authority, because the digital system requires users to login, and can be set to require authorization and due dates to open a job. Job jackets, once stuffed to the gills with CCRs, proofs, edited copy, and the rest of the paper-era detritus of a typical job in progress, are now virtually non-existent. Purchase orders are still a good idea to confirm specifications for outside vendors or provide backup for negotiation in case of vendor error; and we still need a PO number to apply costs to client accounts. But printed POs have been largely replaced by emailed PDF attachments, or cloud-based file transfer forms accompanying file uploads. Client contact memos and change orders are covered by cloud-based online diaries and direct client messaging, and so on…

As long as we use the systems in place, we create a digital document trail, and have little need of paper records at all (except to satisfy those who obsess about the internet crashing or our backups failing).

This lack of paper record-keeping requires that agency employees fully adopt the digital system, and not try to by-pass those steps essential to protecting the agency and ensuring efficient operations. Yes, we know it is a battle—a daily issue for some agencies—to browbeat, coerce and threaten employees into using the system. But without system, the agency’s records are nil. Systems make record-keeping easier, and help everyone employed by the agency to keep their jobs. That alone should be a heavy enough cudgel to compel employee cooperation.

Use Culture to Embed the System

It’s sad that so many agencies have to fight this fight. The most successful at achieving full adoption have built the system into their values and culture. Making the system “The Way” for the agency, and training every new hire to use it from Day One, shifts the system from an imposed chore to a tool you use to be your best.

Call Second Wind if you need to vent about your daily system adoption struggle. We’re here with advice, counsel and training.

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