A document management system can offer many advantages to your organization, as they have digitized the way businesses access, track, store and manage their documents. With many businesses making strides towards becoming a paperless office, how do you know if your business should adopt the same approach?
Understanding the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Umbrella
ECM is a formalized way of organizing and storing an organization’s processes. ECM’s automatically recognizes the unstructured data content within documents and manages it appropriately. The term ECM is used as just one possible catch-all term for a wide range of technologies that encompass strategies, methods and tools used throughout the life-cycle of an organization’s content.
ECM combines components that can can be used as stand-alone systems and typically has key features that manage: e-mail, document collaboration, web content managements, records management, workflow and business process management.
What is a Document Management System (DMS)?
A Document Management System falls under the ECM umbrella. It is an application or platform tailored to manage an organization’s vital documents throughout their life-cycle. Occasionally referred to as Digital Record Keeping, a DMS is capable of tracking reminders, managing deadlines, or promoting collaborative efforts. A DMS can also track a document’s creator, reviewer, publisher as well as disposal or retention dates. With more organizations adopting “work from home” policies, and paperless environments, there are a multitude of Document Management Systems available for your consideration.
What are the Signs Your Organization Needs a Document Management System?
1. Your current file sharing system is inefficient and time consuming.
Productivity is diminished when your team has to spend billable time searching for desired documents. When composing and receiving thousands of documents, it can be challenging to remember where documents are saved. It’s an especially daunting task for documents that are only referred to occasionally. Even once a document is found, it likely requires additional time and effort to locate the appropriate material within the file.
Deploying an effective document management system will provide the visibility and accessibility your business has long desired. It can be designed to hold all files for a particular client on one screen, creating instant flow of information. Your documents are easily accessible from multiple locations and devices; and can be retrieved quickly by utilizing metadata and searching for keywords.
2. You are never quite sure if you have the right version of your document.
You’ve finally found the document you were searching for. In an effort to avoid having to search for the document ever again, many users end of saving a duplicate copy in a different location. Or perhaps a particular document belongs in more than one location. Duplicate documents occupy unnecessary space and can lead to versioning issues. This further complicates and reduces productivity within your organization. How can you be certain that you have the most up to date version of the document?
Any document management system you deploy should have the option to enable version control. Should you choose to activate the feature, you can then track changes for auditing purposes, and even restore files back to an older version if any inadvertent change happens.
3. Collaborating with colleagues means lots of e-mails going back and forth.
Most businesses receive content from multiple channels (fax, e-mail, etc.) and will need to share the content with others inside your organization. Instead of using e-mail to store documents and collaborate, a document management system provides a more secure, easily accessible, retrievable repository. Relying on this repository in turn offloads the pressure on your e-mail server.
Those using SharePoint as a document management system, will notice several key collaboration features. Real-time co-authoring allows two users to work on the same document at the same time without overriding each other’s changes. The Comment and Review feature allows an author to collect feedback from colleagues in a well-managed, specified manner.
4. You are worried about being non-compliant with your industry’s regulatory requirements.
Many industries have regulatory requirements they have to follow, and tends to be especially important for insurance or financial services industries. A DMS enforces certain protocols to be followed, maintains proper record keeping and can be configured to automate security features. With workflow automation, the chance of errors occurring is reduced, and your organization’s framework is prepared and audit ready.
Further security controls can be implemented by setting permission levels. Perhaps certain departments in your organization need only be able to read documents, and not edit them. Or perhaps you want a user to access only a portion of a client’s documents. Permission levels can be set and easily modified according to your requirements to prevent access to confidential documents. Workflow automation of internal processes can be digitally mapped to improve organizational efficiency.
Things to Consider
- Commitment. The planning and designing phases of a DMS environment are critical to a successful launch. Gather key users that know how your organization functions to help make sure all your must-haves are met. Do you need to share audio and video files? Ensure your DMS is capable of doing so. Before implementation, have the key stakeholders thoroughly evaluate the proposed environment. A document management system will have to be a firm-wide commitment used at all levels to ensure successful adoption. Have policies in place internally to move all associates from your previously used file sharing system to the new DMS.
- Data Migration. A decision will have to be made on what data to migrate into the DMS. When an organization has years worth of data that could potentially be moved into a DMS, a data migration plan will have to be in place to ensure access to all critical documents. Will you be moving in data from years ago, more recent projects or taking a fresh approach and only move in new assignments?
- Training. Don’t invest thousands on the management system, without addressing the training required to use it properly. A DMS is a tool that can be misused and can hinder productivity if not understood by the users. Transitioning to a new system can be overwhelming for some at first, but document management systems have become very user friendly, and can be easily integrated into your organization.