Login Start Your Free Trial
back arrowBack to the blog

6 Tips for Getting Started with a Document Repository

Document management systems improve organization and boost productivity in offices that rely on electronic documents. A successful document management system streamlines work processes, which can lead to wide-ranging benefits throughout the company. Increased security, easier audit preparation, and more efficient daily operations are typical goals. Businesses are more likely to achieve these objectives if they set up a strong system from the start.

But before digging into the specifics of contract repositories, it’s important to quickly recap document management so that we’re on the same page.

How Do You Do Document Management? 

Document management is a system or process for tracking and storing PDFs, files, and/or digital images. It should outline how business documents are created, received, organized, maintained, approved, rejected, stored, distributed, and deleted, and it should describe processes for both electronic and paper copies.

As you can see, the number of moving parts is quite high, which makes the creation of a document management strategy a major challenge. Still, the benefits of good document management far outweigh the work required. 

In addition to potentially saving time and money, it provides security, access control, centralized storage, audit trails, search, and retrieval. Consider the case of managing contract documents: Research shows that poor management of contracts and agreements cost companies up to 9% of their annual revenue.

Here’s a quick-and-dirty rundown for how to implement a document management strategy:

  • Review and evaluate the current system (this includes describing how documents are processed throughout the company)
  • Create an inventory of documents, their types, and how they’re used
  • Establish procedures and requirements for storing, drafting, and managing documents
  • Select a document repository or document management system where files can be stored
  • Migrate all documents to a centralized storage system (including scanning any paper documents), index them according to the inventory, and enable roles and permissions as necessary

For a deeper look into how to create a document management strategy, as well as finding software to automate it, check out our Contract Management 101 ebook.

Questions to ask when selecting a document management system

If you’re implementing a document management strategy, the five steps we mentioned a moment ago are a good summarization of what you’ll be doing. At the same time, they’re just a starting point, and a lot more effort and consideration will be needed in hashing out your strategy. This is especially true if you’re searching for a document management system.

Here are some key questions you should ask when selecting a document management system:

  • Can I search the full text of a document?
  • Can I set up and customize user permissions?
  • Can I block people from accessing certain folders?
  • Can the documents still be accessed without an internet connection?
  • Is the system connected to the cloud?
  • Can multiple users work on the same document at one time?
  • Can I track what’s happening to a document?
  • Can I create and use document templates?
  • Is Optical Character Recognition available for converting an image of words into text?
  • How do users search for documents?
  • Can documents be tracked by metatags (participants, project, etc.)?
  • Which operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux) is the software available for?
  • Is the software mobile-friendly?
  • Where is the database located?
  • What security is enabled for the system?
  • What support does the system provider offer?

When answering these questions, it’s important to be honest with yourself. You should also try to envision your perfect system and what it includes, and what you have that in mind, don’t compromise unless absolutely necessary. There’s no point in short-selling yourself and committing to a contract for a system that doesn’t do what you want or make your life easier.

What Are Document Management Skills

Once you’ve got a document management system selected, you should make sure you have the skills to use it.

By honing your document management skills, you can ensure that documents are effectively and efficiently processed, handled, and stored. Since document management requirements vary greatly from company to company, the skills demanded for document management also differ.

That being said, these are the most common skills that make up document management:

  • General management skills
  • Good verbal and written communication
  • Good presentation skills
  • Project management skills
  • Experience with document management procedures, systems, and standards
  • Ability to use standard work tools such as Microsoft Office or Google Drive
  • Knowledge of document management systems
  • Ability to conduct needs analyses

Putting time and effort into mastering each of these skills will put you in a position to succeed should you become a document manager.

What Is a Document Repository?

You’ve got your document management system. You’ve got your document management skills. Now we get to the crux of our discussion, which is the document repository.

A document repository is a shared storage space that is accessible to all approved team members. It’s a special software that provides a dedicated location where documents are kept and arranged for fast access and retrieval.

The repository allows users to organize, share, and upload documents in a manner that not only makes work more efficient, but also ensures files are secure. Done correctly, a document repository can serve as a single source of truth for all your organization’s documents.

Some examples of common, seemingly ubiquitous document repositories are Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft’s SharePoint. However, for businesses and enterprises who need more powerful or specialized solutions frequently turn to providers like ContractWorks.

What is a repository file? 

In the context of document management, a repository file is simply a file that’s saved in the repository. If you upload a PDF, word document, or excel spreadsheet to a repository, the repository processes and stores it in its system, making it a repository file.

Is SharePoint a document repository? 

Yes and no. Strictly speaking, SharePoint is a document management system, but all document management systems contain a document repository feature. However, you miss out on many of SharePoint’s core functions by using SharePoint primarily as a document repository.

At the same time, SharePoint lacks some of the power that other solutions may have. While it’s widely known, it’s also relatively generic and tries to serve many people no matter their pains. By comparison, repositories like ContractWorks were built to resolve specific challenges.

For a deep dive into this dilemma, take a look at our guide on choosing contract management software versus SharePoint.

What is the best option for a permanent document repository? 

The best option for a permanent document repository depends on the needs of your company. For some, it may be SharePoint. For others, it might be Dropbox or Github. You will need to conduct a needs analysis to determine which functions are necessary for your organization.

What is a document repository module? 

A document repository module describes the scenario when users install or add a document repository to a system that they’re already using. It’s similar in concept to installing a software integration to Salesforce or enabling a project management app integration in your Slack.

Document repository modules often support these features:

  • Creation of a repository for storing specific or different sets of documents
  • Tracking of document details, participants, tags, references, notes, and version history
  • Management of user access/roles
  • Management of folders and documents within a repository (i.e. create, upload, edit, etc.)
  • Support for most document types and formats
  • Global search

Ultimately, a document repository module is same in terms of functionality from a document repository. The only difference is that the document repository module can be added to another system, which makes it more flexible.

Why Do We Need a Document Repository

In the big picture, document repositories simplify the storage and control of documents by keeping them saved in one centralized, easy-to-find location.

Here is a deeper look at some of the key benefits of document repositories:

  • Indexing – By categorizing documents via custom metadata (such as function, team, purpose, etc.), documents are readily organized and retrieved.
  • Security – Document repositories help protect your information and files by encrypting data, which shields your company from potential data breaches and storage issues that could result in losses. Additionally, since files are stored in a cloud, as opposed to a specific computer or filing cabinet, they aren’t at risk in the event of a disaster.
  • Scalability – A document repository often has the ability to scale as your business grows. Since you aren’t limited by physical space, you can process as many files as you need (just speak to your provider about increasing storage space once the time comes).
  • Collaboration – Document repositories make it simple for users to share and collaborate on documents in a secure way. For example, documents don’t need to be uploaded and attached to emails that could be accidentally sent to a third party. Simply send a link to the document and adjust permissions accordingly.

The ultimate goal of a document repository is to simplify work by providing a single source of truth for all documents. If your document repository isn’t able to step up to the job, you may need to review your current tech and decide if it’s time to upgrade to a better, more capable option.

Tips for Using a Document Repository System

Tip #1: Determine Business Needs and Objectives

You want a document management system to improve efficiency and organization in your company. But it’s not quite as easy as purchasing a software program. To get the most out of your new system, you need a clear sense of what the end result should look like.

While you’re researching options (or even before), evaluate the current business needs. Which aspects of document management do you want to improve? What would a successful outcome look like? Defining a clear set of needs to address ensures that you won’t implement an entire software program only to discover more bottlenecks and issues. Clear targets make it easier to measure results and demonstrate the ROI.

Tip #2: Control Document Creation

The more documents you process within your document management system, the more organizational improvement you are likely to see. A mixed system, where some files are organized in an electronic system while others are still kept in physical filing cabinets, can be confusing.

Even if the company needs some hard copy materials, you can centralize documents by focusing on how documents are created. Think beyond contracts and reports - invoices, marketing materials and brochures, letters, and other documents created in-house can be on the list, too. You can even add relevant emails to a document management system to track the development of a project.

Tip #3: Write Project Style Guides

Searching for documents is easier when there’s a standard way to tag them. Admins use tag template features to list suggested tags for new files. They can even make certain fields mandatory in order to upload a document. The only problem is if multiple admins have different ideas about how to set up a tag template. This is where a high-level guide comes in handy. Project style guides set parameters to keep document organization consistent:

  • Naming conventions

  • Date and time stamp format

  • Storage guidelines

  • Procedures for updating, deleting, or renaming files

Tip #4: Prepare Workflow Guides

After documents are transitioned into the new document management system, the actual work begins. A strong system will offer various search styles, including full text search, document name search, and several index options. You should also be able to implement several types of workflow guides:

  • To-do lists

  • Fixed workflow guides

  • Workflow routing decision charts

  • Charts outlining supervisors and decision-makers at all levels

  • Workflow reports

Resources such as document creation templates, filing keys, and archiving procedures are also essential. Clarifying where to store outdated files reduces the risk that someone will mistakenly delete or overwrite a document that may be needed in case of future audits.

Tip #5: Automate Processes

The idea is for document management to reduce unnecessary tasks so employees can work on higher-value projects. Using a shared, electronic system eliminates or dramatically reduces the amount of time spent sending documents between parties or trying to locate files. Automating processes whenever possible can free up even more time, especially when it comes to repetitive but necessary business processes.

The workflow guides and decision-making hierarchies you designed lay the foundation to automate many business procedures, even if they involve multiple touch points. The details of a process naturally vary by industry, company, or even on a department or project-level basis. These features often result in successful automation of repetitive project tasks:

  • Simple user interface: Users can update workflow instructions without involving the IT department

  • Automated email alerts: These are especially important when a document needs attention from multiple parties before execution

  • Audit report: A system that automatically captures details about who accessed or changed a file greatly reduces the time legal counsel or financial officers spend tracking the document history

In some cases, you may find that it is even possible to document common exceptions to workflow processes. Writing out alternatives to standard processes can result in more efficient operations even when a project differs from the norm.

Tip #6: Optimize Document Security

A company’s documents are its lifeblood. Everything, from strategy to contracts to financial records, is kept in writing. Losing even a few hundred documents (or fewer, depending on the document) could render the business unable to function. Maintaining security is paramount.

Electronic systems have several advantages over hard copy file storage. For one, they take up less physical space, which saves costs. They’re easier to search. And it’s easier to build in multiple backups and security measures.

Document security starts by storing important files in a password-protected system, with user verification measures in place. Setting up password locks on the computers adds a layer of security, and the security cameras a business uses to guard the building itself add another. At this point, a Mission-Impossible-style thief would have to break into the building, hack the local computer password, and get past the software security measures to finally access the files.

But what if it’s not a hacker, but a hurricane? This is where cloud-based document storage comes to the rescue. Offsite servers are safe, even if local hard drives are destroyed. Using a storage system that protects against both human and natural threats is optimal to maintain security.

Wrapping Up

Document repositories are invaluable for securely and efficiently maintaining a business. By keeping your company’s documents organized and easy to find in one centralized location, you don’t run the risk of feeling overwhelmed while trying to find essential documents. 

Book a demo with ContractWorks CLM software to find out how we can help you keep your documents organized.

Managing Contracts in 2021

A look at how contract management is changing following the events of 2020.

Up Next

Read article

Most read articles: