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.
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 business’ current 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.
Control Document Creation
The more documents you process within your document management system, the more organization 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.
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
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.
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 tools 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.
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.