The more significant percentage of us use documents at some point in time. Documents, essentially, are used to record and store information for future reference. There are different forms of documents, but the electronic form has gained much traction with the dawn of technology. Today, it is a rarity for organizations to directly use printed or written records of documents, although, in some circumstances, it is almost inevitable to use these forms. Office paperwork, published school work, and marriage certificates are excellent examples of this.
Information proliferates, and this proliferation requires that documents be managed and stored correctly, else problems ensue. This issue birthed the idea of Document Management. With special computer software, an organization can effectively scan, collect, store, and manage its paperwork.
The use of software to manage documents provides a solution to the otherwise insurmountable difficulties faced with the physical filing method. Physical documents are problematic to browse, especially in urgent conditions. Another problem arises with the fragile nature of physical paperwork, and in the case of a fire or natural disaster, they are unlikely to prevail. Here, document management proves helpful as it has impeccable repository facilities.
Document Management vs. Document Control
Document Management described above is a mechanism (software) employed to collect, track, organize, distribute, and store documents electronically. Document Control is deployed to control the management of more sophisticated documents. Specific organizations are required by the Government to regulate their electronically stored documents. Peculiarities about these establishments and the kinds of information they handle are reasons for Document Control enforcement.
Document control is incorporated actively throughout many document’s lifespans, from their creation, authorization, release, circulation, storage, revision, etc. Document Control is often wrongly described as an integral part of Document Management. Many even use the two terms interchangeably. Document Management and Document Control, although similar, possess distinct qualities.
Document Management functions mostly in managing short-lived and straightforward documents such as emails, notes, PDFs, and contracts. Since these document types are in use for short periods, they often feature simplified, single versions.
On the other hand, Document Control encompasses the complete control and management of documents that are useful for extended periods. Vital records that are integral to the running of an organization require proper management. These document types require frequent circulation and updates. Document Control monitors all processes and changes made to these documents, providing an accurate description and overview of previous versions and current ones.
Documents regulated by Document Control often feature many versions; it is the function of Document Control to ensure that the organization engages the latest version of such a document. Organizations may have personnel or a Document Control department that focuses entirely on managing essential data and information. Document Management does not demand such a facility. Document Management is also run independently by a company with software aid while the Government monitors Document Control procedures.
Failure to comply with Document Control guidelines often earn an earring company various penalties. As reflected above, Document Control will often involve documents with long lifespans, multiple versions, higher complexity, and more indispensable uses than Document Management.
Document Management System Objectives
Having discussed Document Management, there is a need to understand how organizations employ their use. Documents and records management is achievable through the use of Document Management Systems. A Document Management System, shortened DMS, is any software system expended to store, capture, or track electronic documents. Different companies produce document management solutions by developing unique and specialized software. Organizations use Document scanning to modify the records into a digital format, which the DMS system then manages. Virtually all organizations will employ the use of a Document Management System in managing their records.
Benefits of Document Management include:
Reduced Number of Lost and Misfiled Documents
In large corporations, physical document filing is tricky, mostly due to human errors. Several company files and records go missing in the protracted processes of compilation and transmission. Company personnel may often erroneously place files under the wrong entries, and when the company needs these files, a considerable drawback ensues. The use of Document Management Systems effectively tackles these administrative issues.
Computerized document management systems help significantly by providing a faster and more accurate method to search for and retrieve documents. Browsing for documents consumes time, and unwarranted labor and errors may occur when retrieving documents from cabinets and other physical filing methods. Similar files are quickly sorted into a document repository when using a DMS. Some DMS possess a full-text search component.
With the aid of DMS, accessing information becomes more comfortable, consequently saving time and improving workflow.
Securing the company’s information takes the forefront in documentation and management of its records. Physical files may be cumbersome to monitor closely at all times. However, Document Management Systems are a way out. It provides worthwhile document storage by enhancing security.
Sensitive records can also be made accessible to a group of people within an organization. DMS also monitors and records usage, modification, and transmission of documents.
Instant Access To Documents
While physical files are only accessible at a specific location and time, DMS may allow for the seamless remote access of documents and records. In some organizational settings, different employees require the use of paper documents at the same time. DMS resolves this by allowing each person to access documents when the need arises.
An organization’s long-term documents may have different versions due to new data and information flow. DMS provides a means of recognizing and accessing distinct versions of a document.
Document Management System is a remarkable way of cutting an organization’s costs. Using DMS may imply little to zero cost on paper. Also, in the case of disasters, the company’s documents are safe.
Reduction In Physical Storage Space
Office equipment used to store documents, e.g., file cabinets, boxes, and shelves, take up substantial space. Engaging DMS, document managing system significantly curtails this space wastage since it is online document management.
How Does A Document Management System Function?
With its host of benefits, it is insightful to understand how DMS works as a file management system; its processes are;
For a Document Management System to manage documents, it has to capture them first. A DMS could capture documents from several distinct sources. It could capture paper documents with a document scanner’s aid, capture emails directly from your inbox, and capture system/online derived documents. The documents must be appropriately indexed to enable the DMS function optimally.
Possessing Central Storage
A DMS must employ centralized storage. This storage form boosts efficiency, as all documents are stored in a single place, making them easy to access and secure.
Possessing Facilitated Document Retrieval
Document retrieval needs to be accurate, seamless, and transmissible. A search feature is incorporated to aid this process.
Emails, PDFs, and other document types need to be distributable. DMS achieves this function, enhancing communication within a workplace.
Automating Processes and Workflow
A considerable advantage of using DMS is the digitization it offers. The automation of workflow and processes is easily attainable by setting it up correctly.
Online Document Management System Versus Locally-Hosted
A company may decide to store its documents on its exclusive servers, known as self-hosting/ Local-hosting. The company may also opt for the alternative cloud option, keeping all its DMS files safe on the cloud.
The peculiar pros and cons of the two options are discussed below.
- The company cuts costs because they do not require IT professionals to help install and run servers.
- Cloud storage offers flexibility over local hosting, as the cloud is limitless.
- Documents are safe even during disasters as they are stored in the cloud.
- A privacy breach is possible due to the technicalities involved.
- It is provider-dependent. The company relies entirely on its cloud storage provider. An issue on the provider’s end could disrupt the company’s services.
- Requires internet connection to access the documents.
- Independence; the most significant benefit is that the company gets to be in control of its documents at all times.
- A privacy breach is less likely as the company controls and monitors its documents.
- Doesn’t require an internet connection to access the documents
- Company incurs expenses on servers, IT hardware, and personnel.
- During a hazard, due to natural or man-influenced causes, the company could lose all of its documents unless the company has a functional backup mechanism.
- Requires extra space for a server room.
Features to Look for in a DMS
Today, there are lots of DMS options available in the software market. While some may work better than others, there are some DMS with specific features that may suit a particular company’s needs better. Below are what the company needs to check for:
Having discussed the existing disparities between an Online Document Management System and a Locally-hosted one, the impact of cloud storage on the two DMS categories is evident.
How much connectivity does the DMS allow? By which means can the company’s personnel access the DMS? Where and when can they access it? These are a few questions to be always considered. A DMS may offer browser access or a unique App. It is also necessary to check for the upload limit and what files are eligible for upload.
The right DMS choice will often feature a capable scanning software. An organization that possesses or aims to work with a bulk of paper documents may want a Document Management System with this feature.
It is paramount to check for the software’s scanning technology; preferable options include Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR).
Built-in Document Editor
A built-in document editor is a somewhat luxurious feature that a company should look out for when seeking to buy a DMS. It may be quite uncomfortable for a large company to edit its reports using a detached program. Hence, a built-in document editor functions to allow the company to modify its already uploaded documents whenever corrections are necessary.
Search Capabilities With Metadata Functionality
An excellent search facility is a deciding factor for a company concerning its Document Management System needs. A workable DMS will allow the company’s employees to search for its stored documents, pronto, and efficiently. An infused metadata function allows for a handful of tasks mainly because it enables creating an ID for documents.
A company should always look out for this component of a Document Management System. This feature allows the company to monitor effectively each change made to a document. Apart from tracking changes, it records who makes the change and when they make it. Proper version control conserves all former versions of a document for the sake of future reference.
An organization may require that some files be made accessible to a select group of workers. The permission control feature allows the proper enforcement of this protocol.
File Format Support
Files are of many varieties; therefore, a company should be on the lookout for a DMS that supports the specific types of documents it aims to manage. Doing this helps maintain a seamless transition of data and information to one central platform.
It is crucial to follow instructions when using a DMS. A company should adhere strictly to the requirements laid out by the software provider. DMS best practices shall be thoroughly discussed later in this writing.
Some large companies have many departments that cater to distinct processes. This department can cause the organization’s data, information, and records to be decentralized and acutely compartmentalized. A way to tackle this menacing facet of document storage systems is using a” Single Source of Truth (SSOT).”
Intelligent document storage solutions implement SSOT because once the company’s documents are uploaded, they are accessible from a central hub. Doing this lessens the confusion that often results from sectionalization within large organizations by creating one document pool. It eases the administration process also, as executive and administrative personnel can look into a single source to collect, modify, and compile the company’s files.
Several companies report attacks and leak of their company information. Therefore, reliable security is one of the many reasons why an organization needs to use a DMS to store and manage its documents.
However, to reap the full protection benefits that a DMS offers, it needs to ensure that:
- It Limits and Regulates Access to Documents: To prevent an internal attack, a company should have a policy of allowing only authorized employees to access its documents. Employees should have permission to view and manage only documents pertinent to their capacities. A company can implement authentication strategies on its computers, printers, document scanners, and other relevant equipment employed in the transmission and use of documents. Passwords are an excellent technique to improve document management security.
- It Encrypts its Data: Encryption protects data by scrambling it over and over. Proper encryption ensures that it is nearly impossible for a hacker to access a company’s data.
- It Archives not currently needed documents: Keeping specific nonessential data out of circulation may be a way to secure a company’s interests. Doing this can safeguard the files from hackers’ reach. It is paramount to create policies and guidelines for the document archiving process.
- It Backs up its Documents: All DMS-managed documents should be backed up regularly and adequately.
- It trains its workforce in proper document imaging, records management, and use of file management systems
Proprietary Manual of Style
In the interest of a company, it should enforce a proprietary Style Guide, also referred to as a Manual of Style. A style guide is an exclusive set of instructions employed to create and manipulate documents. Using a Manual of Style helps a company keep a uniform format across all of its documents, which eases the processes of document compilation, editing, and storage. Possessing a propriety Manual of Style helps shapes a company’s image and outlook.
After sourcing for a reliable and suitable Document Management System, its implementation comes next. Sorting of all physical files, invoices, folders, and images in the document repository should ensue.
Afterward, scanning of the sorted documents should follow. Delegated workers should ensure that the records are correctly indexed when uploaded into the electronic document managing system. The DMS is also customizable to suit the company’s needs.
Assigning a Team or Lead to the Project
Implementing and using a DMS requires skilled labor. The company must assign a trained team or lead to ply the procedure to ensure it goes hitch-free. The team may also assist the rest of the workforce in understanding how online document management works, easing the transition process.
Identify Document Types
The emphasis here is to establish document types concerning document storage and the DMS file management system. Standard office document types are:
- Procedural documentation
- Self-service support documentation
- Customer documentation
- Knowledge base articles
- White papers & executive documents
- Policies and procedures
- Training guides
- and much more
It is essential to understand how to convert file types to compatible formats, especially when inputting into a DMS.
Inventory Your Current Documents
A company must distinguish its currently used documents from the redundant ones. A company can establish a standard inventory control by analyzing all records and reports and employing online inventory tools. Setting aside the current documents help increase workflow.
Purge Outdated or Unnecessary Documents
As an organization establishes proper inventory control, it must consider outdated and unnecessary documents. The company should purge obsolete and irrelevant records from the DMS and only archive documents relevant for future use. Purging and archiving are valuable because they secure unneeded documents and keep them out of circulation.
Assess Current Filing System and Create a Strategy for DMS
A usable document filing system offers seamless repository and retrieval of documents, maintains the integrity of recordkeeping, and is reliable and adaptable. It also adheres to document retention policies.
A practical strategy for DMS implementation includes:
- The Scanning of the documents into a digital format.
- The destruction by shredding of unnecessary physical records.
- The indexing of relevant documents.
- The infusion of an authentication process to monitor DMS usage.
- The proper application of document retention and document management policies.
- The implementation of an organized scanning procedure to input future documents.
Establish Procedures and Best Practices to Manage DMS
To effectively manage the organization’s DMS, it needs to:
- Assign a qualified lead to manage and oversee its Document Management System.
- Define its Document Retention Policy to maintain tracking, workflow, and organization.
- Engage the users in designing the DMS
Transiting from paper-based document storage to the more effective and modern electronic DMS may be arduous and demanding. However, reading and learning help tremendously. By understanding all the tips and techniques described above, the transition can become seamless.