5 Secrets to Efficient Electronic File Management
So, you’re writing up specs for a system that will provide electronic document management for your department. Did you know that too many vendors provide “one-size fits all” solutions? Even when you search for “Best Practices for Electronic File Management” you’re likely to find vendor-created recommendations that spell out the capabilities that each vendor provides.
While these best practices are a great starting place, we like to caution our customers to apply those best practices to their industry, their department, their specific file problems. Not every customer requires the same set-up and workflow for their electronic file management. So, let’s look at the 5 areas we focus on, and the secrets we apply when determining best fits for our customers.
It’s imperative to have a viable capture plan. The goal is accuracy, efficiency and cost effectiveness.
- How information enters your business. Some of the ways that information may come in include paper documents, online forms, bar codes, faxes, and emails.
- Where does the information enter? Is it the mailroom, a remote office, a customer site or online?
The three most important things about capturing data are:
- Get it at the earliest possible point. First touch should be the point of capture.
- Can the vendor you choose capture all of your data in the formats in which it exists and where it needs to be captured?
- Will it be secure?
Indexing is the methodology by which the information is identified for storage and retrieval. Poorly indexed electronic data is no more efficient than misfiled paper documents. If your file management system will handle data for multiple departments or different types of users, pay attention to the hierarchical taxonomy. What you set up at the beginning of the file management project determines the success of the system’s usage.
We recommend a thorough survey of every department and every employee who needs access to the data to carry out their corporate function. Don’t rush this part of the project. You need to ensure that right individuals are authorized to access what they need to complete job-related tasks…no less, and no more.
The vendor you choose should have a thorough understanding of your needs and they should be able to help you with a document inventory and process analysis to ensure that you get things correct from the start.
It seems like nearly every day there’s a news headline about some organization being hacked and information being stolen. The threat of electronic security breaches can be significantly reduced by following common-sense rules governing privacy and sensitive information. If you don’t already have one, develop a thorough information governance plan, and remember that properly protected electronic files are more secure than paper files stored in filing cabinets or banker’s boxes.
The vendor you choose should be able to:
- Use login permissions and authentication that designate which individual user can view which information, down to the page level
- Control revisions and restrict alterations to data
- Provide a detailed and auditable record of file access and transactional activity
- Provide disaster recovery and assure business continuity at all times
Moving the data through the organization to facilitate workflow is perhaps the biggest (and frequently the most overlooked) hurdle that electronic file management should address. An electronic file workflow consists of an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of business activity enabled by the systematic organization of resources into processes that provide services and process information.
A Process Flow Analysis (PFA for short) can help you to fully understand the current processes that occur during daily business procedures. By analyzing the way work flows now, you can focus on eliminating wasted time, adding value to activities and identifying areas for improvement by automation.
Any job worth doing is worth doing right. And, with electronic file management, it’s worth taking the time to get it right the first time.