Four Requirements for Effective Document Management
Most businesses, even the most organized, have document management problems. An Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) can help organizations manage documents better with a systematic method for electronic creation, storage and control of documents. Consider these important EDMS requirements:
Choose one that meets the standards you require!
The primary function of an EDMS is to manage electronic information within an organization’s workflow. A basic EDMS should include document management, workflow, text retrieval, and imaging. Additionally, to qualify as a records management system, an EDMS must be capable of providing secure access, maintaining the context, and executing disposition instructions for all records in the system.
Before implementing a system you must determine how it fits into your overall records management strategy. It's best not to assume that the specific requirements your organization requires are built into an EDMS. A small pilot project can help determine which EDMS will work for your needs.
In a paper-based office, “system” usually refers to the paper filing system. In an EDMS, a “workflow” system, supplants a “filing” system. With a workflow system, the entire life of the document is controlled from creation to archiving. This type of document life workflow is particularly easy to setup in Cloud-based electronic systems.
When setting up your document workflow, you will want to consider whether documents need to be dated and/or time-stamped; is there a specific procedure for reviewing and approving new documents? If document creation within your business involves different people collaborating on, reviewing or updating documents, how should that workflow operate for maximum efficiency?
As a corollary, you must determine how and when you'll archive documents. When do you move your documents from the main files to the archive files in your system? This will depend in large part upon the 'life' of your documents. If you have long-standing purchase orders and long-term contracts, then you may not archive some files for five years or more. But if you have a business that moves quickly, you may be able to archive your files yearly. The important thing is to consider your business needs, and then follow good archiving standards.
If the system makes an employee’s job flow better, the system will be used and your business flow will improve. Ask your employees what would make their jobs easier. You can’t please everyone, but getting input from the people who do the job everyday generally makes for a better, more “business-friendly” system.
Simplified document retrieval is at the heart of every document management system and is the single most important reason for striving to be as 'paperless' as possible.
This is one place where your organization requires a list to keep it organized. Most Cloud-based systems, document access can be achieved simply by doing a Google-type search on a relevant term and/or date range within the document. This type of “fuzzy logic” continues to evolve to make document retrieval faster and easier than ever.
All businesses require some degree of document security. It’s just a matter of degree. Financial institutions have many documents that require high levels of security and government compliance. Medical offices need to guard their patient’s information and meet HIPAA requirements. Even the local fast food chain has to maintain secure personnel files. Determine what how much and what type of document security you need.
It’s important to realize that documents face threats of many kinds. Customer lists, sales-strategy reports, and detailed revenue statistics might fall into the hands of competitors. Confidential personal data given by customers and employees could be compromised leading to lawsuits. Identification details like bank-account login information or credit-card details might be stolen by identity thieves. Because of these possibilities in today's world, the issue of document security should be a top concern.
Pay attention to these four requirements, and your document management problems will be minimal.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness