The paperless office has moved beyond the metal filing cabinet, and now your business needs a platform for managing your digital documents. A document management system (DMS) can organise, store, and track changes in your electronic records. The right DMS will integrate with your current systems to maximise workflow and collaboration. Not all document management systems are created equal, so before you rush to purchase one, first consider the following:
1. Determine Your Specific Document Management Needs
You can’t buy the right tool unless you know what you’re trying to fix. While it’s tempting to throw technology at an issue, take the time to assess your organisation’s specific document management needs. Start by making a list of current issues, and engage your staff in this process so that you can target a solution that will actually work for them. Note the various software applications you’d like to integrate with your document management system. Factor in your firm’s projected growth areas so that your new DMS can handle future challenges.
2. Look for a Simple, Straightforward User Interface
Your system should offer an intuitive user interface (UI) that your staff can easily navigate. A powerful software platform with a confusing UI will only frustrate employees. Look for a system that’s simple and efficient, with clear commands and a clean visual design. After initial training, your staff shouldn’t have to constantly refer to a user manual to access your DMS. Designate a few “power users” on your team who can master the UI and share tips and tricks on getting the most out of your new system.
3. Select a DMS with Full Integration Capabilities
Your DMS needs to integrate fully with your current software systems so that you won’t have to hop between applications to complete daily tasks. Make sure your new software can “talk to” your other programs.
4. Manage Workflow
A document management system is far more than a digital filing cabinet. The best ones also act as workflow management systems, keeping your projects moving forward smoothly. Choose a DMS with project management features that meet your organisation’s specific needs. Make sure the platform also includes sufficient scalability for your business, so that your software can adapt to your company’s growth.
5. Focus on Collaboration
With more staff working off site, your system should enable users to collaborate seamlessly. Your employees need to access files simultaneously without having to log out, and they need to track revisions and document versions in detail. Make sure that the system you implement catalogues all changes, and that it lists document versions in a logical order so that your team can reference previous instances quickly.
6. Capture Data Intelligently
The right document management system will capture your data from a variety of input devices. Once your documents have been scanned, the system should intelligently extract and validate the data in the files. The software will then tag and categorize materials for fast retrieval through an easy-to-use search engine, conserving your staff’s time and increasing productivity. While many DMS options claim to offer intelligent data capture, not all deliver. Work closely with your supplier to make sure that the product you select can actually interpret your data correctly.
7. Prioritise Security
Recent data breaches have underscored the importance of guarding your business intelligence. Protect your corporate and client information with a system that includes rigorous security protocols designed to block external attacks. Reputable software suppliers will stress security as a key feature of their products. Remember that you’ll need to constantly monitor and update security levels to address evolving threats.
8. Choose Software with Administrative Control Features
In addition to external threats, you must also protect your data from within by using software that provides administrative control options. Set user permissions that are tailored to the needs and responsibilities of each staff member. Some employees will simply require read-only access, while others will need expanded authorisation to move and delete files. Work with your team to refine permissions, and develop standard “permissions profiles” that you can reference when taking on new staff. Add flexibility with temporary permissions for staff working on short-term projects.
9. Verify Support Options
Look for a supplier that can provide superior product support, preferably in a number of formats (such as telephone, email, and online chat options). Before purchasing your document management system, ask your supplier about turnaround times for support requests.
10. Back It Up
No matter how large or small your business, you can’t afford to lose your documents and data. Always choose a product that offers constant backups on secure servers. Your document management system’s backup capabilities should form part of a larger disaster recovery plan for your organisation.
The Bottom Line
Selecting the right document management system can be a challenge. Take control of your search by first understanding your needs and the available software options. Choose a reputable supplier with a proven product, insist on security, back up your data, and your document management system will provide significant return on your investment.
Source: Tim Eisenhauer, Axero
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