What is Document Management?
Document management, often referred to as Document Management Systems (DMS), is a system or process organisations use to create, share, store, manage and track electronic documents. By bringing an organisation’s information together, document management systems can enhance collaboration and communication between individuals and teams, wherever they are. Electronic documents can include videos, text, audio clips and even paper documents scanned into a digital format.
When paired with process automation features, these systems may be referred to as Enterprise Content Management systems or content services platforms.
Why do I need Document Management?
Simplify Records Management
A properly implemented document management system can offer a wide variety of benefits:
An organised and efficient office
Increase productivity, improve process turnaround times and encourage an integrated, paperless work environment with structured digital storage that allows for easy search and retrieval.
Increased control of your documents
Support data integrity and availability with a secure, centralised solution that can grant granular document or folder access to as few or as many users as necessary.
Improved team communication
Avoid redundant work and confusing back-and-forth email threads with trackable version control and simultaneous document editing.
A streamlined audit process
Enable your team to fulfil auditors’ requests promptly and accurately with powerful search capabilities, audit trails and comprehensive reports of system activity.
Document Management Examples
Find documents easily and process FOIA and other records requests, increasing regulatory compliance and satisfaction.
Accounts Payable Departments
Quickly locate information needed to process payments, decreasing turnaround times and costs by meeting deadlines.
Rapidly Expanding Enterprises
Sustain growth with a document management system capable of scaling with the business and integrating with applications across lines of business.
Keep complex projects moving with collaboration and search tools, improving interdepartmental communications and vendor relationships.
Keep student records secure with granular access and other security controls, speed up SARs process and reduce risk and supporting compliance efforts.
Locate patient records faster, enabling them to more promptly assist their patients and get a clearer picture of their histories.
Find the Right Solution
Finding the document management system that fits your organisation starts with looking at your document management practices as they exist, identifying opportunities for improvement and evaluating the marketplace for solutions.
Identifying your needs
Before looking at any solution, you’ll want to gather as much information as you can on how you plan to use your proposed document management system. This includes:
What kind of content you plan to store in your document management system, including emails, videos, audio files or text documents.
If your solution needs to be used by one department, a few departments or the entire organisation.
What you need to deploy your new solution, including any hardware upgrades, or integrations with current systems.
How many users will have access to the system and what privileges they need.
What your budget is for this project.
Factors to Consider
When choosing document management software for your organisation, it’s worth discussing how you want to license it. Below are a few key considerations:
Individual vs. volume: Many of today’s software vendors offer both individual and volume licenses. An individual license can be applied to a single machine, user, or in some cases a few more as part of the package, but usually less than ten. Volume licenses can be applied a few different ways, but usually represent a single license that can be applied to an entire organisation, saving time and resources for both the vendor and the customer.
Perpetual vs. subscription: When purchasing software, you may have a choice between a perpetual license and a subscription license. Perpetual licensing offers indefinite use of the purchased software for a large upfront cost, and may require you to update your software manually to take advantage of new features and bug fixes. Subscription licensing does not require you to pay as much upfront and instead offers software that’s automatically updated for a monthly fee. Typically, you also have the option to pay the monthly fee on an annual contract basis at a discount.
Cloud: Cloud-based software offers customers an opportunity to install their document management system on another organisation’s servers. Popular platforms offering these services include Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft Azure. These platforms and software solutions are usually offered as part of a subscription-based model, as an alternative to purchasing, maintaining or upgrading your own hardware. Although the solution is stored in the cloud, most modern cloud software vendors offer extensive security capabilities to address any concerns. Many cloud platforms even offer automated backups, increasing your ability to recover information in case of disaster.
On-premises: This option has you install software on your own hardware that you can configure how you see fit. If you are capable of procuring your own hardware and want complete control over security, this option may be preferred. However, on premises solutions are more resource heavy and cost intensive.
A smooth implementation process is essential to realising a return on investment in your expected timeframe.
Here are some important characteristics you’ll need to look for as far as implementation:
Configurability: Many document management systems have simple and advanced setup options. Simple setups can be fast, but you may want an advanced setup’s configurability based on what other systems or databases your organisation already has in place. The most powerful systems will allow you to set up an advanced solution just as easily as a simple one. In addition to the system itself, you’ll also want to ensure it’s easy to set up user accounts and administer security settings.
System requirements: If you’re using an on-premises solution, make sure that your hardware meets your software’s system requirements and that you purchase any specialised components needed for the software to run. You’ll also want to note if any firmware is required to run a particular piece of hardware, or if it can work as soon as you plug it in.
Scalability: Even the simplest setup packages can become tedious if you need to utilise them multiple times for large deployments. Consider your prospective system’s installation process at scale and if it can be configured or installed on multiple machines at once when choosing your solution.
Records management and archival: If your organisation is a part of or affiliated with a heavily regulated industry such as finance and government, you may find records management and archival features essential to supporting compliance efforts. The best document management systems can even provide features to update statuses so you know immediately when records are ready for archival or disposition.
Most organisations need their document management systems to work with other enterprise software. You’ll want to make sure the solution you’re assessing works with any software you’re using or plan to purchase in the future, and that you have the IT resources to set up, implement and manage any integrations. Here are a few types of integration tools vendors usually offer:
Application programming interfaces: These can be thought of as a list of commands you can give an application with code. If you have the staff resources, you can code custom integrations with APIs to creatively solve any communication issues between systems.
Pre-built integrations: Typically offered by the vendor, a third party or built natively within the software itself, pre-built integrations should only need a few details about an external system to integrate with it, and can appear directly within an application’s graphical user interface.
Code-free tools: In cases where a pre-built integration or an API doesn’t exist and you don’t have the resources to code your own solution, some vendors offer code-free integration tools. Many of these tools work by simply mimicking human behaviour, but with the processing speed and accuracy of software.
Capture tools: You’ll need to make sure your solution provides technology to capture and digitise your documents, such as invoices and contracts. The best ones can gather data from documents using optical character recognition, organise documents in the correct folder automatically and even process multiple documents in bulk.
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Download the Buyers Guide to Document Management Software
Whether you’re considering a document management system (DMS) for the first time or looking to replace a legacy system, this handbook has everything you need to start your research.