Document management systems make a lot of sense for any organization, but never more than now, as digital documents and remote work are table stakes for every day, frictionless operations.
Yet for a lot of small and even mid-sized business owners who aren’t ‘techy’ and have been drowning in the day-to-day grind to survive, it might seem like more jargon.
So let’s demystify ‘document management’ and show how it can be a small businesses’ onramp to ‘digitization’ and business continuity. But first, let’s dig deeper into to the ‘why’ it’s critical in 2021.
Document management systems – Why it can be a competitive life saver for SMBs
– Simplifies remote work. Paper can’t move from one home office to another at the speed you need it to. Files stored locally on PCs must be found, emailed, or uploaded to be shared. Working in this way minimizes productivity for everyone. The slowing impact on number of Canadian businesses during the first shut down was brutal, especially for smaller businesses that are used to being able to touch paper.
Document management systems are win-win and eliminate the problem at the source. Files resides in a single, secured repository anyone can reach from anywhere, meaning no more waiting and fewer interruptions.
– Increases productivity. Whether your people work in the office, at the home office, or on the road, everyone can access the files they need, when they need them. Productivity isn’t just about getting more work done though; it’s also about efficiency. For example, sales representatives can get the answers they need while in front of a customer, speeding up the sales process.
– Introduces better cost controls and budgeting. Digital documents mean fewer file cabinets and costs associated with filing, storing, and using paper. You’ll have more office space, which can be helpful with workplace management of proper distancing today. Usage costs can also be better measured, tracked, and controlled.
– Enhances business agility. Electronic documents are not bound by the physical limitations of paper or an office, meaning businesses can address customer needs faster, continue operations should the office be closed for any reason, accelerate completion of document-dependent tasks, and adapt quickly to shifts in the business environment – since everyone has access to the information and data needed.
– Disaster recovery. Digitally stored documents can be quickly restored from backup. If you use a cloud deployment with its redundant systems, recovery time and recovery point restoration can be immediate, depending on your implementation.
– Information governance. Features like version control enable companies to track changes, document age, and document lifecycle. Having the documents in a centralized location prevents multiple versions from existing, consuming extra server space.
What is document management?
Document management refers to how you file, store, retrieve, manage, share, and secure your business documents. Often in business technology, the term document management gets used synonymously with document management system. This, however, misses the reality that if you are in business, you already have some form of a document management system.
For example, storing Word docs and Excel spreadsheets on your PC is managing documents. Using file cabinets to store paper documents is another form of document management. With this understanding, we can see that the definition of document management is how you store all your documents, both digital and paper.
The challenge with digital files is organizing, and – once you’ve got a lot of them – making them easy for anyone to retrieve. That’s where a document management system becomes useful.
What is a document management system?
Generally, a document management system refers to secured electronic storage of your documents so that all documents – digital and scanned paper – can be filed, indexed, archived, retrieved, marked up, and shared via encrypted access rights along with system reporting to ensure compliance.
Many systems also include automated workflow functionality. You can preconfigure workflows or create them ad hoc as needed to speed a digital document through an approval process. In this way, documents move much the same way they did as paper. Only this time, they aren’t actually moving, making them more secured and easier to find.
When researching document management, you will likely come across the term enterprise content management (ECM). An ECM offers a larger range of features and integrations. For example, you might link it into your customer relationship management (CRM) software. Document lifecycle management – where you manage how long a document is kept – is another common feature of these more robust, enterprise document management systems.
Cloud OR on-premises document management system?
In the previous section, we mentioned cloud document management systems. While those are popular, they aren’t the only way to implement document management. There are two types of implementations: cloud and on-premises.
Cloud document management systems. These systems live and reside in the cloud. They would be considered public cloud applications, which means they are accessed via the internet, not that your information is publicly accessible. All you need to access the system is an internet connection – most small businesses do just fine with the cloud.
The benefits of this system include:
– No need for onsite hardware or IT support
– No maintenance or support fees – only a subscription
– Quick setup and configuration
– Ideal for both offices and remote work environments
On-premises document management. This type of implementation means you purchase the software and install it within your network, whether that means on a physical server in your office or in your own private cloud environment.
Why do people choose on-premises document management?
– Data security policy requires owning and housing all software within the company’s network
– IT staff and infrastructure are already in place, for the application, the backup, and for the connectivity, such as VPN for remote users
– Business preference
Features you should expect in a document management system
As you might expect, different platforms have different features. There are, however, minimum features that you should expect to see in every document management platform.
– Security & Access Control. Every system should require user login and have multiple levels of user rights access, i.e., Administrator, Manager, User, Read-only.
– Meta data. Sometimes referred to as indexing, you can apply key data – that you define – to the document to simplify retrieval. This way, you don’t have to keep multiple copies in different folders. For example, you could search a client folder by contract number for documents related to that contract.
– Search and retrieval. Rather than clicking through a file folder, you key indexed data into search fields, and you get an instant list of all related files and documents.
– Markups. Add highlights, redact copy, apply stamps, and more to documents.
– Workflows. You can build workflows for documents to move through a standard process, just as you might in your office. These workflows can start at the moment of intake with an intelligent data capture or start once a document is moved into a folder.
– Document sharing & collaboration. Send a document link to a co-worker or view a document with a team member in an office across the world.
– Capturing and routing. Scan files into the system, drag and drop from your PC or email, or have them routed from third-party capture systems. In some systems, you can even create forms that become individual, dynamic documents that you can fill out.
– Business intelligence. This element refers to your access to critical business records, log reporting, and other reporting that enable you to use the data in your documents and gather information on how your documents are used.
How to choose the right system for your business
Choosing the right document management system starts with knowing what’s driving your need today; you want to identify your top three to five needs.
1) You should also determine how many people will use it. Is it for everyone to use, or will it be limited to a small group or department?
2) Ask yourself, do you want a cloud or on-premises system? If you are inclined to on-premises, you’ll want to consider whether you have the budget for new hardware (if needed), and if you have the staff to manage the installation.
3) Then, do a little research. You’re doing this only to determine which systems you will want to invest the time to watch a demo. You might find a few webinars online that show specific uses for the system. During your demo, make sure to see how the system will handle your top needs.
Questions to ask when buying a document management system
Even if a document management system looks perfect, there are several questions you should still ask, especially if you have a lot of files – paper or digital – that will need to be imported.
You’ll likely have many more questions specific to your business, but these questions can help get you started:
– How do we get paper files scanned into the system and indexed?
– What is the import and indexing process for pre-existing digital documents?
– Does this system meet my compliance requirements?
– What does the training and support look like?
– What is the development plan for the product? (You want to make sure it will stay current.)
– Does the product offer any integrations, such as with other applications or even MFPs through a product like Smart Integrations?
The increase in remote workers has made document management a top issue for many companies. Documents must be accessible but kept secured. We know this because a lot of attention is being paid to systems like Ricoh’s DocuWare.
With the recent integration of eSignature provider (and Ricoh partner) DocuSign, DocuWare can now take any small business mobile and paperless from start to finish – a frictionless path to maintaining business continuity when legacy paper-based processes just aren’t possible.
Learn more about how DocuWare can start you on your way to your own version of ‘digital transformation’. We’re with you every step of the way.
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