Realizing the need to implement a document management system is a telling sign that your business is growing. And acting upon that realization means that you are now taking a step towards building a smarter, more efficient organization. However, transitioning to electronic document management from manual, paper-based document management processes may not be a very straightforward process, especially if it’s your first time implementing such a tool. Although you can implement a document management solution without much assistance, making the most of it will require you to follow certain best practices which you may or may not know about.
Don’t get us wrong — businesses can see remarkable returns on their investment by merely using a good document management solution. However, they can see even more significant gains in terms of process efficiency and overall productivity if they follow a well thought-out strategy for its implementation. They will be able to use the full range of services and features provided by their software. And by doing so, they can enjoy all the benefits that the DMS offers them — possibly even more benefits than they initially expected to achieve! Thus, to help you maximize the returns from your investment in document management software, we’ve outlined a simple set of guidelines to be followed before and during its implementation. You’ll also find a few best practices to consider if you really want to maximize your operational efficiency through the software.
Implementing document management software: The preparation
Before implementing a document management system, or any form of new technological application in your organization, it is important to have a definite plan and purpose for using it. This will help you to identify the different document management features that can fit the specific problems in your existing method of organizing documents. This will ultimately guide your decision on picking the right document management software, which is a key determinant of the results you can achieve through your investment.
Choose the right software vendor for your organization
The first step is identifying all the areas in your organization that can be improved through the implementation of a document management solution. This may largely depend on the industry you are operating in, the nature of your business and the documents you most frequently deal with. Based on your individual conditions, you may value certain features more than the others. While most of the best document management software come with all the features you may need for solving your problems, some are better at offering certain kinds of features than the others. For instance, some software may offer a more flexible and varied way of organizing your documents, while some others may offer you highly customizable document workflow options. Some may have better security features than the others, and others may have a better range of features for easy sharing of documents. Thus, you must carefully evaluate all your options before deciding to invest in one. Or, you can safely invest in a document management solution that offers you a collection of all the features you may need to keep up with the growing needs of your business.
In addition to evaluating the features of a software, you should also determine the ease of using different document management tools. That’s because regardless of how feature-packed a document management solution might be, if it is not easy to use, it may not be enthusiastically adopted by your team. That may lead to you not being able to benefit from the new software, essentially resulting in lower returns on your investment than you might’ve expected. Additionally, the software should also have a dedicated support team available around the clock. This will ensure that you always have expert assistance to guide you through your implementation process, leading to easier adoption for both you and your team.
Once you’ve chosen the document management tool to use, you must prepare your organization to record all the documents that you’ve been storing using other means.
Determine the number of licenses required
Most document management software applications, like any other business software, are sold on a ‘per user per month’ or ‘per user per year’ basis. Depending on the functions you want to implement electronic document management in, you can choose which members of your organization may require access to the tool. For instance, if you only want the document management tool to build an easily searchable repository of documents and nothing more, you can purchase it for a single user. On the other hand, if you want to use the document management software to enable easy collaboration and sharing of documents among the different members of your organization, you must get the document management system for multiple users. The latter also applies if you want the document management software to act as an automation tool for your document-related workflows so that you can expedite your business operations.
In addition to choosing the number of users, you might also want to assess the need for different modules that come with document management tools. Most document management software vendors offer added functionality in the form of program extensions or modules. These modules can be purchased separately depending on your needs. For example, you may need a workflow module if you want to use the document management tool to replicate and automate your daily, repetitive business processes. Or you may need the ability to allow specific users to collaboratively modify key documents (e.g., policy documents or standard operating procedures [SOP] documents) while still allowing the rest of the users to access the older version of the same document. Similar features can be purchased in the form of modules even after you have purchased and installed the software, which means that you can decide to purchase these modules later, as and when the need arises.
Determining the number of users will give you a definite idea of the budget required for the document management tool.
Keep all your paper documents ready for scanning and filing
To hit the ground running with a new document management system and also to ensure that you maintain a continuous trail of documentation, you must prepare the documents you already possess to be converted and stored in the document management software. These documents may be paper ones or electronic ones stored in different folders, drives or cloud services. You must ensure that you have all the documents ready to be converted into the electronic format. They must be arranged and sorted as per your system of document organization so that there is no hassle when the documents are scanned.
Having chosen the right document management tool, it is important that you perform all the implementation procedures outlined below to ensure that your document management software becomes an integral part of your organization.
Implementing document management software: The process
Implementing a new electronic document management system generally means establishing a new set of practices to accommodate, and make the most of, the software. However, if you choose the right software, you can actually make it a natural part of your organization and your business operations. This will minimize the time required for your employees to adjust to the new system and allow you to experience the benefits of document management in a very little time.
Import or add users
The first step would be to add the users to your document management database. This will determine who will use the software, their credentials, hierarchical roles, and other supporting information to give them the necessary access. To make this process easier and faster, you should look for document management software that comes with Windows Active Directory integration support. This will enable your system administrator to import users directly from the database of all the system users in your organization with a single click.
Windows Active Directory integration does not only make the job of importing users easier for the administrator but also makes the process of gaining access to the new document management system easier. That’s because the users will not need to remember a separate user name and password for the document management software and another one for logging in to their windows systems. They can use the same credentials for logging in to both their computers and their document management software accounts. This will make the adoption of the document management tool easier throughout your organization.
Create user roles and assign privileges
After adding the different users, assigning them different roles within the document management software is also important. Many of the best document management software come with the ability to implement a very selective and flexible security protocol for your documents. They allow you to define the access privileges of every user (if needed) by giving them different roles and assigning them to different security labels and groups. Defining the security privileges of each user enables the system administrators, and you as team leaders or business owners, to control which users can see which documents and what they can do with those documents (view, edit, print, or share). In fact, some document management tools like GLOBODOX can even allow you to hide or redact specific sections from certain users to provide highly selective and multilayered security to sensitive organizational information.
You can use this feature when you need to share documents to certain people (team members, partners, vendors, clients, etc.) without giving them all the details in the documents. For instance, if you want to share a customer complaint letter with one of your team members or any other member of the organization, you can do so by redacting just the name and other personal details of the customer while showing the body of the letter as is. Such features enable businesses to share information and collaborate seamlessly without worrying about information leaks. This also helps in complying with data privacy laws like the GDPR, which dictate that customers’ personal information should be made accessible to only those who perform the functions for which the data is collected.
Creating a security structure is important to ensure that the improved shareability of information does not compromise the confidentiality of information.
Define a document organization structure
This is the most important step as this uses a document management software’s primary feature — document organization. The chief function of a document management software is to provide users and businesses the ability to classify documents in such a way that each document becomes uniquely identifiable and easily searchable when needed. This means that the software should offer multiple ways to distinguish as well as group together documents. And these methods of segregating documents go beyond the traditional methods of using folders and file names. While file names and folders may help in classifying a small number of documents, they are not as effective and efficient when it comes to the increasingly large number of documents that businesses normally generate. Managing this pile of documents requires more ways of describing individual documents. And to do that, document management applications have document types and tags.
Tags are searchable words or short phrases attached to documents that describe the contents of those documents. So for instance, if you have a service agreement (which is a contract document type) that you signed with a client named “UVW Corp.” which has expired, you can add tags to it like “SA” for service agreements, “UVW” to indicate the client name, and “expired” to denote the status. When you want to specifically want to find the document, you can easily search for the tags and find the document. You can search for single tags to find a group of documents, For example, you can search for the tag “UVW” to find all the documents associated with the client. Or you can search for “SA” to find all the service agreements pertaining to all clients. Using multiple tags will enable you to narrow down your search.
Document types are a way of classification that is almost unique to just document management software. Users of such software can define and create document types that they encounter frequently (e.g., contract, invoice, receipt, payslip, purchase order, bills, etc.) Each document type can have its own set of supporting details or metadata. For example, an invoice can have metadata like “Amount”, “Due date”, “Payment status”, etc. A receipt can have metadata like “Amount”, “Paid on”, “Payment mode”, etc. These pieces of supporting information describe the contents of the documents without requiring the users to open the documents to find this information. Metadata also helps in searching for individual documents based on these details. So, you can easily find the number of invoices that are unpaid by searching for invoices and then sorting the search results by “payment status”. Or you can simply perform a conditional search to only find “invoice” type documents having “payment status” as ‘unpaid’.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may have to deal with a huge volume of specific kinds of documents. For example, if you run a construction firm, you may deal with a lot of blueprints, permits, construction contracts, cost sheets, etc. that need to be carefully sorted and arranged for audits and other management tasks. To manage these tasks and the associated documents easily, you can define the aforementioned document types and each of them a unique set of metadata fields. Or, if you are the head of an educational institution, you may have to deal with documents like class plans, attendance records, report cards, and a whole gamut of related documents.
You should define all the different types of documents that your organization deals with as soon as you install your new document management tool. This ensures that all the documents that you add to your newly created document repository are easily identifiable and retrievable.
In addition to document types and tags, certain document management applications offer other different ways of classifying documents. For example, GLOBODOX enables users to create groups of related documents called “stacks”. A stack can have its own metadata, just like document types. For example, if you are an educational institution, you can create a stack type called “Student”. Thus you can have a stack for every student you have. Each stack can contain all the documents related to that student, such as ID documents, progress reports, certificates, and others. These stacks can have metadata like “Age”, “Grade”, “Address”, etc. that give more details about individual students. Thus, administrators and teachers can find all the documents and information pertaining to a student easily by simply searching for the stack saved in that student’s name.
Scan the paper documents
Once you have installed a new document management system, you should convert all your existing paper documents into electronic versions. And unlike most scanning methods where paper documents are scanned as images with no textual data, scanning with a document management software captures the printed information within scanned documents as text. That’s because document management tools often come inbuilt with Optical Character Recognition systems. These systems can easily read and parse information from the scanner and reproduce in the electronic versions of the documents with great accuracy. This allows you to quickly convert and file paper documents in your new document repository.
The document management software can also be configured to scan specific pages of different documents to read and parse metadata and store this information in the corresponding metadata fields. For example, say you know that the bottom right corner of all invoice documents contains the amount. You can configure the document management system to specifically scan the bottom right corner of invoice documents to parse the value to be filled in the “amount” metadata field. Thus, any value printed on the bottom right corner will be scanned and saved as the “amount” when the document is filed. This saves a lot of time for your team, which would otherwise be spent in manually entering the metadata after opening and reading each document.
Create standardized workflows
You should create custom workflows replicating the day-to-day routine processes using the workflow module of your document management system. Document management applications allow you to create workflows where you can route documents or groups of documents to a sequence of multiple users for gaining approval or making changes. For example, you can create a workflow to replicate the leave approval process for employees. You can design the workflow to route the leave application to the line manager, senior manager, the HR manager and then again to the line manager in that order, seeking approval and digital signature at each stage. If the application is rejected at any stage, the workflow ends and the line manager and the employee can be notified of the same. Similarly, you can emulate even more complex processes by incorporating voting mechanisms and other forms of decision-making mechanisms into your workflows.
Implementing document management software: The practices
Following are a couple of best practices that businesses can follow to ensure that they make the most of their document management systems:
Establish a day forward filing system
Day forward scanning is the process of scanning and filing paper documents into your electronic document management system as and when they are generated. This ensures that all documents are accounted for in your central repository, making them easy to find when needed. This also saves a lot of time that would be otherwise wasted in backfile scanning of huge piles of documents. Scanning documents as and when they are generated is a good practice as it also minimizes the likelihood of documents being lost, damaged, or destroyed while being stored in the physical paper form.
Training your employees to use the document management system is an important step in the document management system implementation process. However, using an easy to use document management tool with a familiar interface can minimize the time, resources, and effort required to train the employees. For example, GLOBODOX has an interface that is akin to that of MS Outlook, which makes its use intuitive for even new users. This means that employees are not only more likely to use the application, they also need very little training and time for adjustment.
Implementation of document management software may require some work initially on the part of the business owners and leaders. But, once established the system essentially automates and accelerates most of the business’s document-driven operations, eventually saving a lot of time, effort, and money. Using powerful, easy-to-setup, and easy-to-use software like GLOBODOX can ensure that you have to invest even less effort and time in implementation and can experience the advantages of electronic document management almost immediately.