Why Smart Businesses Use Document Management Systems
Are you using document management software in your business?
It wasn’t so long ago that IT managers were dreaming of a paperless office, while the rest of us queued at the photocopier machine to make hard copies of the e-mails that we had just printed out. Then along came the first document management systems that promised us that the dream of the paperless office might actually come true, but they were so expensive and unwieldy to use that only the very large corporations could afford to make such an investment. Today, though, document management systems have finally come of age and there are now systems to suit all types of businesses and all sizes of budget.
If you manage a business that hasn’t yet entered the document management system age, you might be wondering what exactly it is that these systems do and what benefits they bring to an organisation. If that sounds like your organisation, read on, because here the reasons that smart businesses are using document management systems.
What exactly is a document management system?
In days gone by, employees would create their own documents and store them on their local PC so, a sales executive who had created the best proposal document the company had ever produced, was the only person who had access to that document. That meant that, should a protective customer telephone with a query about the proposal, and the sales executive was out of the office, no one could deal with that query quickly, without leafing through a hard copy, if they even knew where to find that hard copy. It also meant that none of the other sales executives on the team could use any of the content of that proposal in their own sales proposals. Even when efficient computer networking came along, each employee’s own documents were stored in each employee’s own directory on a file server and those directories were often password protected.
A document management system indexes all the information that an organisation has and, subject to security considerations, allows employees to share that valuable resource and to find it quickly and easily.
You may not be able to get to every employee out of the habit of photocopying and filing hard copies of their emails, and the completely paperless office may be a way off yet, but it’s a lot closer than it used be and there is now a very strong business case for all sized companies to be using document management systems.
What are the benefits of a document management system?
Document management systems come in various types and one of the best, modern types of software are web based, so they don’t even need a lengthy install on every single client PC in the organisation. They allow the effective management, linking indexing and sharing of types of documents through the business. So, in my earlier example of a sales prospect, our sales executive’s manager could easily locate, not only the sales proposal document, but also all letters that had been sent and received, and all emails that had been exchanged too. To illustrate the functionality of a modern document management system, here is an example of a scalable document management system that would suit small, medium and large sized businesses. Some of the main benefits that an organisation will gain from a document management system are as follows:
Employees can share information and collaborate on projects
With all the information situated in a central location and, subject to security settings, available to everyone, documents can easily be shared around the organisation and many employees can work together on a single project. Some document management systems also include a workflow element, which enable documents to be automatically routed to different people for things like approval and authorisation processes.
Forces employees to follow company standards
With a good document management system in place, you can have templates available that all employees must use for things like sales proposals, quotations, letters and any other form of written communication. This avoids the common problem of everyone developing their own personal styles and formats.
Sharing documents digitally reduces the cost of printing, distribution, and storage of paperwork. Whether or not you can really dispose of all paper from your office will depend on local statutory and tax requirements, but at the least, you will be able to store much of paperwork off-site and so reduce the need for using costly office space as a storage facility.
Ensures proper document version control
Without all the various copies of a document flying around the organisation, there will be no more finding out that you have read the wrong version of a document either. If you install a good document management system, it will include version tracking and control and everyone will be looking at the same set of figures at the next management meeting!
Speeds up the decision making process
The main thing that slows the making of important business decisions is the lack of information. With a document management system in place, managers will have all the available information at their fingertips and they will be able to easily search for any information that they don’t have that they need to make a better informed decision.
Workplace studies have found that employees can spend anything from 30% to 50% of their time searching for information or lost documents. A good document management system will include indexing and search facilities that make finding and retrieving documents easy and, electronic documents can’t get put back in the wrong drawer!
Improves document security
As any business manager will know, it’s not uncommon to find sensitive company information left on somebody’s desk, or filing cabinets left unlocked at night. With all the information available securely online, a document management system control access to documents and hard copies can be destroyed, or locked securely away.
Reduces the number of emails
Document management can also drastically the number of internal e-mails. Because all documents are stored in one, easily accessible place, there will be no need for all those emails asking for copies of documents.
Improves your green credentials
With the growing awareness of the impact that every business has on the environment, a document management system can help you make your contribution toward reducing waste and pollution. Fewer ink cartridges and the reams of paper that you will save will both cut down your orifice costs and improve your green credentials.
Improves the flow of documentation
If you have a document management system that has a built in workflow element, this will ensure that documents don’t get stuck in bottlenecks. If a document needs approval, for example, before it can move on to the next stage, a workflow based document management system can send alerts, or re-route a document, should it spend too long waiting for that approval
Ensures regulatory compliance
The security features of a good document management system will help to stop an organisation falling foul of data protection regulations and other industry specific compliance rules. It is far easier to implement and enforce internal procedures with a document management system than it is with pieces of paper.
Documents can be accessed remotely
Getting access to information when employees are working from home or on a business trip becomes a lot easier too. Most good document management systems provide a web client or other means of remote access, which enables to employees to securely access documents when they are out of the office.
Document management systems are for all types of organisations
Document management systems are no longer the ‘nice to have’ software and nor are they the sole preserve of large corporations. Scalable document management systems are now available to of types of business and they can bring real, quantifiable benefits to an organisation. Perhaps the paperless office isn’t so far away after all.