While there are plenty of experts who agree that document management software is necessary in any industry that relies heavily on paper or has a complex accounts payable department, really the benefit comes from implementing the document management best practices throughout the company with an electronic document system.
It might be easy to discover what those best practices are, but not necessarily how to implement them or where the benefit comes from by doing so.
Here are three of the major best practices agreed upon by document management experts across the web:
Alignment With Company Vision
From the initial onset and development of a project plan to completion and adoption of the new software in the company, probably the most important overall practice is that the document management efforts must stay in line with the mission and goals of the company.
An electronic document system can seriously increase the effectiveness across the company for workers and remove paper waste from the office - but will it add value to the customers?
Often this practice becomes clearly difficult due to a poorly defined vision or value proposition, thus illuminating other problems within the organization.
Other times, it is simply a matter of choosing where and how to augment the processes once the document management solution is in place - for example, make sure that the extra hours during the week that are gained throughout the company are spent on tasks that now add value to the customer, and provide a better experience for other vendors and clients who work with the company.
Don't use the added time to create new "busy work" or unnecessary tasks that are adding value to management but not to the customers!
Consistency Throughout the Business
One of the most common inhibitors of success through document and process evolution is a lack of consistency.
This issue starts small at levels like consistent file/folder/version naming, and quickly goes beyond this to issues such as an inconsistency in reporting or completion in serious aspects of the business.
Once work is being done differently in any area of the business, a level of consistency and conformity needs to be establish before document management software will really benefit the business at all.
This is where the discovery phase becomes crucial - document management solutions are never intended to just be dropped into an existing process without examination - some workarounds and exceptions may exist that the project manager isn't even aware of, and some processes just don't make sense once the physical paper or process action is removed.
Take a hard look at how and why work is being done before choosing a system, let alone purchasing and implementing. It may be necessary to bring in a process improvement consultant during this phase, if the company providing your solution doesn't offer the service themselves.
Security is Key
Forms in a business often include a level of personal information collected from a customer or client. This immediately means that forms are a security risk to the people who are keeping your business alive.
Paper forms require lock-and-key cabinets or entire rooms dedicated to safe and secure storage.
When discussing the possibilities of security with electronic document repositories, the real issue becomes the people involved. Constant mindfulness of user access, levels of security, and document history should be in place from the beginning. If suddenly a new tier of users becomes necessary, the solution in place should be agile enough to adapt on the fly and provide the users and administrators of the system with the options they need.
Security can never be taken to seriously, and with digital documents now not only is the risk for prying eyes decreased and more manageable, the idea of documents lost or displaced through an accident or a disaster is reduced as well.
These best practices should be followed with any document management software to ensure that the project will be worth seeing through to completion to save time and money, and improve the organization overall.