Before I started working at Invu, I must admit I had no clue what Document Management was. I remember being sat in my first interview, having performed some research on the company and its products and still being none the wiser about what they actually did. I remained confused until I saw the software in action!
Having now worked at Invu for over a year and a half, I have a much better understanding of what it actually is. Enough of an understanding (with a bit of research on the side) to help inform others on how it works.
If your boss has asked you to research Document Management systems and you are a bit confused like I was then this is a good place to start. Welcome to my 101 Guide to Document Management!
Why should you Care about Managing Documents?
Managing documents plays a vital part in any effective business. It can be difficult to do your job if you have forgotten where you have put that contract you have written for a prospective client who needs a copy immediately. It can be even more difficult if you find five printed copies of this contract, but every copy is slightly different and you do not know which the latest version is.
The client may ask you who has had access to each of the documents. You can tell that at least two people (including yourself) have seen it because someone has spilt their coffee all over it. The question is who was this person? And is there any others that have also read it? You can hardly read this version of the contract because of the stains, so you end up having to recreate it.
All this work can take a lot of time, and the potential client may not be too happy with the service they have received thus far. In fact, they were also talking to your competitor who has emailed them exactly what they needed within 5 minutes!
Managing your files is vital for providing the best service for your customers as well as your suppliers. Additionally, it helps improve employee morale because they know exactly where they need to go to get what they need. They are not wasting their valuable time trying to find files nor recreating lost documents.
So what actually is Document Management?
Document Management is the way you manage documents to ensure you can access and work on them in the future.
Some websites have defined it as a piece of software, but in reality Document Management is something we all do both consciously and unconsciously in the world of work. Every individual has their own way of doing it and stores their files in the most accessible area for them. This could be storing them in physical filing cabinets, in your Windows Explorer Files, leaving them in your emails, or in an electronic central repository. Even putting documents in your car or on your desk can be considered Document Management.
Of course, different forms of Document Management are far better than others for a number of reasons. Leaving files in your car neither provides the security nor the access required by your co-workers as storing them in a central repository accessible by those with a right to access the documents. It is also much more difficult to search for and find data written within paper documents (so called unstructured data). Electronic documents can be searchable and therefore enable the extraction of data for use in other processes or systems (known as structured data).
Datamation has found that ‘unstructured data makes up 80% and more of enterprise data, and is growing at the rate of 55% and 65% per year’. Reducing the amount of unstructured data we have is vital for improving business productivity and efficiency. An Electronic Document Management System is one way of achieving this.
What is an Electronic Document Management System?
An Electronic Document Management system allows you to store, access and distribute digital files through one central repository. Each document has its own metadata which facilitates fast searches.
Metadata includes all the information normally saved with a file in your Windows Explorer (date last modified, document type, size, properties), plus information you may add by manually indexing the document, for example invoice number. This metadata enables a faster search, however document management software often uses OCR to read the internal contents of files. This therefore allows you to find data using the contents of the document.
Electronic Document Management Systems also have more fine grained security controls than your average filing cabinet. There does not have to be only one key shared or copied to each filing cabinet and the audit trail lets you know who has viewed the documents. You set the access controls over who can see each folder, enabling compliance with regulations like data protection and also reducing the risk of fraud and breaches of confidentiality. In addition, most systems allow you to set retention rates so that documents are stored for the amount of time required by law.
Electronic Document Management Systems are usually a good place to start a company’s digital transformation process. They can often be integrated with various other existing company systems such as finance, ERP or CRM. They also often have optional add-on modules, such as document Workflow (routing documents around a business for processing, this will be discussed in the next edition of this series) and can utilise data capture capabilities that can help your business processes become more efficient and controlled. I may be biased, but I could not imagine working without one now!