As the old adage goes, “There are two rules for success in life—Rule 1: Don't tell people everything you know. Rule 2: …” However, I know that document management isn’t as simple as some people would assume it is, and I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t pass along the knowledge to get a consistent system up and running. And consistency is key to an effective document management system. Consider this a miniature document management consultation.
1. Your Folders Aren’t Going to Magically Organize Themselves
Some new adopters are so focused on the solutions facilitated by DMS that they forget to reflect on exactly what needs solving and how to actually solve it. It takes planning and thought to implement a solution. If you are just creating folders on a server somewhere, you are already off course. Real document management requires structure. Take time to figure out the rank of importance of your documents, and the roles, limitations, and responsibilities attached to them.
2. Look Deeper Than the Filename
If you’re starting at square one, you won’t simply jump to square ten with DMS. But you will have a much easier time moving to square two. Saving electronic files for the first time takes almost as much time as filing paper. The huge payoff is when you need that file again and again and again. Make sure the core differentiators are accounted for in a document’s metadata (either automatically or manually). Otherwise, your search for a file will turn up too many similar results. Real document management requires indexing metadata for organization, and subsequently rapid retrieval.
3. Automate ASAP
Workflow automation also requires planning but also should be implemented incrementally. After all, only you know what works best for your company based on the industry, its relationships with clients, the way your team interacts, etc. In one environment, you may require manual workflow – in another, rules-based workflow. Get a pilot system working quickly to help people adjust and also provide input for improvement. Update as you go to achieve better results, but the sooner you get a system in place, the sooner you can find your groove and automate effortlessly.
4. Save in One Spot and One Spot Only
Once you apply a DMS to your organization, the entire workforce operates as one, fluid operating system. No one person can simply edit and save a document as they please anymore, because someone else might need to do something completely different to the same file. How will you know which version to use, and when? Version control is crucial so that you can start managing files earlier in their lifecycle. Using shared folders and multiple filenames to try to distinguish versions is a recipe for disaster.
5. DMS is Not a Standalone Tool
I cannot stress enough that using DMS is not one in a sequence of steps. It’s an invisible hand. A document management system is just what it sounds like: a system. And a system is meant to work seamlessly through different environments and stages of a document’s lifecycle. Always remember the importance of integration. Document management is not an isolated practice. Information about documents is shared by many systems. The ability to integrate or share information through multiple APIs is a key to error reduction and duplicate data entry.
Education Above All
Whether you’ve made the move to implement DMS or not, you should be informed before taking the first steps to organizing your documents. It doesn’t do much good to sell someone on the tools without even showing one how to use them. These document management tips, like previous ones, are informed by 25+ years of experience in Document Management and Business Process Automation. May they serve you as well as they served me (and in a fraction of the time).