As we’ve discussed very recently, it’s a burden to take everything that’s in its place (and find the things that have long been out of place) and completely reorganize it to fit the contours of its new home. The benefits are obvious, but establishing the process that truly takes advantage of them is difficult. But step one is different for different companies.
While some need assistance implementing DMS, others need help simply getting all documents in the same place. If you’ve managed documents traditionally for a long time and want to adopt DMS, the idea of taking all that paper out and having to figure out how to digitize it is intimidating and daunting. We started there as well, so we know how to go paperless and easily set up a clean record system.
9 Steps to Perfection
- Start with a small project that can be accomplished within 1 month – i.e., HR files, Accounts Payable, Contracts, Marketing, etc. Treat it like starting with the corner pieces of the puzzle and working your way out. These categories should be a priority due to their importance to maintaining compliance anyway.
- Inventory your documents and notice how you have them stored now. Assess how you want to maintain or alter their organization in a digital format.
- Take note of how you try to find your files. For example, when someone asks you to find something, what information do they usually have that helps you locate the document? This will help with indexing, which is crucial to DMS.
- Ask yourself: what are the high level categories of documents that could be grouped together? In a DMS you want to assign index data to identify documents. Group documents that have the same index fields. Don’t group HR files with AP files, they need different index info.
- Building off of Step 4, know what those fields would be. HR would have fields such as First Name, Last Name, Employee ID, Hire Date, Status, Document Type etc. Meanwhile, AP would require fields such as Vendor Name, Invoice Date, Due Date, Amount, and PO Number.
- Think about who should have access to the documents and at what level. Should they just have viewing rights? Edit rights? Create rights? Delete rights? No rights at all?
- Think about how often you access the files after they have been stored. If you haven’t needed and haven’t touched them in 6 months or a year, don’t scan them—just leave them in paper form. Scan only the files you need from the existing paper. You can always go back and add them to the system.
- For new files, scan them all or find ways to keep them electronic and never print them.
- Set up an automated workflow. This is an integral part of keeping documents electronic. Many of our clients used to print documents and pass them around to designated team members for review and approval. Do this with the workflow software feature instead. If you need the document signed, use the electronic signature application with your DMS or have one added.
Remember: Believe in Going Paperless
Make sure management advocates the paperless system. The management team must support and understand the reasons for using a document management system so they can reinforce standards and properly direct all employees with questions and concerns. Without management alignment, your implementation will not succeed.
Be sure to research and point out the operational, environmental and physical ways that an online document management system will improve your company's overall work environment and efficiency. Recognizing all of the positive effects the system has on your business will encourage full staff participation and buy-in. And if your team is engaged, you’ll be on your way to a seamless transition to a stress-free future.