has become a hot topic in the business world. But what does it really mean?
If you're confused, you're in good company. In a nutshell, a document management system
houses electronic files and makes them readily searchable, allowing authorized users to access those documents any time, from anywhere. A document management system is designed to reduce paper waste and time wasted on tedious tasks so employees can focus on other responsibilities. Along the way, you get other benefits, like reduced risk of losing important documents and making your business information more secure. There are many software programs that can help organize your documents, but not all are created equal. Here is some practical advice for small companies considering document management programs.
Managing mixed environments
Many document management software programs can only handle existing electronic files, but chances are that your important documents are spread across physical and digital files. Indeed, if you're like numerous other small businesses, you probably have a much larger proportion of paper documents than electronic files. Managing these physical files costs time and money, which is why many business owners and managers seek out document management systems to help streamline processes. But first, you have to get those paper documents into digital form.
A document imaging system allows you to scan paper documents and turns them into virtual forms that can be accessed, managed, and shared by many users across an entire network quickly and efficiently. Having the ability to convert paper files to electronic files will pay for itself over time, as you no longer have to take time out of your day (nor do your employees) to file stacks of paper or search for documents when you need them.
Questions to ask before you buy a document management system
As with any major business purchase, it's important to do your homework. Below are some questions to consider before choosing a document management system. As you answer them, create a "must have" and "nice to have" list to help identify which system will deliver the functionality you need without expensive bells and whistles. However, take a close look at the items in your "nice to have" list. If having a feature could end up saving you money in the long term over a small cost savings now, you might want to move that feature into your "must have" category.
- Do you need cloud or mobile access?
- What are your in-house IT capabilities? Do you have on-site staff with hardware and software know-how or an IT partner you can call on short notice should issues arise?
- What's your budget? How much can and do you want to spend? Would you rather pay all at once for a system or pay as you go?
- Do you need scanning capabilities? What about other desktop functions such as editing PDFs or publishing?
- What are your security needs? Are there industry protocols you must follow, such as HIPAA?
- Is it critical to have a full text search feature or is folder and file browsing good enough?
- Do you need to connect to a CRM program, database, or other source for data retrieval?
- Will customers/clients/patients need access to the system, or only employees?
- Are collaborative features such as real-time file sharing, editing, and tracking changes important to you?
- What features specific to your industry (insurance, healthcare, accounting, manufacturing, etc.) might you need, if any?
Outside of this list, all small businesses should look for a document management system that's easy to use, requires little training, and provides access to virtual documents from multiple operating systems and devices.
Preparing for document management
Before purchasing the document management system you've chosen, it's a good idea to get organized so that you get the most out of it and get up and running as soon as possible.
First, figure out which documents you need to manage. This task can be overwhelming, so we recommend starting small. Not every sheet of paper needs to be scanned. For example, is it critical to scan every single patient or client record? It may be convenient but not essential for now. Focus on what's most important. Organize your documents according to their functional areas within the business, digitizing the ones that will provide the greatest immediate benefit from being available electronically.
And don't forget that emails and files stored in cloud-based programs such as Dropbox, SalesForce, and Office 365 count as documents, too. Take some time to design an organizational structure for these documents-you'll save time (and money) in the long run.Coordinated Business Systems
offers end-to-end document management solutions, including document imaging
, customized to your specific business needs. Contact us today
to find out how document management can help improve your workflow and save your company money.