Business rely on documents to conduct business. If employees can't find the documents they need to support customers, conduct research, create and analyze reports, etc. then your business is going to slow down. And emailing documents (and then managing multiple revisions) is a waste of everyone's time.
Document management software makes it easy to find, store, and organize digital files across an organization because company documents are stored in a single repository (or, sometimes, multiple federated repositories).
The result: higher levels of productivity, reduced costs, and fewer headaches as you no longer need to recreate lost or misplaced paper files.
Brief History of Document Management & Where It Stands Today
Document management began in the 1980s with software developers who were looking to blend traditional paper-based documents with new digital technologies. Document management originally involved managing any physical document that was the sole copy or version of itself (for example, printed documents, photographs, published documents, contracts, etc.). As technology advanced through the 1990s and 2000s, document management diversified and grew massively in scope.
Today, document management encompasses all physical and electronic documents and files. Document management systems provide storage, metadata, security, and-most importantly-indexing and retrieval capabilities. This allows businesses to easily store documents, keep databases organized and, most importantly, index documents for quick retrieval.
Document Management: What's In It For YOU!
Digital Conversion. Move from paper to electronic documents by using document capture to remove paper from your business. This makes it easier to share, manage, and mine the information.
Access to Information. One centralized repository gives employees access to information, anytime, and from anywhere (they have a secure Internet connection).
Search and Retrieval. Use keywords as well as full-text search to find information buried deep in documents.
Better Collaboration. The ability to share documents – and often work on them at the same time – without emailing simplifies working on the same document. And version control means you don't waste time accidentally working on an an outdated version of the document.
Enhanced security. In addition to access control, audit trails track who has viewed and modified documents.
More Office Space. Filing cabinets take up lots of room – and real estate is expensive. Use your office space for more “office” and less paper storage facility.
Regulatory Compliance. Record retention modules ensure that business records are covered by the correct retention plan for general business compliance and to meet regulatory requirements (HIPAA, for example).
Faster Business Processes. Enforce and automate business processes with workflows that route documents for required action, notify users, and track activity.
Document management software is a proven technology for improving access to information and delivering solid ROI.
Document Management, ECM, Document Capture, the Cloud, and Workflow
The IT industry evolves rapidly and includes a huge number of terms and phrases. Because the technology often overlaps, it can become confusing. I'll briefly outline a few terms that overlap with document management to help you avoid becoming too confused.
ECM (enterprise content management). In the later 90s, software companies (FileNet, Documentum, and others – including Square9) began combining different technologies into a single suite of products to manage all of a company's unstructured (information in documents, not data in a database) information from cradle to grave. These suites combine document capture (including forms processing and recognition/indexing), document management, workflow, records management, and, sometimes, Web content management. Many companies continue to use the phrase document management when really talking about ECM.
Document capture. Most document management products include document capture capabilities, but they are two different technologies. Capture tools focus on ingesting paper (and digital) documents, indexing them for future retrieval, and then pass those documents into a repository or to launch a workflow. For instance, digital copiers can be used to scan documents and can be the first step in digitizing a business.
Workflow/business process. Like document capture, a separate technology that is often included with document management products. Workflow software allows work to be automatically routed through a business process.
The cloud. Nearly any software is available in the cloud today. The cloud is simply another way to deploy software. In practice, it often means “renting” software run by another company on their own servers. It's never a silver bullet for solving a business problem. Like any technology, properly planned for, cloud services can be a “Just put it in the cloud” can be a recipe for disaster
What Does the Future Hold For Document Management?
Document management systems will evolve with a continued focus on productivity improvements for businesses. After all, you manage documents for a business reason, not for fun.
DM will continue to embrace the cloud and mobile devices (and whatever is next after phones and tablets). As workforces continue to disperse, it will be critical that access to documents be simple and easy. Employees are increasingly working from home and on the go, making strong document management more important than ever. With this fast-paced and dynamic workplace, cloud-based technologies allow employees to access documents and connect with others from any location in real time. Future document management systems will enable business both large and small to take control of information, ultimately helping employees to work smarter, not harder.
Document management solutions by Coordinated store all your business files electronically in a safe, secure location and give your employees access from anywhere in the world via the Internet. Through partnerships with Square9 and other leading providers, we can customize a solution to fit your business needs in a changing digital climate.
*This post has been updated from the original, published on 6/29/2015.