The Purpose of Document Management Systems
How organized are your digital assets? Could your employees find a specific file quickly, or would they need to search in multiple locations and ask a few people for help?
If your company’s documents aren’t housed in a central, easy-to-access location, your employees are probably frustrated from wasting time searching for files. The data shows that over 50% of office employees spend more time searching for files than working. The impact on your business is decreased productivity and wasted payroll dollars.
This problem stems from cluttered filing systems and disjointed document management strategies, or no strategy at all. For instance, some companies use multiple file sharing platforms and don’t have a set method for naming and storing files. Whether it’s an image, a business plan, or a contact, any type of file could be anywhere. The solution is to use a well-organized document management system.
What Is a Document Management System?
Document management is how companies store, secure, access, edit, and track digital files. A document management system streamlines this process and reduces the potential for error, like overwriting other people’s edits, using outdated files, and losing important documents.
Part of a document management system involves software, like a secure, cloud-based file storage platform and third-party integrations. However, it also includes a strategy for organization, storage policies, how files are named, and access control.
Common (and critical) components in a document management system include:
- Centralized storage. Documents are easier to access when they’re in one file storage account and easily accessible to authorized parties.
- Version control. It’s important to maintain a record of changes to documents when they’re edited in place or a new version is uploaded. Version control ensures edit history gets tracked and you can restore a file to a previous version when needed.
- Access control. Files are most secure when users can only access what they need to do their job. Access control assigns users permissions rather than allowing free access to the entire storage account.
- A strategic naming convention. All files should be named methodically to make them easy to find by searching and sorting.
- Tagging. When storing files in a document management system, it’s important that they be tagged to allow users to search for them using a variety of keywords that aren’t necessarily included in the file name.
- Annotations. Sometimes people need to add comments to documents without editing the file.
- Check-in/out. This ensures two people can’t edit the same document at the same time, so changes don’t get overwritten.
- Audit trails. Companies bound by compliance regulations need to maintain a record of the times and dates users view or edit documents.
What Does a Document Management System Do?
The purpose of a document management system is nuanced. In general, the main goal is to keep documents organized and accessible in a central location while allowing organizations to restrict access to files according to their needs.
A document management system addresses some specific challenges that can’t be resolved any other way. First and foremost, it resolves issues like siloed desktops, unorganized databases, and cluttered network drives.
1. Document organization maintains productivity.
Whenever files are spread out amongst individuals’ devices, they can quickly become outdated, disorganized, and unsecured. This makes company files hard to find and causes workers to spend far too much time searching for information rather than working on important tasks.
Files spread out across employee devices and random file sharing accounts also creates a major security risk. If any of those devices are stolen or compromised, your company data is at risk.
2. Organized documents reduce the risk of error.
Having disorganized files in random places makes mistakes more likely to occur. For instance, an employee might reference a file with missing or outdated information. This, in turn, compromises the end result of their project.
Another common problem is when you have multiple people editing their own version of a document at the same time. At some point, someone’s edits won’t make it into the final document, and that can create some big problems.
3. Meticulous organization supports compliance.
A document management system helps companies adhere to compliance regulations, which is non-negotiable for many businesses. For instance, the healthcare and financial sectors are heavily regulated and companies are required to secure their data to a high degree. When files are dispersed among multiple devices, it’s a liability because it’s not compliant.
Why Use a Document Management System?
If you don’t have a good system for managing documents, the best reason to get one is to make your teams more efficient.
Every organization will benefit from increased efficiency, but if you handle a lot of digital documents, it’s a necessity. For example, government agencies deal with more documents than most industries because of the high volume of paperwork they’re required to create, store, and manage. State and federal agencies need extensive document management systems to handle both internal documents and files provided to the public.
The biggest challenge government agencies face is the exponential increase in the number of documents they need to store. Agencies are legally required to maintain certain files for a set period of time and make public records available to anyone who requests a copy. These processes create a massive paper trail, especially when those files are transferred to archival organizations like the National Archives.
Since agencies keep records of all requests, processing just one request can easily triple the number of files they have to store. For instance, the initial request, the agency’s response, email correspondence, payment receipts, and papers related to third-party services all serve as a record for the agency and must be kept on file.
When the time comes to deliver requested files to the requestor, paper copies are easy to mail, but many people request digital versions. These digital files can range from small (500kb) to massive (terabytes+). Once a digital record is created, it’s kept for future requests. To make things easy, government agencies upload files to a central location and send the requestor a download link. Managing this entire process requires an extensive document management system.
Keep Your Organization on Track With Document Management
How you manage your company’s digital assets will directly impact your team’s productivity. With a strong document management system in place, you can rest assured that your teams are more productive, your data is secure, and projects have a better chance of being completed on time.