An Introduction to Document Management Systems

An Introduction to Document Management Systems

The workplace is no longer limited to the walls of an office or the hours of 9:00 to 5:00. Increasingly, employees are spread between multiple locations, home offices, and asynchronous schedules.

With shifts in where work occurs and how work looks, access to the right tools is a critical component of productivity. One of the tools that all companies need is a document management system.

Simply put, document management systems (or DMS) centrally store and manage all documents for a company. Let’s examine the primary functions of a DMS, considerations for implementation, and the benefits.

What Are Document Management Systems?

Centralized document storage is a very high-level description of a DMS, but it performs several key functions.

Document Capture

The most basic function is that a DMS needs to be able to capture documents. This includes paper documents and documents received electronically, such as emails or attachments.

Paper documents are mostly captured via a scanner. From large, high volume office scanners to desktop scanners, employees need efficient ways to scan paper documents and store them in a DMS.

Storing Documents

After capturing the documents, a DMS needs to store the documents. Storage is either on-premise or in the cloud.

While the amount of storage needed will grow over time, it is nothing compared to the necessary file cabinets to store paper documents. Organizations can monitor the increase of their DMS usage over time and plan for storage accordingly.

Document Retrieval

The impacts of a DMS on productivity rely heavily on the organization of the documents. A good DMS should be flexible to the organization’s needs and offer powerful search and retrieval capabilities.

Documents added to the DMS are given attributes that are specific to that document (called indexes). This could be customer information, account numbers, or other unique identifiers. Keywords, folder organization, and tags also help with locating documents.

Document Access

One of the main purposes of a DMS is providing access to employees – no matter the location. This may apply to access both within the office and employees working remotely. In some cases, vendors, clients, or other third parties are given access.

A DMS will have other ways of making the documents available to people outside of the organization. These could include emailing documents, exporting entire files, or secure file transfer.

How is a DMS Implemented?

As companies consider transitioning to a DMS, either from paper files or decentralized storage, there are some considerations. It can, at first, seem like a monumental task. However, it is a necessary one to tame a never-ending mountain of paper.

When implementing a DMS, a company should ask the following questions?

  • Upon receipt of paper, who will be responsible for scanning the documents?
  • Where will scanners be located for the employees responsible?
  • What is the timing around adding documents to the DMS?
  • How will electronic documents be added to the DMS, and when?
  • What is the organization, keywords, and indexes necessary for the DMS?

When reviewing scanner needs, companies should think about how paper is received and with what frequency. It may be that certain employees are a natural fit for scanning, replacing a prior need to file paper documents. Or there may be high volume, high touch locations in the organization that make sense for scanner placement.

Companies should consider the workflow of paper across the various departments and assess scanner needs accordingly. Remote employees may need desktop scanners if they are handling paper.

What Are the Benefits of a Document Management System?

In an increasingly digital world, the transition to a DMS seems that it will be inevitable. It is not possible to overstate the benefits, as productivity and efficiency will increase across the entire organization; including:

Improved Workflow

Gone are the days of shuffling paper from one office to another, couriers, and the employee that finds it difficult to work remotely.

If documents were in disparate storage locations (such as employees’ local drives or various network locations), a DMS offers centralization.

The daily work of every employee will benefit from the centralized access and organization of a DMS.

Reduce Paper

It is hard to keep track of paper, and it takes up space. Paper needs a “place to go.” 

Using a DMS reduces paper waste. Think of five locations needing access to the same files, so employees make five paper copies. Think of a new procedure printed on paper and handed to every employee.

By storing documents in a DMS, paper dependence is reduced dramatically.

Security

Paper documents also have a risk of deteriorating over time, especially if they are high-touch files. There is potential for misplaced documents. Paper also faces damage from coffee spills, rips, or fires.

If paper documents are sensitive, properly restricting access is an issue. With a DMS, the company can control access to the documents.

Reporting

A DMS offers reporting, from the documents’ contents to audit logs of the employees that accessed the files. These reports could be scheduled or created on-demand

Easy Retrieval

Rather than digging through a file cabinet, the documents are at the employee’s fingertips. For companies that serve customers, this also means faster and more efficient customer service in managing and retrieving information.

As mentioned earlier, in a world that is seeing an increase in remote workforce, having a DMS will be an essential tool for employees.

From Paper to a Document Management System

Data trapped on paper slows productivity. The limitations of paper are amplified with every person who needs access. Making the transition to a document management system has never been more critical.

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