In an attempt to clean up, clear out and just plain get rid of the mess of many offices, document management is an ever growing need. Today, most people are inundated with reams of paper which must be dealt with on a daily basis somehow, whether by filing, shredding or off-site storage. Electronic document management is an excellent way to tame that paper jungle and get back to the business of business.
The right system can streamline an office into a more efficient, more cost-effective, and yes, even a more environmentally-conscious work area. There are several software packages that can be used to help anyone become more efficient and effective in their everyday and work lives, including Cabinet NG's CNG-Safe, Nuance's Paperport, NeatDesk and others. The best systems don't just help set up files and folders; they also have built-in rights management (security), document retention systems, templates to make filing easier, and an easy-to-manage work/flow system that will move paper along seamlessly. These systems can also link and retrieve data from other systems, and leave an audit trail with documents and transactions.
In the lean work environments of today, businesses must do everything feasible to save money and be as efficient and effective as possible to survive. Companies are also a part of the community and want to be as "green" and environmentally friendly as possible. Change is never easy, and most people are resistant to it. However, there are several reasons to consider electronic document management:
Once the initial setup is done, scanning and/or copying documents into the DM software is easy and makes short work of files. Once documents are in the system, access is easy and instant, searches for and retrieval of documents can be made quickly, files can be accessed by multiple people, etc. Many document management systems have an electronic work/flow process which enables manual processes to be automated. This allows for a more efficient use of resources and personnel, and streamlines processes for quicker response and/or invoice payments.
The use of an electronic document management system is a cost-effective way to save your company money. Once files are set up electronically, file cabinets and file rooms can be re-deployed (or sold) for greater efficiency. Paper and printer costs decrease as well. File rooms can be used for more value-added enterprises, i.e., conference room, offices, etc. People who spent time filing or searching for files can be put to more productive use in more lucrative activities.
From an environmental standpoint, an electronic document management system will help to reduce waste and decrease the environmental footprint. The use of a document management system is a green way to manage a business's paper use as well as processes and procedures.
One of the best reasons for an electronic document management system is the ability to recover quickly from a disaster. How many companies lose money and customers after a disaster (fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, etc.)? After a disaster, files, invoices and customer lists are in file cabinets that are now either water soaked, burned or scattered across the city. If documents are in off-site storage, it takes time to retrieve the documents — and these are likely only archival documents, not the current documents. Every company should think seriously about the processes and procedures it has in place for disaster recovery, but an electronic management system can assist in making the process easier.
- Many document management systems have security systems (rights management) in place in the software. This ensures that any confidentiality and privacy issues are managed down to the document level.
- Records retention is also a concern for companies, and many systems are able to establish retention timetables attached to each document. This makes it much easier to ensure that documents are retained as long as necessary and then discarded safely.
- Auditable document trails are another key aspect in many document management systems. This is an invaluable tool for many businesses.
- Many electronic document management systems can integrate with other software solutions, retrieve date from other databases, and have built-in solutions that comply with all regulatory requirements.
Is an electronic document management system a good idea for your business? It can be with the correct approach and with employees who are prepared and enthusiastic for the changes. Will it make your business life easier? Yes, absolutely. Change can be good, and the ability to find and easily manage your business is a change that can make your office run more efficiently and be more cost-effective. Managing your documents — and not allowing the documents to manage you — can be one of the best business decisions you'll make.
Scott “Social Media” Allen is a 25-year veteran technology entrepreneur, executive and consultant. He’s coauthor of The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, the first book on the business use of social media, and The Emergence of The Relationship Economy. His latest venture, NFN8 Media, maintains a growing portfolio of niche content and community sites. He enjoys working with entrepreneurs and serves on the advisory board of several startups.