How does your organization approach document management? Is it an efficient or a disorganized process? Can you easily find the most current version of a document? Can teams easily collaborate on shared documents? These questions and more will help assess your document management needs.
The process for managing documents can significantly impact business efficiency, information accuracy, employee time, security, and cost. A document management system is a necessary tool to effectively manage all of your organization’s electronic and paper documents.
Following are 5 steps to improve how your organization manages your documents. First, let’s clarify what is document management.
What is Document Management?
Document management is how an organization creates, organizes, updates, and stores all electronic and paper documents. It is a process for employees to retrieve, update, approve, index, and share information as part of its day-to-day operations.
For some organizations, it can be a seamless, well-organized, efficient process. For other businesses, it may be a chaotic infrastructure that contributes to employee frustration and inaccuracy. In this second scenario, documents are outdated, difficult to locate, and multiple versions of documents exist. The lack of version control impacts the time to locate a document and the ability to identify the most current document.
What is Document Version Control?
Version control in document management is essential to distinguish an older version of a document from the most current one. Many documents, including standard operating procedures (SOPs), are continually updated. Identifying the most up-to-date version of the document can impact business operations.
Document version control helps to track the date when a document was updated, who updated it, and what information in the document was amended. Often in organizations and among work teams, many individuals access the same document. Version control provides accountability and an audit trail of each and every version of the document. It provides document naming conventions and ensures that updates to a document are on the most recent version.
As documents are created through collaboration, version control provides a historical record of each update to the document over time. Version control provides traceability of detailed changes that may involve many collaborators. This records each version, and any necessary approvals, throughout the life of the document.
5 Steps to Improve Document Management
A quick search on Google for “Document Management” will retrieve boundless links to document management software and systems. If you’re searching for help in managing documents in your organization, it’s tempting to get caught up in the sizzle and promises of various document management systems. Immediately diving into various software features is seductive.
However, at this early stage, hold up on the technology quest. There’s important work to tackle before choosing a document management system, which is step 4.
In our experience, we find many business leaders recognize the need for a streamlined and effective document management process. The first inclination is often to install a software package to “fix everything.” However, laying any technology over poor processes will not achieve the desired results. Rather, it could increase frustrations, costs, and continue the inefficiency.
This is why we recommend following these 5 steps to improve how your organization manages its documents.
Step 1: Develop a Needs Assessment
Making changes in your business can be exciting and frightening at the same time. Improving, or doing a complete over-haul of your document management process, is a big change. It will have connectivity throughout the organization.
Developing a needs assessment is the first step in creating an efficient document management process. It’s a critical first step in the process that will get your organization from “here” to “there.”
Not sure about how to develop a needs assessment? Or maybe you have been a part of one in the past, but could use a refresher? We discuss in detail in a recent blog: 9 priorities for conducting a needs assessment.
Step 2: Develop Current State Process Documentation
Regardless of the level of efficiency, your organization has a current process for managing documents. In Step 2, process documentation, it’s important to capture exactly the intricacies of how documents are created, stored, reviewed, approved, and updated.
If the document management processes aren’t mapped, there’s no way to capture inefficiencies. This information is critical in order to understand the current state of how things are done in order to move forward and improve the processes. The current state creates a baseline to measure the improvements over time. The process of mapping the current state is also essential when implementing new technology, such as a documentation management system.
Developing a current state of how you manage documents across the organization starts with process mapping. These include swim lane diagrams and value stream maps. Often, businesses mistakenly reference process documentation as solely the initial step of process mapping. Rather, process documentation references all documents that support a specific process, including the process maps, SOPs, policies, forms, and tutorials.
For more information on developing a current state of document management processes, check out: Process Documentation: Essential for a System Implementation.
Step 3: Develop Future State Process Documentation
Following a review of the current state process documentation, the team should outline a future state process to manage documents and improve efficiencies.
The current state documentation provides a baseline of how things are currently done to create, update, and manage documents. The future state highlights where you want to go. It never stops evolving. Once a new documentation management process is developed, individuals involved in the process continually identify new opportunities to improve. This is the basis for the methodology of continuous improvement.
Step 4: Choose a Document Management System
From small businesses to global enterprises, a Document Management System is a must to effectively create, manage, and store all documents for an organization. As a centralized repository, a document management system provides the apparatus to handle the sheer volume and constant flow of documents across an organization.
Benefits of an Efficient Document Management System
- Streamline the flow of information
- Provide document version control
- Organization of documents provides quicker retrieval
- Enhances document security and approvals
- Meets regulatory compliance standards
- Reduces errors and duplications
- Provides centralized storage and audit trails
- Reduces document loss and misplacement
- Saves time and cost
How to Choose the Right System for your Organization
There are several things to consider when selecting a document management system. Like any new software or technology, it’s not just about the cost. As part of developing your needs assessment in Step 1, the ROI data will help guide you in assessing cost of a document management system.
When reviewing vendors, consider their experience as well as the technical support and training they provide. Ask about their availability in helping you short and long term. Determine if you prefer the system to be on-premises and managed by your IT team or cloud-based with the vendor.
Consider how the system will integrate with your current data systems, its reporting functions, and collaborative features. In today’s electronic landscape, review the mobile accessibility of the system. How flexible and secure is the system? Scalability and user experience are also important in the review of prospective document management systems for your organization.
Consider Collaborating with a Vendor-Neutral Partner
Selecting the right document management system for your organization can be over-whelming and time intensive. However, you don’t have to go it alone. At RTG Solutions Group, we help organizations identify top vendors that meet the technology specifications you seek. We are vendor-neutral and not associated with any technology companies. We provide a fact-based, thorough assessment of vendor options that best meet your needs.
Additionally, we can manage the project from the needs assessment process through implementation of the document management system.
Step 5: Measure Business Efficiencies
Following the document management system implementation, it’s important to measure business efficiencies. Since you’ve outlined the baseline through the needs assessment and current state, you can measure efficiency increases over time.
Measuring pre-assessment and post-implementation provides necessary data to determine how well the new document management system and the workflow processes are working. Continual measurement and adjustment to the processes will continually improve the document management process.
Regardless of your business size or industry, how well you manage your documents impacts the overall efficiency of the entire organization. If your business would like guidance on assessing and improving your document management process, contact us today.