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A Well-Done Document Management System Can Defeat Disorganization--But How?

There comes a time in most businesses when the paper piles up so high, files are so hard to find, that whoevers in charge of this mess better do something about it now.Often, the decision is made to create an electronic document management system.

Unfortunately, a document management system can mean trading one form of chaos for another if such a system is not planned out ahead of time and implemented properly.

Here are a couple things to keep in mind when doing document management planning and implementing.

Document Management Is About More Than Just Backing Up the Originals

When scanning a stack of business-related paper into digital format, a feeling of nostalgia sometimes arises as one watches a paper file go away. It can be almost like saying goodbye.

That farewell feeling can--and should--be avoided at all costs.

Yes, the most basic capability of a document management system is about creating a backup in case anything happens to the original paper file (fire, for example). But document management can do more, without costing much more.

A well-developed document management system can, among other things:

  • Result in a searchable database of scanned documents (i.e. never "dig up" a file again)
  • Help an organization share documents with other offices or even other companies
  • Drastically cut costs of printing and faxing

Hiring a third-party records management firm can be a good place to start in terms of thinking about how to get the most, rather than the least, out of a document management system. But the real responsibility, and the real benefit, lies with the business that will be using the document management system.

Best of all--in the case of document management--doing more doesnt necessarily entail spending more. Creating a searchable database of scanned documents, for example, costs about the same as just stuffing the whole file into the scanner and saying goodbye forever.

Document Management From the User Perspective

The sheer number of acronyms flying about the document management industry can be quite astounding. From PDF to ECM to MFP to AIIM and back again, document management proponents seem to speak another language.

An easy way to cut through this noise is to sit down and really, deeply think about how the intended end user is going to use a new document management system. The most effective system should be instantly usable by and instantly helpful to that person. No business needs another software program that takes two years to learn.

Think, then, about such issues as the technical proficiency of the intended end user, and whether or not people may need to access this system remotely, and security measures that prevent wrongful use of scanned documents. Direct and thorough consideration of who is actually going to be using this system can help translate all that ECM mixed with PDF stuff into a language any office manager can understand: the language of increased productivity.


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