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Operational Excellence

Document Management Systems: What You Need to Know

Written By: Ray Waldron
June 18, 2024
7 min read

Businesses these days face a flood of information, including reports, invoices, contracts, and more. To adapt to this digital age, they need a centralized repository for storing, organizing, and tracking all electronic information—a document management system (DMS).

What is document management, you may ask? Document management refers to controlling and managing information from creation to disposal. Data volume keeps growing, and regulatory compliance gets tougher, so document management is necessary.

A good DMS can help improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, and mitigate risks associated with mishandled or lost documents, ultimately leading to business success.

Understanding Document Management Systems

Traditional document management involves storing physical files in cabinets. Organizations today require a sophisticated approach to managing their critical information. That's where DMSs come in. But what is a document management system anyway?

In a nutshell, DMSs act as centralized repositories for all the essential documents in your organization. They can store, organize, and retrieve electronic documents and digital copies of paper-based documents—everything from contracts and reports to invoices.

However, despite the benefits of a DMS, a Xerox study found that 46% of employees at small and medium-sized businesses still waste time daily on inefficient, paper-based workflows. This is largely because the transition to DMS solutions hasn’t quite ramped up as much as it should—despite the enormous need for it.

After all, a robust DMS offers much more than file storage. Core functions include:

  1. Document capture and indexing: It enables you to import and organize information, whether digital or paper-based, ensuring that you index and make every item searchable.

  2. Version control and check-in/check-out: Track changes and maintain a comprehensive audit trail to prevent version conflicts and accidental overwrites.

  3. Workflow management: Automate document routing and approvals to ensure the right information reaches the right people at the right time.

  4. Access controls and security: Limit access to authorized personnel with granular permissions and robust security features.

  5. Archiving and retention policies: Establish rules for document retention and disposal to minimize the risk of costly penalties.

Key Qualities of an Effective Document Management System

There are different types of document management solutions. When choosing a DMS, make sure it offers a comprehensive set of features and qualities that meet your business needs. Consider these factors:

  1. Accessibility and User-Friendliness: Your team needs an intuitive and easy-to-use DMS so they can get started quickly. Choose a solution with an easy-to-use interface that makes finding, accessing, and sharing documents simple for anyone, regardless of their technical skills.

  2. Security Features: Protect your sensitive information. Select a DMS with robust security features like granular access controls, encryption, and audit trails.

  3. Scalability and Flexibility: Growing businesses have different document management needs. Invest in a system that can scale seamlessly, accommodating more data and more users without compromising performance or functionality.

  4. Integration Capabilities: Integrating your DMS with other essential tools and applications, like email clients, productivity suites, and CRMs, is essential to staying competitive today. Choose a DMS option that easily integrates into your current ecosystem.

  5. Collaboration and Sharing Features: Document management requires a team effort. Use features like check-in/check-out, version control, and real-time co-editing to allow multiple users to work on the same file simultaneously.

  6. Version Control: The ability to roll back to a previous version of a document can be a lifesaver when mistakes occur. Your DMS should have version control so you can track changes, compare revisions, and revert back.

Choosing the Right Document Management Solution

Selecting a good document management solution for your business can be challenging with so many options available. However, choosing the right system will streamline your document management processes and help your business succeed.

  1. Assessing Business Needs: Take a step back and evaluate your organization's unique needs before diving in. Think about the volume and types of documents you handle, the number of users you'll interact with, and the workflows and processes you need to automate. Assessing your needs will ensure that the chosen solution aligns with your operational demands by identifying essential features and functionalities.

  2. Considering Future Scalability: Even though considering your current needs is important, you should also consider the future. The DMS you choose should be able to grow with your organization, accommodating growing volumes of data, evolving workflows, and a growing user base. Scalability ensures long-term viability and prevents costly and disruptive system replacements.

  3. Vendor Reliability and Support: Document management systems require time and resources to implement. Choosing a vendor with a proven track record of delivering reliable solutions and exceptional customer service is key. Consider the vendor's experience, customer testimonials, and commitment to innovation and development. A responsive and knowledgeable support team will ensure your implementation goes smoothly and assist you with any problems you may encounter.

Implementing a Document Management System

DMS require careful planning and execution to be successful. After all, you're introducing a new way of working with documents that will impact your entire organization. Follow these steps to ensure a successful implementation:

  1. Define Roles and Responsibilities: Assemble a dedicated project team to oversee the implementation process. There should be representatives from different departments and key stakeholders who will use the system every day. Clearly define roles and responsibilities, ensuring that everyone understands their part in the process.

  2. Develop a Comprehensive Plan: Create a detailed implementation plan that outlines every step, from data migration and system configuration to user training and testing. Make sure your plan includes realistic timelines, milestones, and contingencies.

  3. Migrate and Organize Data: Implementing a new system requires migrating your old documents properly. Work closely with your chosen DMS vendor to develop a data migration strategy that minimizes disruptions and preserves the integrity of your information.

  4. Configure and Customize: While most DMS solutions provide solid out-of-the-box functionality, you'll want to customize the system to fit your specific workflows. Work with your vendor to customize the system for your needs, including setting up document templates, defining access controls, and integrating other business apps.

  5. Train and Encourage User Adoption: A successful DMS implementation depends on adoption. Make sure your team understands both how the system works and the benefits it offers. Get users on board by showing them how the DMS will streamline their daily tasks.

  6. Test and Refine: Before going live, thoroughly test the system to identify and address potential issues or hiccups. Conduct user acceptance testing and gather feedback from your team, using their insights to refine the system further and ensure a smooth transition.

  7. Provide Ongoing Support and Maintenance: Your work doesn't end after a successful implementation. Ensure that you have a plan in place for ongoing support and maintenance. It may include designating internal resources or leveraging the expertise of your DMS provider to fix any issues, provide additional training, and keep the system up to date.

Don't forget that implementing a DMS isn't just a technical endeavor—it's a cultural shift that requires organizational support from all levels. Follow these steps and involve your team throughout, and you'll reap the benefits of a well-implemented DMS.

Streamline Your Business with Document Management Systems

It’s time to retire from traditional filing systems and embrace the future of document management. DMS solutions have become a critical aspect of business operations in the digital age, where information is power.

In fact, projections indicate that the global document management system market size will rapidly grow, expanding from $7.16 billion in 2024 to $24.91 billion by 2032 at a CAGR of 16.9%, reflecting the increasing importance of these systems.

The right DMS can streamline processes, improve collaboration, maintain compliance, and boost productivity. A well-designed DMS can control the chaos of information overload with centralized storage, robust security, and powerful automation capabilities.

As your business grows, keep reassessing your strategies and exploring ways to improve document management practices. Take advantage of the latest technologies and get guidance from industry experts to stay ahead of the curve. Invest in a DMS today and position your business for long-term success in the information age.

Picture of Associate Content Marketing Manager Ray Waldron set against a lochinvar background
Written By: Ray Waldron

Ray Waldron is an Associate Content Marketing Manager at Quickbase.