Enterprise Document Management: Strategies for Efficiency

April 19, 2024
10 min read

Finding information for projects, reports, and compliance audits is challenging when your documents are stored in separate platforms, hidden in email inboxes, or sequestered in filing cabinets. The problem compounds at the enterprise level, where documentation is more extensive and data more complex.

With hundreds (or thousands) of employees transferring data and sharing project details every day, it's easy for important information to get lost, miscopied, or sent to the wrong person. The resulting confusion and bottlenecks impact efficiency and threaten data security.

An enterprise document management system (EDMS) provides a centralized digital solution for document creation, organization, revision, storage, and retrieval. Upgrading your document management process streamlines workflows and enables your enterprise teams to get important work done faster.

Why are enterprise document management systems important?

Document management puts a significant strain on enterprise resources. According to FinancesOnline:

  • 86% of employees have problems searching for office files

  • 83% of employees re-create documents they can't find

  • 50% of workers' time is spent on document preparation or creation

  • 21% of productivity is lost to document problems every day

Part of the problem lies in a disconnected approach to document creation and storage. Many enterprises still split documents between paper and electronic files or use a hodgepodge of digital applications. This creates an inefficient, confusing, error-prone system that requires time-intensive manual processes to locate and share data.

As employees copy information from one location to another, mistakes can compromise data accuracy. Security also becomes an issue, particularly when remote workers use computers or networks without sufficient protection against cyberattacks. Without a way to monitor documents across the enterprise, you might not notice an error or compromised document until it becomes a problem.

Implementing an EDMS brings all your enterprise documents together in a single database and introduces automations that streamline creation, collaboration, and approvals. Encryption algorithms and permission controls protect documents from unauthorized access, and tracking tools provide the oversight you need to maintain compliance.

Key features of enterprise document management software

The basic components of an EDMS create an organized environment for document management and form a foundation for efficiency, productivity, and data integrity.

Document storage and retrieval

As the backbone of EDMS software, storage and retrieval features provide:

  • A centralized source of information. Documents from every department live inside the EDMS, so employees know exactly where to find critical data.

  • Easy search. Keyword and full-text search options enable employees to quickly retrieve necessary documents. Metadata enables filtering by attributes like topic, date, department, project, or author.

  • Scalability. Flexible cloud-based storage can be scaled up or down as needed to handle changes in document volume.

  • Reliable data. Centralized storage automatically syncs document and data updates to minimize delays and maintain current, accurate records.

Integration capabilities

Integrations connect other enterprise solutions with the document management system to:

  • Automate document and data transfer. Email attachments, invoices, Google Docs, spreadsheets, and data from software platforms like CRM and ERP are recorded in the system without the need for manual input.

  • Analyze data and create new documents. Some EDMS solutions can detect key information from across platforms, including email threads, and pull it into the system for verification. Verified data instantly becomes a new document—instead of staying buried in someone's inbox.

Access control and security

Maintaining compliance requires detailed tracking and monitoring, so EDMS software includes security features that:

  • Control document access. Granular controls grant or restrict permissions based on roles and access requirements. Additional options like password protection and two-factor authentication reduce the risk of accidental or intentional data compromise.

  • Protect against cyberattacks. Encryption protects documents during storage, transit, and use. Firewalls and intrusion detection systems monitor network traffic to identify potential threats and restrict suspicious access attempts.

  • Track document activity and prevent data loss. Version control creates a record of document access, edits, and shares. Previous versions can be reviewed for unauthorized changes and restored as necessary to maintain data integrity. Offsite file storage and automatic backups ensure documents are always retrievable.

Collaboration and sharing

Remote and hybrid workforces benefit from features that allow them to:

  • Collaborate and communicate in one place. Employees can work and comment on documents in the EDMS instead of switching between applications. Sharing, messaging, and automated alerts streamline workflows and shorten timelines between editing, review, and approval.

  • Access up-to-date data from any device. Data automatically syncs across devices to provide remote employees and field teams with the same information as their colleagues in the office. Fast access to updated data moves projects forward without delays.

What are the benefits of implementing an enterprise document management system?

Centralizing your document management solution helps you develop business processes that address key enterprise data challenges.

Improved efficiency and productivity

When employees have to stop and look for documents, it interrupts their concentration and takes them away from productive work. If a document can't be found, they may have to spend additional time messaging colleagues for missing information and attempting to re-create the original.

Bottlenecks can also occur after submitting documents or edits for approval. Projects can't move forward until someone reviews submissions or provides a signature. Errors in data transfer could require further edits that prolong the approval process.

An EDMS streamlines workflows and simplifies administrative tasks so employees can retrieve the information and receive the approvals they need to continue working without delays.

Better collaboration and communication

When documents are stored across multiple platforms and communication largely occurs through email, information is likely to get lost or buried, and key team members may be left out of the loop.

Enterprise document management software enables colleagues to send messages, receive alerts, and track document changes all in one place. Document sharing and customizable access permissions ensure all stakeholders can view, edit, or comment on documents as needed.

Enhanced security and compliance

Regulatory compliance can be complex at the enterprise level. To support your compliance efforts, your data security measures must protect against external and internal threats like breaches, theft, and loss.

Tagging features within document management software allow you to categorize documents by sensitivity level and assign permissions that limit employees to the minimum access level necessary for their roles. Encryption, firewalls, and intrusion detection offer additional layers of security that minimize the risk of data compromise.

Tracking tools record every interaction to create detailed records that support compliance efforts. In the event of a compliance audit, these records show your commitment to security and demonstrate adherence to regulations.

How to choose the right enterprise document management software

When you're ready to evaluate solutions to manage your diverse information resources, consider these key points:

  • Your business needs. Audit your current system to identify inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and potential security issues. Determine what features and integrations are required to streamline processes and support compliance.

  • Security features. Evaluate encryption, access control, and other security options in light of compliance requirements and the types of attacks that pose the highest risk to businesses in your industry.

  • Vendor history. Check vendors' track records for previous data breaches and other potential red flags. Read user reviews and Reddit threads to get an idea of other business owners' experiences with different platforms.

  • User-friendliness and customer support. Look for an intuitive interface and simple controls to minimize onboarding time and support widespread platform adoption. Ensure customer support is always available when needed, particularly if you have employees in multiple time zones.

  • Price. Compare prices to what you currently pay for document management tools—and consider how much you can save with a new system that improves productivity. Choose a platform that has the potential to generate the highest ROI.

Successfully implement your enterprise document management system with these best practices

Once you settle on a platform to manage your documents, it's important to do a test run to try out the tools and features. This allows you to address problems on a small scale and anticipate issues that may arise during implementation. If everything checks out, you're ready to move forward with data migration, user training, and a maintenance plan.

Data migration

To move documents from your current system to a new EDMS:

  • Set a migration timeline and alert staff and stakeholders to any potential downtime

  • Evaluate data for accuracy, duplicates, and missing information

  • Update or delete documents as needed

  • Perform a complete data backup

  • Set up integrations to import documents from existing systems

  • Migrate a small batch of data to confirm the process works

  • Migrate your remaining documents

After migration, review the data to ensure that all documents were transferred successfully. Add metadata as needed to organize the new system.

Training and user adoption

Onboarding enables employees to take full advantage of EDMS productivity features. A solid onboarding plan should include:

  • Clear goals for skill development and platform proficiency

  • Self-service training options like videos, webinars, or mini-courses

  • Department- or role-specific training paths

  • Compliance training

  • Ongoing support to address new features, company policy updates, and regulatory changes

Track onboarded employees' activity in the EDMS to monitor platform adoption. Slow or incomplete adoption could indicate problems with the onboarding program or system features that need to be addressed.

Ongoing maintenance

Maintenance is crucial to keeping your document management system organized and functional. Take a proactive approach by:

  • Leveraging automations to categorize and tag new documents

  • Regularly auditing security settings and access permissions

  • Revoking or changing access as needed to maintain data security

  • Deleting or archiving documents you no longer need

  • Reviewing procedures to ensure compliance

Following these steps minimizes the risk of redundancy, errors, and data breaches and ensures employees always have appropriate access to relevant documents.

Current and future trends in enterprise document management

Systems continue to update and evolve as enterprise document management becomes more complex. Two major shifts have already begun to reshape how EDMS solutions work:

  • AI and machine learning. New AI tools can analyze documents, organize them by topic, and mark potentially sensitive information for review. Data extraction capabilities pull unstructured data like names, financial figures, and project information from emails and relevant documents into the EDMS to minimize the risk of data transfer errors. When you need quick answers, AI can rapidly identify and summarize key details from your documents.

  • Cloud-based solutions. On-premise systems require physical storage space and don't allow remote data access. Solutions hosted in the cloud eliminate onsite storage needs and enable 24/7 data access from any device. Vendors protect data with regular security updates, system maintenance, and backups. Cloud-based systems can also integrate with other cloud software to create robust data solutions that aren't possible with legacy systems.

Optimize your enterprise with better document management

An enterprise document management system combines critical data in one platform so employees no longer need to hunt for information across multiple applications. Search and collaboration tools prevent bottlenecks and improve efficiency so projects can continue on schedule.

Moving from disconnected legacy systems to secure cloud-based document management supports compliance with encryption and access control. Detailed access tracking and version control provides full visibility into document activity so you can be sure information is accurate and employees are following compliance regulations.

The path to a new document management process starts with planning and evaluating available solutions. Consider how a change in approach can support efficiency in your enterprise, and look for a tool that equips your teams to work better.