Document Management Best Practices

7 Essential Document Management Best Practices

By Mary Williams • March 5, 2018 at 3:00 AM

When you’re thinking about how to implement digital document management for your organization — or how to enhance your existing system — focusing on the right aspects results in a more effective, successful solution. But where do you start?

How To Apply Best Practices In Your Business

  1. Set goals and key metrics for document management: Many companies decide to implement a document management system, but don’t take the time to set goals for what they want to achieve and determine how to measure their progress. Document management systems have lots of business applications, so it’s important to be specific. Are you trying to help users find documents more quickly? Save on document storage costs? Improve collaboration? Before you implement your document management solution, you also need to specify the metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that will measure progress toward those goals, and set a baseline with your existing system. For example, perhaps it takes 10 minutes to process an invoice with your existing system, but only two minutes after using the new system for three months. Sharing these measurable successes within the organization is a great way to encourage adoption as you move forward.
  2. Prioritize business processes and systems to automate: A major benefit of digital document management is the ability to automate processes in ways that reduce the time and effort for your users. To improve efficiency, you want users to get into the system, get what they need and get out with as few clicks and steps as possible. Make sure that you prioritize automation efforts to focus on processes that are most important to the business and in line with your goals for the document management system, such as speeding up an important process, improving customer response times or leveraging accounting systems to capture early payment discounts. For example, a manufacturer decided to use document management to respond more quickly when customers inquired about the technical details for their orders. Prior to automating this process, the average response time was 6 to 10 hours, depending on whether the order was stored onsite or had to be retrieved from an offsite storage location. After automating with digital document management, the manufacturer reduced the average response time to less than 30 seconds.
  3. Consider additional automation opportunities: Document management has the ability to automate numerous functions, integrating workflows and data capture with databases, applications and notifications. By automating how you capture documents, it’s possible to gather information and make the contents searchable, using workflows to intelligently detect the document type and automatically route it to the right people in the organization. If the document needs approval from multiple people, automated workflows streamline the process of gathering those approvals, reducing user effort and maximizing the value of the document management system.
  4. Capture content close to the point of origin: Your system should be able to capture electronic records without the need to print a document and scan it into the system. Capturing your content as close to the source as possible increases efficiency by eliminating unnecessary steps and improving data quality. Virtual printers and electronic forms help you to automatically extract data from a document, reducing manual data entry.
  5. Improve on paper-based processes, instead of emulating them: Many organizations make the mistake of trying to replicate their paper-based processes in a digital context, instead of using the new process to eliminate inefficient steps. When you’re setting up digital processes, ask why you followed a certain procedure in the past, and whether those steps are necessary in this new context. For example, a state government agency wanted to convert its purchasing approval process into a digital workflow. At first, it replicated the paper-based process, which relied on the comptroller’s assistant to collect and route approvals at every stage. By building its business rules into the document management system, the agency was able to route invoices for approvals without the need for a gatekeeper at every step.
  6. Align indexing with business needs: In general, indexing digital documents helps to process the data and retrieve documents later. Make sure that the indexing system you use matches your business needs, instead of gathering lots of extra data that’s not being used. Too many index fields make it unnecessarily difficult to capture documents without adding to their usefulness, especially when this information must be entered manually.
  7. Keep the user interface simple: Document management systems are designed to solve many different problems, but all of the features don’t need to show up on every user’s screen. A good system should allow administrators and users to show only the most useful elements for a specific user. Simplifying the interface makes it easier for a person to accomplish their tasks without confusing or overwhelming them with details that aren’t relevant.

If you want to get the most from a new system, or to make your existing platform more effective, these document management best practices aren’t just options — they’re essential.

Editor's note: This post has been updated for accuracy and new content has been added. 

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Topics: Workflow, Team Productivity, Enterprise Content Management

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