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Join the information highway

01 Apr 2010

On the one hand, almost all small businesses have at least one multifunction device (MFD) that is capable of printing, copying and scanning. One the other hand, small businesses are asking themselves:

  • Where do we store our documents?
  • How can we find the documents again?
  • How do we ensure our documents are future-proofed?
  • How do we make our data easy for all employees to work with?   Many organisations today store their documents in an electronic form and usually will have the original paper document as well – whether that is filed in a filing cabinet or in a box in a storage facility. The paperless office is not something that many of us have achieved, even though the terminology has been around for some 20 years. Instead, there are two terms that I have used for many years when considering document management: being ‘paper smart’, and aiming for a ‘less papered office’. Today we use more paper than ever. As many of us still prefer to print out a document then read it, we need to aim to be smarter with our paper usage and long-term storage from both the environmental and efficiency perspectives. Why should you recommend that a small business implements a document management system? The usual key driving forces are:

  • Saving time,
  • Increasing profitability,
  • Increasing productivity and efficiency,
  • Increasing communication and collaboration between staff members.   Document management products range from desktop solutions to proprietary archival systems – when a small business is involved, the key to finding and implementing the correct document management system that will address the concerns raised at the beginning of this article, is understanding your clients’ requirements and long-term growth plans, as they will need a product that can grow with their organisation. There are a number of essential components that a document management system should deliver:

  • Usability: This stops any objections to implementation, as it’s easy to use.
  • Capture: Bringing the files together in one central place requires paper to be scanned, existing electronic documents to be recognised, and the ability to convert files to make them unalterable images of original documents.
  • Indexing (categorising) and retrieval: The organisation needs to decide whether full-text indexing is required (ie: whether optical character recognition functionality is required), or if indexing through keywords or indexing by associated document groups will be best.
  • Annotations: This is the ability for users to append or remove information without permanently changing the original document. Electronic post-it notes are a great way to annotate a document.
  • Storage and archiving: This is where issues such as the future legibility must be addressed, as the documents need to be available in years to come.
  • Distribution: This is the ability to access the files and distribute them as required.
  • Workflow: By using workflow modules, you can automate routine tasks and improve efficiency.
  • Security.   I use the term ‘solution sales’ when looking at implementing a document management solution for a client. This means that you look at the larger picture of your customer. Here are some questions you might like to ask:

  • Desktop PCs – do they have enough memory and HDD space to run the system?
  • Server – does the client currently store their documents on individual machines or a server?
  • Backup solution – do they have one? Is it still suitable for the larger number of electronic documents that come with a document management solution? This is a crucial factor as, even when you have nicely organised and retrievable documents, they are not of much use to you if the entire system falls over and a backup is not maintained!   Implementing a document management system requires you to work hand in hand with your client to find the ideal solution for them; one that addresses their core needs and will grow with the business in the future.

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