5 Steps to Effective Document Management

July 11, 2013

While it's common for people to say that you can be more efficient and save space by storing your documents electronically, there are a few steps you need to take to make your document management work for you.   On one hand, it's easy to ask your secretary (should you be fortunate enough to have one), but if she leaves, she is the only one who knew where it was kept.   On the other, papers that are mis-filed may be lost forever.   How often do you go through YOUR files?

1.   Scanning.

Before setting up your storage system, you need to figure out a way to put documents into it.  Not only do you want a way to be able to put documents into your document management system, but you need to do it efficiently.  If you are spending more time scanning everything with a slow, residential class flatbed scanner than you do by storing, filing & retreiving papers, then you aren't getting anywhere! We recommend a Fujitsu SnapScan scanner.   While they are not cheap, they are the most efficient way to scan large numbers of documents.   I used to have one at home AND the office and I sorely miss mine even for home use.   Not only does it scan both sides at once (!), but it comes with Adobe Acrobat (not Reader) so that you can edit and modify the PDF's it creates.   I believe it can also OCR the document so you can search easily as well -- my old one could and I can't imagine that they removed that capability.  Newer ones also have the ability to scan documents and store them on your cloud storage such as Evernote, Dropbox and Google Drive.   In addition, you can have documents scanned and sent to your mobile device. Think through your work processes and figure out:

  1. Who will be scanning documents?
  2. How many & what pieces of equipment do you need?

 

2010-1207-SHPO-1

2010-1207-SHPO-1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2.   Storage Structure & Access

Once you have figured out the who and the how documents will enter your system, you need to figure out how the data can be found and accessed.   As I mentioned above, the SnapScan will OCR your data which means that instead of saving the file as a photo, it recognizes each individual character in the document, making it easily searchable. For this step, you need to think about:

  1. How should the information should be organized?   (How is it stored in your physical storage?  Is that working?)
  2. Who should be able to access which material?   (Should managers be able to access HR records?   Do marketing & PR work together frequently?)

 

Adobe Acrobat Standard Security, How to conver...

Adobe Acrobat Standard Security, How to convert Microsoft Word documents into Adobe FrameMaker (Photo credit: IvanWalsh.com)

3.  Document Management & Security

Not only do you have to consider who should be able to access which files and where they are kept, but there are also issues concerning the documents themselves.   Who should be able to EDIT the files?   Are all files able to be downloaded?    Can you see who did edit a file last?   Who can add documents?   Is that tracked?    And how secure are they, really? Does your document management system let you control those things? 

PBB flowchart Sub

PBB flowchart Sub (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4.    Workflow and Integration

Since most data flows through and is managed by the same group of people, it makes sense to find out all the points of data entering the business and who handles them.   These are the people who should help determine how it may be best to get that data into your document management system.   Not only should it be pinpointed who is responsible for what types of information, but there should also be someone where the buck stops. In addition, it's worth checking into to see how your document management system can integrate with existing systems such as email, fax, point of sale and others. 

5.    Records Retention

Finally, there should be a way to make sure that old data still exists, but sinks to the bottom of the pile.   Do you want to manually archive old information?   Do you want it automatically done on a set of parameters?     What about exceptions?    And how hard is it to get to once it's archived?   There is a lot of planning that goes into having an effective document management system, but once it's set up, you should be able to reap the benefits almost instantly.

Do you have a document management system?

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 Jen Steed writes about technology, travel and more.  You can find her writing for various online and print publications.  To talk to Jen or see all of her articles as they are published, you can follow Jen on .