The rise in remote workforces has prompted many organizations to search for a viable document management system.
But to justify its adoption, an organization must study the DMS tools and ensure that they meet the organization's needs. With more options becoming available due to improved technology and awareness, it can be difficult to know what to look for.
What is a document management system?
Document management systems help teams go beyond the limits of paper-based workflows to bring all their business systems online. They also provide a more structured alternative to simple file management systems that improve security, sharing and connectivity across workflows and applications.
A document is the universal API of business information exchange. Every business document, including invoices, contracts, bills of materials and purchase orders, is packaged into universal-sized pieces of paper. Document management systems bring order and consistency to these manual processes.
Why does an organization need a document management system?
The need of every enterprise is different. Smaller companies might appreciate the opportunity to digitize manual and physical processes. Larger firms may appreciate new capabilities for integrating document data across various customer, financial, legal and compliance workflows more efficiently and with a higher level of granularity. And these more sophisticated capabilities are becoming more accessible and cost-effective thanks to improvements in AI, robotic process automation (RPA) and the cloud.
A document management system is a critical step in automating business processes. Timeshatter, a timeshare negotiations consultancy, turned to a document management system to improve complex workflows around timeshare contracts.
Implementing a document management system helped eliminate human error, according to Timeshatter CEO Brian Donovan. It also improved access and reduced the time spent ruffling through filing cabinets to find documents.
Companies with a high volume of critical documents will likely see the most significant gains from deploying a DMS platform.
Ephesoft, an intelligent document management system vendor, sees significant adoption among financial services companies, healthcare organizations, government agencies, education institutions and manufacturing firms, according to Dave Beery, data science team lead at the company.
Technology driving document management system adoption
Intelligent document processing (IDP) is an emerging capability for further automating DMS capabilities. Key IDP enhancements apply optical character recognition to identify text, AI to interpret the layout and meaning of the text and RPA to automate document workflows. Along with that, the cloud improves document workflows and data exchange with other applications through more sophisticated APIs.
The combination of IDP and cloud can help organizations build more sophisticated AI and machine learning models. For example, financial companies can use IDP to automatically extract more granular data from bank statements, pay stubs, tax documents and other essential documents. This capability leads to more accurate models to predict credit risks, identify fraud and improve planning, said Sam Bobley, CEO and co-founder of Ocrolus, a financial document automation platform.
8 features of a viable document management system
It is important to look for certain document management system tools to determine if a platform is the right choice.
1. Cloud access and permissions
Cloud access is crucial because it allows users to access all documents from any device. It also helps mitigate the risk that data cannot be lost or deleted, while permissions are a great way to enable and restrict document access to different people.
2. Multi-source document input
It is vital to ensure various ways to bring documents into the platform, said Eric McGee, senior network engineer at TRG Datacenters. It's best to ensure that a document management system allows for documents' input through different sources such as email, scanners, apps and bulk uploads, he said. And if it's an essential source in an organization, the organization should investigate how seamlessly it works with the necessary workflows. For example, does email upload require an extra step, or could the accounts receivable team kick off an invoice payment process with a single click, or better yet, no clicks?
3. Document control via version, author and time
Document version control features can help teams coordinate changes for communicating about complex products, particularly in manufacturing, said Maximilian zur Muehlen, business strategy manager at VEM Tooling Group, an injection molding company in China. For example, teams may work on different documents, such as a bill of material or a procurement request. Robust version control features have helped zur Muehlen's team identify and avoid communication hiccups when documents get out of step.
Security should be a top priority in any newly integrated software or technology. Things to look for include in-transit and at-rest encryption, support for role-based access, comprehensive audit trails and revision indexing abilities. These are all valuable for their own sake and to simplify compliance.
5. Intelligent organization
The more documents users add to the database, the more complex, in theory, it becomes to manage. Pay close attention to the tagging, rating and other categorization capabilities as these will help users locate the necessary files more efficiently.
6. Advanced indexing
Research the tools' advanced document indexing capabilities. Proper document indexing improves document retrieval, access controls and reporting. Some of the most popular DMS document indexing features include metadata indexing, content recognition and indexing, version and revision indexing and automatic document numbering.
7. Pull printing
Tightly regulated firms may also want to consider pull printing support, which keeps documents from printing until users have authenticated themselves at the device, suggested Bob Burnett, director of B2B solutions deployment and planning for Brother International Corporation. This protects documents from being taken by unauthorized personnel and can help avoid large crowds around the machine, aiding employees in feeling more comfortable being back in the office after the pandemic.
8. Hyper-automation capabilities
RPA can help automate DMS workflows, but someone has to create the RPA bots manually. Hyper-automation is an emerging capability for automating the process of creating automation. Look for human-in-the-loop capabilities that can "watch" how people process documents. This can accelerate efforts to combine the benefits of AI, RPA and cloud initiatives, Bobley said.