Archive for December, 2010
Document management refers to the means by which organizations plan, create, organize, control and share information. Businesses today revolve around several types of documents such as charts, memos, reports, orders and spreadsheets. And effective management of these documents is imperative to ensure that your business stays on track. Records are not just the structured data maintained in the databases, but also include other type of files such as presentations, invoices, pamphlets, information brochures, forms, and so on.
Document management software is a computer program that helps in effective management of all type of documents for easy retrieval and storage. It is particularly designed to systematically store data through automatic data capture. Such software is of tremendous help when your business requires maintenance of records in different file formats such as PDF, text, image, sound clips, and so on.
There are several types of document management software available in the market and you would like to choose the one that best suits your organization’s needs. Knowing exactly what type of records and data are required to be maintained for your business is essential for you to select the right software. For instance, what records or documents are you planning to upload on the document management software? Will these be active records maintained by your organization or archival data? How often will you be accessing this data? At what levels will the data be shared? These are some of the questions that need to be answered while choosing and purchasing document management software.
You must also understand what the software does before purchasing. Automatic data capture, forms recognition, PDF creation, version control and document imaging features are some of the functions you must check. For example, you may like to save all the incoming invoices in a database format. The forms recognition feature of document management software helps capture all the required fields on an invoice and save it in a database format on your computer system. Also, same can be saved as an image file by simply scanning and saving using automatic data capture.
Though cost of software and your budget is an important factor, with a little bit of research you will definitely come across affordable options available in the market. Most companies have different versions of the same software so you can choose the one that fits your requirements. For example, if you own a small business, you may require a more affordable version which fulfills minimum requirements for your specific business. Also, some companies allow you to upgrade to a higher version of the software as your business grows and requirements increase.
Records are the most important entity while conducting any type of business. It’s evidence that a transaction has taken place in your company on a particular time and date. These may be required for making important decisions, during an audit, risk analysis and many other critical operations involving your business. To be reliable and authentic, records in any format must be correctly created, controlled and saved for easy retrieval when needed. Document management software provides a robust, affordable solution for maintaining records.
Manual systems probably worked great in the past. However, with the world moving at a fast pace your business needs to keep up with the times. Everything today from banking to education has moved online. Most people today find transactions such as online payment of bills and filling up of forms for a magazine subscription very convenient. At some point you may be faced with a situation where your competitors are succeeding simply because they have a better document management plan.
Installing document management software is an essential part of your business and extremely necessary if you want to stay in the competition. Sooner or later your clients would start demanding faster processing of their transactions. As a result you will require an automated system to take care of creating and maintaining records, while you look after the needs of your clients. Effective implementation of your document management plan is the best way to help your business grow and stay ahead of the competition.
Steve Breault “DocMeister”
All businesses create different types of documents while doing and keeping track of various steps involved in the business. And to organize these documents in an easy to retrieve form, all businesses need to establish some rules and policies about creating and saving these documents. Most small businesses believe that only substantially large organizations require document management software in order to maintain huge amounts of records and files. However, document management is more about streamlining the process of recording and storing the documents needed for smooth functioning of your business, rather than just electronic storage of large quantities of paper files.
As a business entity your organization may be creating several types of documents including invoices, balance sheets, information brochures, payment reminders, spreadsheets, annual or monthly reports and so on. Even if you have a database management system it only helps in maintaining structured data such as short records in the form of customer ID, name, address, order number, and so on.
On the other hand, document management software uses automatic data capture and allows you to save your files in many types of formats. This includes unstructured data such as text, sound or video clips, images, spreadsheets, and so on, thus giving a wider platform for digitizing your current document management system. Document management software can be viewed as an automation tool used to facilitate smooth functioning of your business. When implemented correctly it can increase efficiency, streamline routine work, and analyze and retrieve data more quickly.
Some benefits that document management software offers over traditional filing systems include:
Consistency: A major part of document management for your small or mid-sized business is creation and storage of templates for different types of documents. However, in case there are several people collaborating and updating or reviewing the documents, then you would need a system that ensures consistency and efficiency. Automatic data capture feature of a document management system helps capture relevant data from document, as set by the user, and storing it in appropriate location on the computer. Once a folder has been set, all documents of one type, say invoices, are stored in that folder. This helps in maintaining consistency in storage and retrieval of specific documents. Same is the case with many other procedures carried out using the software.
Storage: This aspect of automatic data capture takes away a big burden of storage space and time involved in keeping paper documents in an organized manner. For instance, you may have a good filing system with an organized referencing style to store all your paper files. However, you can probably imagine the time consumed while looking for a file in case it’s not filed as per the referencing rules of your office. An automated system works almost entirely without any manual intervention, thus tremendously reducing the scope of error while filing.
Retrieval: This is one of the major concerns of all types of businesses including small or mid-sized ones. Most organizations often complain about misplaced or lost documents, simply due to the quantity of documents being received and dispatched on a daily basis. The time lost in looking for documents is one of the major losses that small businesses face. Document management software completely eliminates the chances of loss of information as it uses a robust storage and retrieval system including backup. As almost all documents can be shared electronically, loss of paper file remains of no consequence any more.
Security: Securing a document management system is also a primary concern for small businesses. However, in an electronic system having access control through user names and passwords for employees at different levels, documents can be shared on need-to-know basis. For instance, monthly or yearly reports need not be seen by all employees and can be exclusively shared with higher management only.
Manual systems are fast becoming redundant in the face of growing user demands and higher expectations of clients, brought due to computerization of many systems. As your clients observe other organizations using electronic document management to facilitate faster service for them, they are bound to expect the same level of competence from your business as well. Considering this, installing document management system can help your business become more efficient and quickly comply with the needs of your clients.
Information in any form is the lifeline of any organization, be it in the form of a database or detailed reports. No organization, whether private or government, can run successfully without a robust document management system. Electronic document management generally involves adding and maintaining electronic records in the form of database, reports, scanned documents, and so on. Document management software helps integrate all type of data on one platform and ensures that it is accessible at every level of an organization.
The statistics for United States alone are quite alarming. For instance, an average American employee is estimated to use about one sheet of paper every minute. Also, United States is the world’s largest producer as well as consumer of paper, with Japan running close behind. Paper has historically been the ideal medium to store all types of data including reports, memos, to-do lists, bills, policies, and so on. Though introduction of computerized systems was expected to see a fall in use of paper, the results were exactly opposite. This was because, with electronic data storage, came the ‘necessity’ of printing the data for distribution purposes or for backup.
Document management system is not merely saving information on a computerized system, but integrating it in a way that reduces requirement of printing information on paper. For instance, you may have to disseminate information such as new rules or company policies on regular basis. This would require you to take several prints for each employee or department of your organization. However, by simple use of document management software the same can easily be done electronically, saving millions of sheets of paper every year.
Similarly, routine tasks such as handing out memos and to-do lists can be easily done electronically instead of using paper. Also, you need not take a print every time you need to show a rough copy of a report for approval. Same can be sent electronically and final print taken when it has been accepted by your superior.
There are many such ways in which document management software can be used to reduce consumption of paper in your office. For instance, using automatic data capture, documents such as bills, invoices, brochures, and so on, can be simply scanned and stored in a digital format. These can now be accessed by anyone who needs them, thus saving loads of paper otherwise required to make copies of these documents. Since now the documents have been saved on a computerized system, you need not ask for a copy in case the original is lost.
Going paperless for your office may be just a good business decision for you; however, it is also the best way in which you can reduce use of paper documents in the office. Studies have shown that a cut of just about 10% of paper by businesses around the world can prevent emission of 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gases, which is equal to taking off more than 250,000 vehicles off the road. Imagine, a simple activity of reducing paper consumption in your office can really have a huge impact on saving the environment.
Steve Breault “DocMeister”