Archive for February, 2011
Version control forms an important part of document management. Though extensively used by software developers, many organizations are now using versioning to manage duplicate content and track document changes. Documents such as monthly reports, presentations and new policies undergo several changes before being finalized, creating several versions of a document, each of which may be required at some point. For instance, a monthly report would change every month, however, the reports created in previous months may be required during yearly appraisal of work done.
Document management software provides the version control feature in order to manage, track, store and retrieve different versions of a document. Such a system is usually required when several team members are working on a project, with many making changes to the same document. For instance, a presentation on project development and progress may require inputs from all the team members working on the project. Thus, changes will be made to the same presentation, saved as a different version by each member, and later integrated to make the final presentation by the team leader.
A version control system in digital document management works through the check-in and check-out system. The check-in allows you to save the current version of a document in the central repository and check-out allows you to retrieve current or previous versions of a document. Versioning often involves several steps such as reviewing, editing and modifying before finally being approved. When several people work on the same document, it may result in confusion over the latest version of a document, who made the changes and why, current working version and final approved version. Document management software can be of great help in sorting out such problems. Some benefits of a version control system are:
Ability to return to a previous working version: In case of an error or accidental deletion of a working version of a document, you can return to a previous working version. Many version control systems work by taking a snapshot of changes being made. This way you can check the order in which the changes were made and recreate the current working version.
Track who made the changes: When you know who made the changes, you can seek clarification and approve the document accordingly. This also avoids duplication of content as you know which version was created and updated by whom.
Maintain previous versions: Document management software allows versioning by enabling you to maintain previous versions and create their replacements at the same time. For instance, a mapping company may require older versions of a map before the new version is created and approved.
Maintain record of development process: Progress reports may be required from time to time to apprise the higher management or simply to check it against the designated completion time. Version control in digital document management helps you keep track of progress of a project and how it is being developed.
The version control system in digital document management works by assigning version numbers to the documents, making it easier for the users to keep track. Apart from this, you can also add comments and descriptions so different team members can check the content of a document before retrieving and using them. Version control may be required at some point in document life cycle. Document management system offers a comprehensive solution to managing different versions of a file.
Steve Breault “DocMeister”
Document management has evolved in the past few decades, from records being maintained on registers to the Relational Database Management System and document management software. Information technology has changed the way businesses function today. Most government organizations and industry sectors like engineering, construction, pharmaceutical, manufacturing and banks already have a document management system in place. However, in today’s business environment, every type of organization requires a document management system, no matter what its size or function.
Even if you own a small or mid-sized business, maintenance of different types of records and documents must be of utmost importance. If you are frequently facing problems such as loss of documents, misplaced reports or accidental deletion of records, you definitely require professional document management software. A document management system is not just a software with fancy features. It is a combination of different technologies brought together to provide a sophisticated and comprehensive document management solution. Some technologies used in electronic document management system are:
Automatic data capture or digital imaging: The digital imaging systems in the form of scanners, form recognition packages and character readers convert paper documents into digital documents. Such a system enables employees to capture, store, search, retrieve and share any type of document stored systematically in a digital format. Automatic data capture saves data in two formats, image or PDF which cannot be modified and text format which can be edited. Both formats may be required at some point in time. For example, image format is ideal for invoices coming from outside, as these will not be modified at any stage during processing and archival.
Workflow: Document management software with workflow systems are aimed at automating the business process. Such a system allows a business to define, manage and control the way information moves through various departments or processes. This enables a business to maintain strict quality control, improve customer service and concentrate on business objectives.
Optical storage: Storage in the form of an optical jukebox has become extremely popular in the recent years. It serves as a great option to online storage and enables storage of large volumes of data. So such a system works best for large volumes of video, images or audio files, say in real estate, medical or construction business.
Groupware systems: Groupware systems support more than two users performing the same set of tasks. Such a system provides an interface that can be shared with other users. Some features of groupware systems include bulletin boards, electronic schedulers and discussion databases, all of which can be incorporated into document management software.
Electronic publishing and sharing: Every type of data can be electronically published on a CD or DVD. Apart from this, data can also be shared or distributed via intranet or the World Wide Web through email.
Automatic data capture, storage, automatic indexing, version control, maintenance, security, automatic retention and deletion, are some of the basic features offered by document management software. The type or version of software you choose would depend on the type of business you have. If you have a small business, then document management software with basic functions such as metadata capture, security, version control and storage would suffice. However, for a mid-sized or large business, you may require additional functions such as automatic conversion, free-text search, large storage capacity, networking, and so on.
Apart from being compatible with your existing system of document management, the software you choose must enable you to follow government standards for electronic document management. For instance, public records such as company policy should be easily accessible, whereas confidential documents must have adequate security and access control. With the right type of document management solution you will certainly be able to take care of administrative, technical and legal requirements related to document management.
Steve Breault “DocMeister”
Records management has gained importance in the past few years, especially in view of regulatory compliance introduced by the government. Legal, financial and government organizations are always required to maintain proper records by virtue of their role and task, and have been known to be meticulous with information management. On the other hand, general recordkeeping with corporate and other private entities was not standardized, which is why regulatory norms such as HIPAA have been formulated. In view of this, document management software is something your organization will surely require at some point in time.
Computer systems and digital document management came as something that ‘can be’ used rather than ‘should be’ used. However, with the regulatory compliance issues, recordkeeping and information management requirements have changed. For instance, as per different regulations, any type of information should be accessible, classified appropriately and easily retrievable, whenever needed. Apart from this, no part of any information should be modified without prior permission or authorization. Some ways in which document management can help in recordkeeping are:
Capture records: Records may be in different formats such as documents, blueprints, audio files, photographs, databases and maps. The automatic data capture feature of document management software scans and registers a record using a unique ID along with the time and date when the document was added into the system. Along with this it also captures metadata details such as author, purpose of creation, source and so on.
Audit requirements: Companies are often required to maintain a record of flow of information through different departments. A digital document management system helps keep track of all the processes pertaining to a document. These may include creation, modification, updation, access and distribution of documents. For instance, at any point you can check who accessed which document and with whom was it shared.
Security and control: The main purpose of recordkeeping is that the information should be available whenever needed, making security a top priority. Apart from this, many establishments also look for solutions to problems such as loss of documents, accidental deletion and so on. With document management software you can monitor and control access to various records. For instance, you can have privacy settings such that documents are available on to those departments that need them, while others can only view and read them.
Automate retention and destruction of records: Not all records will be required for long term usage and some may be deleted after a certain period of time. With document management software you can automate the process of storing important records and deleting redundant ones. For instance, once a file has been converted into a new format, those in older formats will not be required anymore and can be deleted.
Store and preserve records: Risk management is one of the most important aspects of recordkeeping. With document management software you can easily backup all types of data for long term use. Apart from this, you can also migrate records to a newer system of hardware and software whenever needed, without loss of critical information.
Records are maintained by different establishments for various purposes ranging from administration and technical reporting to organizational policy. Most businesses require information management for functional purpose such as evidence of work done. A well-organized document management system will surely enable and support your organization’s vision and mission.
Steve Breault “DocMeister”
Technology has changed the way the world functions today. People today want instant solutions to their problems, technical or administrative, and immediate access to information. With most organizations maintaining millions of records in the form of personal information of their clients, financial statements and policies, compliance with HIPAA is one of the biggest concerns.
HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, formulated and enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1996. The act has two parts, Title I and Title II, each stating different regulations to be followed with respect to health records. Title I covers availability, portability and continuity of health insurance coverage in the individual as well as group markets. Title II covers accountability of information so as to avoid fraud and abuse of health insurance coverage. It basically covers the Administrative Simplification and requires maintenance of national standards with regard to digital document management of health related information.
It is a wrong notion that HIPAA is only related to healthcare institutes. The law is applicable for all organizations maintaining health records and health insurance information of their employees or clients. This is where document management software can be of tremendous help. The storage and security features of document management software can help you monitor flow of information, retrieve desired data at any time and regulate access to the records.
The Security Rules under HIPAA was formulated and released for compliance in 2003. The law covered different aspects regarding security of information, including administrative, technical and physical safety standards to be followed when maintaining electronic data. With document management software you can easily take care of all these points and ensure compliance with HIPAA. Ways in which document management software can help are:
Administrative safety standards: The access control and privacy settings of document management software allow you to prevent unauthorized access to all type of information. This ensures that the confidentiality of health related data is maintained at all times. As per HIPAA, information related to health insurance should not be accessed by anyone without prior approval. With a document management system, the flow of documents and information, from creation to storage can be easily tracked. This allows you to monitor changes and check if there was any unapproved access.
Technical safety standards: Digital document management allows you to back up all types of information, thus ensuring retrieval in case the data is accidentally erased or modified. This also ensures data integrity, as the copy of original information is always intact in the form of a backup. As per HIPAA, you are also required to enforce data encryption when it is transferred over open networks. Since data can be shared through email or web-based document management, with a professional document management system, you can be completely sure of security of information.
Physical safety standards: As per HIPAA, the software and hardware used for maintaining health insurance records should be in proper condition and free from frequent breakdowns. With the access control features you can ensure that the information is created, modified, stored or deleted by authorized personnel only. This way the information will be accessed only when needed, resulting in better maintenance of both hardware and software. This will also ensure that any personnel coming for repair or maintenance of hardware and software are unable to access any information.
The implementation of Privacy and Security Rules has changed the way health related information is handled by various organizations. Confidentiality is a major concern of both clients and employees when it comes to their health records. Document management software provides a foolproof way to protect the privacy of all information pertaining to your clients or employees and ensure security at all levels.
Steve Breault “DocMeister”
Quick decision making, increase in amount of data, gaining competitive edge over others and need for risk management are some of the factors influencing businesses to adopt document management systems for day-to-day functioning. Apart from this, increasing need to cut costs and optimizing productivity are some of the challenges that businesses face today. Though most companies and organizations today have switched to digital document management, many are yet to utilize this technology to its full potential.
Some methods such as taking backup on CDs and DVDs, using RDBMS and web-based sharing of documents do work to a limited extent. However, document management software presents a more integrated and holistic approach towards information management. Features such as automatic data capture, indexing, easy search and quick retrieval make document management systems an integrated solution.
Streamlining critical operations and increasing efficiency is vital for a business to grow. Some important functions that document management software must perform are:
· Use automatic data capture tool to import documents into the system
· Store and archive data for use when required
· Index documents for easy and quick retrieval
· Provide tools to distribute and share documents at different levels
· Provide tools to protect documents from unauthorized access
The main aim of document management software for your organization should be to simplify business processes and consequently increase efficiency. Along with this, it should help expedite different procedures, promote greater collaboration within departments or organizations and facilitate compliance with filing norms.
Various surveys and research has shown that, on an average a worker spends approximately 12 minutes in processing a document such as a form or an invoice. Out of these, 9 minutes are spent in looking for related data such as previous records or reports. An office makes approximately 20 copies of a document per day, loses at least 1 document out of 20 and spends close to $250 in searching, reordering or recreating a file. Statistics plainly state that precious time is spent in searching and recreating documents, which can otherwise be utilized to review business goals, increase productivity and concentrate on customer satisfaction. Document management software can help your business in several ways such as:
Save time: Document management system helps you answer critical issues immediately by providing required information instantly. Search and retrieval tools help locate documents quickly, thus decreasing processing time. Along with this, the storage and archival features have completely eliminated the issue of lost documents, thus saving time spent on searching and recreating documents.
Cut costs: With everything saved in a digital format, there is no longer need for filing cabinets. Apart from this, most documents can be shared or distributed over a network, thus reducing the cost of printing documents.
Minimize errors: A document management system works with minimum human intervention, thus decreasing common filing mistakes. The automatic data capture features scans and files document in a user-specified windows folder, eliminating any mistakes that may be caused when filing documents.
Increase collaboration: The system is available centrally and is integrated such that documents can be retrieved by anyone who may require it. This helps organizations work in a coordinated manner. For instance, one department need not wait for another to provide any information as all they need is available through document management system.
With rapidly-changing technology, your clients expect quick solutions to their problems and instant access to any information they want. People today are quick to change their service provider even if smallest of problems are not resolved within a given timeframe. It’s needless to say that your business can only compete with its counterparts when you employ the latest tools and assure customer satisfaction.
Steve Breault “DocMeister”
Document management is one of the primary concerns of any type of organization, be it a law firm, a retail store or a government entity. An organization without a robust document management system in place is sure to face problems such as loss of documents, delayed processing time and lengthy workflow. The result is slow progress of the business and consequently slower returns on investment. In today’s competitive world, a business can only succeed when it has document management software to record its documents and data systematically.
Documents maintained by any organizations are usually of two types, in image format and in file format. Data such as monthly reports, databases and forms are generally in file format and can be modified. However, data such as invoices coming from other organizations and brochures may be required to be scanned and saved in image format. And these cannot be modified. Whether your business is big or small, you may be receiving a large amount of information on daily basis. With document management software you can ensure that all this information flows smoothly and is available when required.
Mismanagement of documents invariably leads to several problems such as time-consuming retrieval system, loss of information, slow productivity and consequently, reduced customer satisfaction. A document management system offers a solution to these problems through document indexing and identification based on date of creation, author, purpose of the data, and so on. Though earlier systems required scanning of paper documents, today’s systems have features such as automatic data capture to scan and save documents in a digital format. In fact, data in the form of text and table files can even be modified and updated regularly.
Some benefits of installing a document management system include:
Prevents loss of information and enables quick and easy retrieval: When data is saved in digital format using automatic data capture, it becomes easier to manage compared to paper documents. A paper file often moves from desk to desk and is very likely to get misplaced. However, such a risk is completely eliminated when documents are in electronic format, which can be easily recovered. In addition to this, automatic data capture requires details such as date of creation, modification and updation, name of author and how the document moved, so it’s easier to keep track of data at all times.
Increased efficiency: Searching for a document in file cabinets is the number one reason for delay in processing time in almost every organization, not matter how efficient their workforce. Even the most qualified engineers, managers or technicians cannot eliminate human error. For instance, a paper document on the wrong desk is very likely to get misplaced and may even end up in the garbage bin! However, with document management software, every document scanned and every piece of information is stored systematically. Information cannot be stored till the time it fulfills all the criteria for its creation and storage, thus eliminating human error to a large extent. For instance, if an employee does not conform to a particular naming convention, the file will simply not be saved.
Increased productivity and ROI: With a professional document management system you can be completely sure of precision in processing of various documents in different stages. Some documents may be moving from one department to the other, finally reaching the higher levels of management. Unlike paper documents, movement of digital information is much faster, as data is integrated, saved centrally and shared electronically. This ensures that less time is consumed in searching, analyzing or even recreating content in any form.
Research has shown that on an average, employees spend about 27 hours per week searching for information. More than 3 hours a week is spent in looking for data that is not there or has been misplaced. Apart from this, more than 3 hours per week is spent in recreating or getting a copy of this lost information. If your knowledge workers have been employed at $15-$20 per hour, you can calculate the loss in business. Document management software almost completely eliminates these issues, providing a robust and foolproof system for creation, storage and retrieval of documents.