Electronic Document Management Fundamentals

Managing business content is as important to an organization's viability as managing one's food supply is to human sustenance. In both cases, ignoring the basics can have dire consequences.

Maslow showed us that basic human needs must be met before we can concentrate on fulfilling our individual potential. To thrive and grow, we need reliable access to quality food that is safe.

We won't tolerate spoilage, broken product seals, or foods with expired dates. Stores with frustratingly empty shelves or hard-to-find goods lose our business.

Shouldn't we demand the same standards for our business-critical documents, since they are the foundation of our business knowledge and relationships? Documents must be readable, accurate, and tamperproof. Employees must be able to find information pertinent to assigned tasks quickly, without wading through irrelevant material.

The exponential growth of digital business content - including email1 - makes centralization and organization vital. If you're searching for an electronic document management (EDM) solution, it must be built on a solid foundation. Whether you're implementing for the first time or entertaining replacement, compromising on the fundamentals can lead to exasperating implementations and disappointing results.

Make sure your system addresses:

1. Ease of Use

Even the best options can fail if they're challenging to use. Employees - especially workers who haven't fully embraced digital document management - benefit from systems that guide them through each step of capturing, indexing, accessing, and managing information.

To ensure ease of adoption, ask:

Electronic Document Management

  • Does the software have a user friendly interface with customizable work spaces that maximize individual productivity?
  • Is the software browser-based so employees can access work and information securely over the Internet, remotely?
  • Is there single sign-on for all functionality so users don't have to keep logging on or remembering multiple passwords?
  • Are there easy-to-understand tool tips and help functions to guide users every step of the way as they scan, index, search, and work with digital files?
  • Are online user guides accessible to help minimize technical support?
  • Are web services integration tools available to add behind-the-scenes functionality to the software applications employees use daily?
  • Does the vendor offer appropriate end-user training?

2. Security

Security risks related to changing regulations, poor or inconsistently communicated policies, and at-risk employees are minimized with EDM. Configurable software lets you update permissions as regulations or policies change, knowing they will be enforced immediately.

Assigning new job roles or responsibilities can trigger amended authorizations for individuals requesting to search for, access, view, annotate, edit, approve, sign, or otherwise interact with files.

EDM eliminates the risk of compromised security at communal printers, meeting rooms and off-site meetings. It also protects companies from workers who don't differentiate between public and confidential information. From the moment documents are scanned (or imported from legacy or line-ofbusiness software), permission-based access ensures they are available only to authorized personnel.

3. Searchable Content

Statistics show organizations lose 7.5% of their documents; an additional 3% are misfiled.1 As electronic documentation grows the risk continues unabated, since digital documents are twice as likely to be unmanaged as paper records.2 Yet with EDM, the loss figure can and should be a zero percent loss. Scanning or importing files into EDM at the point of receipt or creation, and indexing documents thoroughly using classification criteria your users understand, dramatically simplifies search.

  • Successful search depends on logical, thorough, and consistent indexing:
  • Are there customizable drop-down menus to make indexing easy and consistent?
  • Are customizable search templates available to standardize search methodology within our organization and make it easier to find documents in a flash?
  • Are full-text and/or enterprise search options included to maximize performance?

Talk with potential vendors' clients. If the EDM software performs well, customers should verify excellent performance in locating information quickly. Digital documents are only an improvement when they can be found by authorized persons quickly, whenever they're needed. Occasional file loss is not acceptable.

4. Scalability for Current and Future Needs

Your needs today may look different in a year or two. Organizations that convert to digital document management are increasingly trying to bridge gaps in data content between multiple business areas.3 Maybe your greatest need today is in accounts receivable or human resources, but the greatest long-term ROI emerges when you can leverage EDM and the information stored within it across your enterprise, wherever it's useful.

Ask yourself:

  • Which types of information are replicated in multiple systems across our enterprise? Which information can be reused?
  • How much will we grow in 3 years? 5? 10? Will the EDM system be sufficient for our needs?
  • What are the vendor's integration capabilities? Are professional services available, or must we struggle alone?

5. Document Retention/Records Management Needs

When regulations require files to be kept but they're no longer needed for daily business, they should be stored separately. Risk increases if required documentation can't be located on demand and also when sensitive files aren't destroyed on schedule. Typically kept in less accessible storage areas, retrieving archived paper documents is cumbersome and costly. By using retention information about each document type, EDM can schedule appropriate migration, purging, or destruction of files.

Enabling desktop access to long-term files that are still subject to recall and eliminating irrelevant documents from current storage makes searching easier and more cost efficient. Make sure your retention needs are addressed.

6. Email Storage

An extensive study indicates companies are focusing increasingly on email management.4 It also reveals current business practices are pretty risky. Only 19% of companies surveyed capture important emails to a content management or email management system; nearly half store emails in non-shared personal Outlook folders.

Insufficient email management severely impedes productivity when employees leave and vital information is trapped in personal Outlook folders. Business-critical information buried in messages and attachments that can't be located on demand compounds corporate risk, especially since electronically stored data (ESI) is now legally discoverable as evidence. Make sure your solution includes an email management component that sufficiently indexes, archives, and searches messages and attachments. Considering the amount of business conducted via email, it's crucial.

7. Ease of Administration and Support

  • Migrating to electronic records is a major undertaking for IT staff. It's not just a once-and-done project:
  • Hierarchies change; employees come and go. File access rules must be adjusted.
  • New and amended regulations require system updates so rules are enforced.
  • Integrations of EDM with line-of-business and legacy software require support.
  • New functionality may be added as your organization grows; it must be managed.

Have you considered:

  • Centralized administration of EDM simplifies management significantly for system administrators? Rather than requiring multiple updates every time changes are made, each update is effective for all components of a suite. This allows quicker project rollouts and upgrades, simplifies changes, and accelerates ROI.
  • Whether the software is user friendly? Tool tips and helpful online guidelines reduce costs by enabling self-serve support.
  • Browser-based EDM that lets your administrator access your system and provide support remotely as it's needed? Avoid costly waits and downtime.
  • Quality, timely content, every time.

As you search for an EDM system to satisfy daily business needs, don't settle for anything that could jeopardize the integrity and usability of your information.

Make sure your workers have instant and appropriate access to secure, accurate, searchable, and manageable content and a system that is easy to administer over the long haul.

You'll be poised to rise above your daily challenges, ready to focus on reaching your potential.

Share this Article:


By using this site you agree to our use of cookies.