Awareness about electronic document management has increased over the last few years, but people are still not clear on many aspects of it. They often confuse it with file management, enterprise content management (of which document management is a subset), records management etc. Today, I’m looking to bust five myths about document management, with a special focus on small businesses.
Myth # 1: I have Windows file management and so do not need a separate document management system.
Reality: Windows Explorer sure helps you manage files, but it is a basic tool, largely restricted to storing files in a hierarchy of folders. On the other hand, a good document management system will allow you to store custom metadata based on the type of document and your organization’s unique requirements. So with each scanned image of an invoice, you could choose to store the Invoice date, Invoice Amount, Company, Status (Paid/Unpaid) etc. This significantly increases the numbers of ways you can search for and group documents. In addition to this, document management systems will often allow you to create links between documents, annotate documents (e.g. add highlights or stamps) and share documents with controlled access (e.g. user can view but not modify). As you can see, this is a lot more than what your operating system offers.
Myth # 2: Small businesses do not need document management.
Reality: Nothing could be further from the truth. Small business owners operate with resource constraints and therefore they often cannot employ staff to handle their routine paperwork, punch and file documents, search and retrieve them and file them back once reviewed. Already constrained employees of a small business lose further by performing the above tasks rather than the tasks they have been hired to do. Having a good document management system ensures that employees have all documents available at a click of the mouse.
Myth # 3: Document management is too complex to implement for a small business.
Reality: As a small business, you basically need to know your firm’s document management requirements. Once this has been determined, there are solutions available which are very easy to implement. The best way to implement the solution is to roll it out in one section of your organization to start with (e.g. managing just the invoices you send and receive). Conduct a review after a month or two and see to what extent it has improved the efficiency of your staff in managing documents. Once you have seen the gains in one section, you can extend the solution to the rest of the organization. Care must be taken that the solution has the following properties: simple user interface, easy to install and configure, a comprehensive user manual and technical support available via email or phone.
Myth # 4: Document management is expensive for small businesses.
Reality: Small businesses may not need advanced, complex features that large enterprises typically require. Also, the number of users who would work on the software is likely to be smaller than for larger organizations. There are document management software solutions available which are cost-effective for small businesses. Not only this, switching to electronic document management helps reduce your consumption of paper and other office supplies, thereby reducing your recurring expenses substantially. In fact, when you calculate the Return on Investment (ROI) on a small business document management system, you would find that investing in one would actually prove to be one of the most business-profitable decisions your firm could make for its medium to long term growth.
Myth # 5: I can destroy my paper based documents once the document management system is in place.
Reality: So you decide to get a DMS for your small business. Congrats! But don’t run for the shredder yet! You many need to retain many of those documents in paper form. Divide your paper based documents into 3 groups:
- Those that are required to be in paper form by law; e.g. physically signed contracts
- Documents you may still need in paper form for your routine business operations
- Those documents that you will definitely not need any longer in paper form.
Of these 3 groups, you can grab only the last group of documents and head for the shredder. As the months and years go by, documents in the second and third groups too will come up for possible destruction, taking you closer to achieving a paperless office.