By Sean Moening
Jan. 24, 2013
Learning how to harness technology to make your workplace a more efficient, productive and paperless atmosphere can be a daunting task. However, one of the easiest places to start is with how your business handles, stores, and retrieves documents. By beginning the transition away from those bulky, mechanical, file cabinets you will find your documents become more secure and readily available by transitioning into software that stores all of your documents on a server or system of servers. Beyond just storing your documents electronically, a solution such as this often comes with many more powerful features. These include different import methods, searchability, workflow, administrative options and distribution methods.
Depending on the type of software you decide to go with, there are many different ways you can import your documents and get them onto the server. Scanning your files or dragging and dropping them from the browser are two of the most common methods. Other more advanced methods often include being able to capture emails as they come in, direct integration with Microsoft Office, or using submittable forms. Another notable distinction between many types of software is if it can intelligently sort those documents into their rightful files and folders as they are imported with little, or even in some cases, no user involvement.
Once documents are in the system it is important to be able to search for and find them quickly. This can be done by intelligent and efficient search methods or by simply clicking through the appropriate folders. Most types of software allow you to quickly search for a specific field such as the company name, date range, document type, or department and pull up all related documents. Some software types also allow you to search the actual text contained in the file and can pull up any documents that contain a specific word or phrase. These powerful methods that allow you to search for and find the documents you’re looking for all from your computer or mobile device are vastly more efficient than shuffling through a file cabinet.
Workflow is a powerful feature that is available in some form or another in many types of software. What workflow does is allow notifications or documents to be sent to the appropriate user or department as changes or additions are made to a select document or document type. For example, whenever a new payment request comes in from a specific company you can have a notification sent to the person that handles the payments to that customer. By utilizing and integrating powerful features such as workflow you allow your office to become more productive and error free.
The administrative options tend to differ from software to software however; some of the more common and popular ones are approving, assigning, and securing a document. Approval processes can be established so that a document cannot be moved or accessed within the system until the appropriate management person approves of any updates that have been made. This allows for easy double checks within your workplace. Secondly, administration often needs the ability to view documents that require attention and assign them to the appropriate individual’s work queue. This allows for an even and correct distribution of work within a department. Finally, security methods allow admins to limit who can view or change certain document types and management can view the history of the document to see who made what changes and when those occurred. These security methods allow for document control and integrity.
Many document management systems offer various methods of distributing documents to individuals within or outside your organization. This can be as simple as easily emailing or faxing documents from within the software. Alternatively, more advanced methods exist such as allowing guest access into the system to be able to securely view select documents. Distribution can also be automated; for example, sending out the meeting minutes once they are finalized from the meeting to all those that were invited.
As you can see, document management software allows your office to become a more efficient, productive, and paperless business. Often, a complete return on investment can be achieved within a few months to two or three years depending on the scale of your business. Furthermore, document management software allows your company to safeguard itself from document loss in the event of a natural disaster or other unforeseen event. One final thought is that as technology evolves, the workplace becomes more paperless, and software products become more collaborative, it will soon be vital to have software such as this in place and have your employees using it, so why not start making that transition now?
Sean Moening is director of Business Development at the Shumaker Technology Group, www.shumakergroup.com. The Shumaker Group does technology consulting and is a Gold Certified Partner with Ademero and their product Content Central. Moening is based in Lansing, Mich., and can be reached at [email protected].