Considering the amount of information coming into organizations these days, creating criteria for document management is somewhat of an uphill battle. So, it’s a no-brainer that companies need a document management guide to streamline a document’s journey through the organization.
However, the practice is immensely important since it enhances business processes and saves money by decreasing manual processing time and producing more efficient results.
In this document management guide, you’ll learn everything from basics, such as the types of documents, to advanced management practices, such as document retention policies.
Table of contents
- What are Documents?
- Getting Started with Document Management
- How to Curate an Efficient Document Management System?
- Components of Document Management
- Controlled Documents
- Document Management Systems on the Market
- Taking Document Management further
What are Documents?
Documents are records that store information. They may be textual (letters, spreadsheets, presentations) or media files (still images, audio, and videos).
Documents form an important part of a company because they contain critical information about the business operations, such as legal agreements with customers or suppliers, employee contracts, product descriptions, etc.
Our digital documents we store in computers or servers. They are not in paper format but rather made up of binary code (yes, tech stuff) and stored as an electronic file.
Most documents, nowadays, are in digital formats since digital documents take up less space, are easier to share, and eventually reduce costs.
Digital Documents Formats
We save our digital documents in different formats, depending on their type. Plus, we can convert them from one format to another. Here are some common formats:
- PDF: PDF stands for ‘portable document format’. We use certain programs to read them, such as Adobe Reader. Generally we cannot modify them but you can easily print and share them.
- Word: Microsoft Word files are similar to PDFs except that the receiver can modify them.
- Excel: MS Excel files are used to store spreadsheets and data, which can be saved in .xls (Excel), .xlsx (Open Office format), or .csv (Comma Separated Values) formats. MS Excel file is used for storing and analyzing numerical data such as financial figures or scientific values.
- Powerpoint: MS Powerpoint files are used to combine text, images, and audio-visual materials into a presentation.
- JPG: We use Jay-peg files for storing images.
- HTML: HTML & RTF documents are viewed in an internet browser – like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox without requiring any download or installation of additional software to view the document.
How do we use Documents?
Businesses use documents for different reasons. Here are some of them:
- Information Exchange: Companies or individuals use documents, such as purchase orders, agreements, and contracts to exchange information.
- Confidentiality: Documents, like non-disclosure agreements, help maintain the confidentiality policy of a business.
- Business Planning: The use of a business plan is to describe business goals, get grants, or establish partnerships.
- Employee Management: An employee signs an employee agreement upon their recruitment. These documents inform the employees about their roles in the workplace and help in dispute resolution if there’s a problem.
- Emails: Emails or electronic mail is a document that is sent electronically. It consists of a header, body, and attachments if any. The header contains information such as: To, From, CC, BCC, Date & Time Sent, etc.
- Invoices: Invoices are essentially receipts that indicate the total cost of something you purchased. Businesses get invoices from their vendors for raw materials and other services, such as storage and transportation.
- Business Reports: Business reports show the results of a business operation. We also refer to them as accounting reports, financial reports, and management reports.
- Managerial Reports: Management reports provide the executives in an organization with information about how things are going – like sales and budgets.
- Reporting and Analysis: Business reports help companies to determine the company’s performance and help to implement company changes as required.
Getting Started with Document Management
An important objective of this document management guide is to help organizations get started with document management.
Document Management is an integral component of any business. Thus, all documents in your business need some kind of management to maximize efficiency and productivity.
The purpose of document management is to ensure that all information contained within documents is retained and available for users quickly and efficiently.
What is Document Management?
Document management refers to all aspects of the distribution and storage of business information, whether it’s through email, intranet or extranet, mobile devices, or digital files.
However, through document management, businesses can improve productivity and enhance their customer service levels.
Why Do We Need to Manage Documents?
Document management and retention are a must in every organization. This ensures proper management. This helps to clarify the following:
- everyone knows where the document is,
- which stage of the review process it’s at,
- what the changes are,
- and where is it going after approval.
Companies need to implement solutions for document management that will make it possible to share information across departments with ease.
In doing so, it’s beneficial to migrate your file share to Sharepoint since it improves data management, simplifies business functions, optimizes content delivery, and has certain other benefits, making it the best platform for document management.
What is a Document Management System (DMS)?
With a document management system (DMS) in place, you can organise, store and manage your documents in an efficient way. So what’s the aim? The aim is to reduce costs by eliminating wasted time and allowing more effective communication between staff.
You can integrate your document management with other business systems, making it easier for your business processes to run smoothly. With technological advances, document management is possible through multiple platforms.
We continue with the DMS guide further on, so keep on reading.
Fileshares vs a Document Management System
A file server or fileshare is quite simply a central storage repository where employees can collaborate on files through connected devices via line-of-business applications.
Many employees work on documents that are too large for sending via email. So it’s easier to use a file share to review, revise, or edit a certain document. In doing so, fileshare solutions allow teams to work on a shared document at a certain point in time.
In a file server, the ability to write, read, or edit a document is normally under the control of a permission structure. Often enough the IT department needs to help out.
While file share servers are quite useful, they are not as robust as document management software.
Such software would have more capabilities. Along with supporting storage of documents, document management systems also enable indexing of documents and facilitate digital workflows.
Therefore, they allow easier document retrieval, enhance collaborative opportunities, and offer better disaster recovery. It goes without saying, you need to migrate from your Fileshare.
Here you can catch up on: Reasons to Migrate your File Share.
How to Curate an Efficient Document Management System?
When an organization has to create a document management system, they need to follow a certain plan of action aimed at uncovering their goals and objectives.
After doing this, it’s time to contemplate the benefits of document management in the organization and how it can enhance performance.
Here are some steps to follow:
Identify Your Documents
Start by doing an inventory of the documents and classifying them into different categories such as department, stage of completion, type, or even importance.
Plan Document Management
When planning your document management system, you should determine the rules for the creation of documents. For instance, do you have an in-house style? Check out the template section further down.
What is the procedure for reviewing, sharing, or discarding documents? Also, determine the rules for retrieving and storing documents in the workplace. Check out Governance further down.
Specify Document Sharing Rules
Determining document sharing rules as per your company’s document management guide or plan is very important. You need to decide which documents users can or cannot share in or out of the workplace.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Who can authorize a document share?
- Do employees need the authorization to share certain documents?
- Which documents can employees share externally?
- Who has access to the ‘share’ features in documents?
- Can an employee share certain documents with the whole company or just a specific team?
- Implement the Plan
- Finally, you need to implement this plan according to the level of security required for the documents, the scale of your business, the range of data types, and of course your budget.
Components of Document Management
Businesses have become less hierarchical over the years due to the advent of new technologies and processes that allow for effective collaboration between employees in different departments.
Your document management process must reflect all issues related to task completion, such as timely submittal, approval by appropriate personnel, prompt retrieval by project participants or department heads, along with regular updates on all projects.
Document Lifecycle refers to the process of handling a document as it moves from its inception to the final disposal. Thus, it has different stages at which the document resides with various authorities in the workplace.
The stages include:
- Document Creation: How can we create a document? Which format is it in?
- Review: Which approval workflow does it go through? Who reviews the document?
- Document Storage: After approval, where do we store the document?
- Document Sharing: Who can share the document? Is external sharing allowed?
- Document Deletion or Archival: After a few years, do you delete the document? How long? Which documents do you archive and why? Who authorized this process? Is document renewal necessary every few years?
Employees collaborate on documents and emails to achieve their goals and deadlines. Therefore, document management needs to be easily accessible and secure for employees.
The installation of an electronic document distribution system that allows your staff to collaborate on documents when they are in different locations is vital. This ensures seamless communication between departments. However, some teams may need additional collaboration tools for efficient operations.
MS Teams is good for collaboration. It’s not just for video conferencing. Get your document management system integrated with MS Teams.
Co-authoring refers to the feature that allows users to edit documents concurrently. This is typical for collaboration purposes in the business world. This will enable employees to collaborate and share information much easier and faster.
With co-authoring, you can easily see who is changing what in real-time. Stay up to date! Make sure this feature is enabled.
According to Gartner, it takes workers an average of 18 minutes to find a document. It amounts to a lot of wasted time that could cost your organization a ton of money. That’s one of the many reasons your document management system needs to have reliable search capabilities.
Here are some ways to improve search capabilities in a document management system:
- Tag with Metadata: Tagging the documents with metadata makes it easier to find them using the relevant attributes.
- Verifying Titles: Make sure the document’s title matches the name you’re saving it as.
- Using Document ID: Your organization can have a Document ID system in place that assigns different IDs to documents based on departments, their progress in the workflow, or other factors.
- Search Synonyms: They help users find relevant documents even if they are not typing the exact keywords.
Additional reading: Why you need reliable Search functionality
What is a document management guide, if we don’t mention templates. So here we go.
A document template refers to a pre-created document with some level of formatting. Basically a predefined structure where you can just slot in the missing or variable bits.
For instance, when you are in MS Word or Google Docs, you can choose a Cover letter, invoice, invitation, or business letter template. You just fill in the missing bits and quickly enough it’s ready to go.
Here are a few reasons why you need to use document templates in your workplace:
- Maintain Consistency: As an organization, you can create a template for how your business letter or other documents should look. In this way, there’s a consistency between all documents rather than each employee using their own method.
- Predetermined Formating: A template has pre-set font, line spacing, and other formatting aspects, ensuring document uniformity.
- Saves Time: Document templates also save time since the users do not have to start everything from scratch.
- Branding: Having uniformity in your business documents lays the basis for branding.
- Error Reduction: If employees had to create the layout for an invoice or report every time from scratch, the chances of human error would be quite high. Meanwhile, document templates minimize errors.
Document security is paramount in any organization because it has a direct impact on the integrity of the business. Users prepare, approve, sign and circulate a lot of documents to various departments. All this before you can actually use them. So, you do not want them to land in the wrong hands or appear to unwanted eyes, do you?
Here’s a resource: How to secure documents online
A document retention policy determines how an organization will manage its business records and how long the organization retains the documents.
The retention period can range from days to years and depends on several factors: working hours, financial instruments, activity cycles, regulatory demands, the company’s industry sector, etc. Therefore depending on many factors.
Additional reading: Why are retention policies important.
Workflows are important as they define how documents move throughout your organization. Most likely users will not lose them or someone accidentally deletes them. However, it’s best to use structured workflows to automate processes.
If your Document Management System does not come with ready-to-go workflows, no problem.
Microsoft provides a tool called Power Automate. This forms part of the Microsoft 365 suite. Consider using it, as it is failry easy. You use actions to perform various functions. If you need a much more complex workflow, Nintex is a good option.
Read more on your automating tool: What is Power Automate, your new ultimate automating tool.
Do you have an approval workflow? Chances are, you’ll need digital signatures as part of this workflow. You can use different apps for digital signatures, such as SignNow, Adobe Sign, or DocuSign.
Document management software, easily allows digital signatures as part of the workflow. Some have simple integration functionality while others need a bit more work. This however, will enable all parties involved in the approval process to sign their approvals digitally instead of physically via hardcopy documents.
Finally, here is an overview of document management and everything that is essential.
Additional reading: Essentials for Document Management
We include controlled documents in this Document Management guide, as it forms an integral part of most organizations. So what are they?
Document control involves maintaining a document’s security, regulating its submission, reviewing it, and controlling the versions. Do note there’s a difference between document management and control, although they’re both facets of document maintenance.
Who Uses Controlled Documents?
Companies with sensitive information use controlled documents. These include the following industries:
- Healthcare and Pharmaceutical
- Financial services
- Transportation and logistics
Since these industries are at a higher risk of data breaches, they predominantly use controlled documents. Also, these documents usually have high regulations as a lot is at stake.
But other companies also control some of their sensitive data, such as financial records.
Why are These Different to Other Documents?
Controlled documents are different from other documents due to the added sensitivity and security around them. They have to be created, distributed, reviewed and disposed of in a verifiable and systematic manner.
These documents are only available to certain parties in an organization due to their sensitive nature. For instance, a company merger is a controlled document since it should be not available for editing or reviewing to everyone in the workplace.
Control Document Lifecycle
A controlled document has the following trajectory:
- Creation: Initially, a document is drafted or created.
- Review: The document will undergo review by authorized persons.
- Finalise/Publish: Once it has been reviewed and all parties agree on its finality, the document is published.
- Subsequent Review/Update: Since it’s a regulated document, it has to be updated or reviewed after a certain period, such as 3 or 5 years.
- Archive: Finally, the document is archived and is only made accessible to certain people in the organization.
Additional reading: Document Control vs Document Management
Document Management Systems on the Market
As a DMS guide, here are some popular document management systems organizations can use to streamline their document lifecycles. These are just a few of the many possibilities out there.
Although it has its fair share of pros and cons, the document management system is overall a great tool for organizations to be more productive, manage their file storage requirements, and improve security.
Thus, it’s sufficient for small companies that do not require a lot of functionality. SharePoint is the perfect platform for customizations. So you can easily adapt it to your requirements.
Omnia facilitates centralized handling of document templates and lets you experience a structured document management system. In addition, users can implement controlled life cycles in document management by creating rules about approval, review, archiving, pdf conversions, and more.
The Omnia Document Management System is part of a combined product. So, you get a DMS, an Intranet and a Knowledge Management System all in one product.
Ungoti is an official partner for Omnia. Do contact us for more information or a free demo.
ClickUp allows users to create documents, knowledge bases, or Wikis and share them with custom permissions. Moreover, the document management system allows multi-user editing for enterprise collaboration.
and a few more …
Juro is a document management system that offers collaborative editing, straightforward data retrieval, third-party integration, and seamless document approvals.
Wrike is an online work collaboration and project management platform enabling teams to improve efficiency and speed. Its tools facilitate project planning, workflow streamlining, and communication centralization.
Bynder is a digital asset management platform that allows in-cloud team collaborations and helps maximize the influence of an organization’s marketing assets. Some of its solutions include product line extension, creative automation, and brand pivoting.
LogicalDoc is an enterprise document management system that allows companies to completely eliminate paper from their data collection process. It’s a platform-independent web-based software. You can install it on macOS, Linux, or Windows.
Taking Document Management further
Document Management on Mobile Devices
No document management guide would be complete without discussing mobile solutions. Nowadays, many document management systems have mobile apps, making it easier for organizations to stay connected through their smartphones and tablets.
For instance, LogicalDoc has mobile apps for iPad, iPhones, and Android devices. Similarly, Wrike also has a mobile app for Android devices, allowing your teams to connect on the go.
Cloud-Based Document Management Systems
Document management systems normally live on, on-premise servers or are in the cloud. Owing to the popularity of digital workplaces, cloud-based systems are largely in use.
A cloud-based document management system provides a fully functional document management system without the need to install any application on your computer.
All you need to do is to open a browser window and use the web app from anywhere with Internet connectivity. Cloud computing also comes in handy when a worker has no access to a desktop at all, such as telecommuters or remote workers. Quite a common scenario nowadays, more and more people are working on the go.
Document Management Governance
In simple words, governance means creating a system in which there exists control, so that the system functions correctly. In document management, it refers to an approach for handling the shared resources.
The Governance Plan designates roles and responsibilities to personnel in the workflows and gives them certain rights. Implementing document management governance is important as in its absence, things become unmanageable.
Additional reading: Why is Governance Important.
Document Management and AI
Sure enough, organizations could benefit from AI incorporation.
Here are some ways artificial intelligence can help in document management:
- Automate manual processes, such as categorizing documents and tagging entries
- Speed up business intelligence by finding similar patterns in reports or looking for desired keywords in a plethora of resumes during the recruitment
- Structuring unstructured data by scouring emails and other forms of communication to understand semantics and words, connecting the data with service history and billing to determine who is likely to buy a certain product or service
- Streamline document preparation, such as creating employment contracts for recruits
- Improve document security by flagging sensitive information and detecting unusual requests for this data
Professional document management services, such as Ungoti, come in handy when you don’t have the time or resources to learn everything from scratch and need experts to handle the job.
Ungoti is an example of a document management service provider that plans, implements, migrates, supports, and maintains documents in your workplace.
Hopefully, this document management guide will help you in making the right decisions about document management processes in your organizations.