The strategic approach to document management

Alison Jackson explains why switching from a filing cabinet to a document management system needn't be the nightmare many small business owners expect.

Even thinking about changing from a tradition paper-based filing cabinet document management process to one of the latest electronic or cloud-based systems is enough to make some small business owners break into a cold sweat.

Instead of appreciating that document management software is designed to dramatically improve the way the modern business operates, the first questions are invariably the maintenance, the support, the security, the loss of documents, the costs and then there’s the licensing.

Underlying these questions, I have learned from experience, that what they really mean is we have so many old-fashioned processes ranging from paper to islands of electronic files, lying all over the business… where do we start?

In this article I would like to address and bin all the barriers small and medium-sized enterprises may have towards migrating to one of the new generations of fast, efficient, secure, productive and accessible ‘anywhere anytime’ document management systems.

I will not be asking you to re-write the office manual, but I will be asking you to start with a new approach, namely, ‘We know we need to gain control over documentation, the question is how’.

Through my work helping companies move from traditional document management processes to electronic systems, I have developed a systematic approach that compels companies to adopt a strategic methodology. I call it the VIRTUAL approach.

V is for Vision:

The organisation must have a clear plan and path for success. The plan must ensure be well devised, well communicated and well executed. It must assure full compliance and business continuity while meeting the requirements of all stakeholders while improving every aspect of document management. It must know where the business is going and the role that effective document management will play.

I cannot stress this aspect enough. Pre-migration planning is essential. You need to understand your organisation and how it 
works, knowing what should be moved and when, so that you can ensure the migration will have zero impact on operations. A detailed assessment will look at your technology in conjunction with your business objectives so that the document process will satisfy your business needs, particularly important 
in today’s environment.

Before you actually begin the migration, make sure that you are Prepared – and that everyone in the organisation is prepared. You don’t want any surprises, and neither do your users or customers. After all, an unsuccessful migration is not an option.

I is for Implementation:

This starts with a complete content inventory, where documents/data is stored, in what format, ie spreadsheets, PDFs, paper for scanning, where used and by whom. Understand the access security and the need for version updates. How far back do we store. Your plan should now be taking shape.

R is for Requirements:

Number of people with access. Security. Need to add attachments/thumbnails for quick reference/searchability. Secure filing / signatures. Email filing / reference. Legal / compliance requirements. You should now have a profile for your virtual filing cabinet.

T is for Test:

Revisit every aspect of your plan. Ensure it is scaleable to allow for growth. Is there back up in case of system failure. What level of training will my team need? Do I need to generate reports? Will I need global access 24/7? What about mobile working. It your plan is fit for purpose, promote the benefits to staff and customers.

U is for Understand:

Make sure everyone understands what is going on. How long any transition will take, but more important, the benefits. Identify what systems are on the market and understand how they could meet your requirements. Understand the costs involved, the levels of support/ training and back up. Make sure potential suppliers invest in product development. Check out cloud options. Make sure your final selection does what it says on the box. If you have applied half of the above you will have a good chance of success. Make sure you choose the right partner.


L is Launch:

Final thoughts. While migrating to a document management system may seen daunting, it can be very straight forward with the right approach and the right partner. My VIRTUAL approach is an effective strategic process that removes most of the doubts. As Michelle Obama said, ‘You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.’

Further reading on technology in business

Alison Jackson

Alison Jackson

Alison is founder of Lindenhouse software, a document management provider in the UK to the SME marketplace.

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Computer & IT Business

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