Futureproofed document management
Effective document management has the potential to unlock automation and operational excellence for successful and growing businesses. Organisations can’t afford for employees to be spending hours searching for critical documents or fretting over data entry errors. Contracts, invoices, emails, applications, forms and much more need to be accessible at the touch of a button.
Automated document management solutions have the potential to transform organisations, creating a paperless environment with minimum manual tasks and maximum productivity.
And yet in our experience, the conventional approach of saving data on network folder structures or in SharePoint may fall short of meeting the demands of modern content management.
Just as every business has different needs, there is no one-size-fits all document management solution. But how do you choose the right solution - neither over-engineered nor underpowered - and ensure that it will meet your current and potential future needs? The volume of products that exist in the market can make the selection process an even bigger headache.
The answer is to identify your unique considerations for choosing a new or replacement document management solution, in a systematic and objective manner. In this blog we discuss the potential pitfalls of conventional network folder structures, some key considerations with Sharepoint and where to begin when selecting a document management solution.
The benefits of a document management system
Before we start, let’s consider what a high-performing document management system can do for your organisation. Scanning, storing and retrieving are standard document management functions, but a truly effective solution goes far beyond this. Here are some potential benefits of a document management system that go beyond the basics:
- Speeding up approval processes that are slowing down your decision making.
- Eliminating the need for human touchpoints - with high quality automated. intelligent indexing, organisations can accurately capture information at source.
- Enabling effective collaboration on the same document eliminating the frustration of duplicate documents.
- Sharing sensitive documents securely by setting appropriate access permissions so that the right person gets the right information at the right time.
- Facilitating the protection of sensitive data and the meeting of regulatory requirements such as GDPR using automated retention rules.
- Ensuring your data is recoverable in a short timeframe with automatic document back up and recovery as well as providing a cost effective solution for large volumes of data.
- Integrating your document management platform seamlessly with your existing IT systems eliminating data silos and ensuring employees always have access to business-critical information, no matter where it is stored.
The danger of network folder structures
The traditional way to store all forms of digital documents was to create folders and subfolders on network drives, organised by department, client or project. Even today, most data stored in organisations is stored in this way and with the advent of OneDrive, this has become even more pervasive. This approach has many pitfalls:
- Network folders often lead to data fragmentation, making it challenging to locate and manage content effectively and typically multiple copies of the same documents reside in various folders.
- Collaboration within network folders is cumbersome, often resulting in version control challenges which hinders teamwork.
- Network folders lack advanced security features, rendering them susceptible to data breaches and unauthorised access.
- Ensuring compliance with industry regulations is complex with network folders due to the absence of automated compliance tools.
- Network folders struggle to accommodate growing data volumes, and they may become disorganised over time.
- Cost implications where large volumes of data are stored on network drives.
What about SharePoint?
SharePoint was first launched in 2001 and has undergone various transformations over the intervening period. It is, understandably, a popular choice for document management - familiar, intuitive and well-integrated with common office apps.
For certain use cases it can be of benefit to an organisation, especially for collaboration, but unless significant investment is made at the planning stage and in controlling its use, it will be difficult to use and maintain.
Those evaluating Sharepoint as a document management solution need to consider the following:
- SharePoint's extensive features can be intricate and time-consuming unless strong technical expertise is available. Implementing and customising SharePoint often necessitates specialised technical expertise resulting in additional upfront expense.
- Despite its capabilities, SharePoint's interface can overwhelm users unfamiliar with the platform. Unless carefully managed, this can lead to user resistance, hampering adoption and overall efficiency gains.
- Extensive customisation, large data volumes, or inefficient architecture can impact SharePoint's performance, leading to slow loading times and unsatisfactory user experiences.
- SharePoint's search functionality may struggle to efficiently locate specific documents within a vast repository. This can hamper productivity and lead to user frustration.
- Integrating SharePoint with other software or systems can be complex, leading to potential integration and compatibility issues.
Matching export documentation for high value goods
Our client BVLGARI operates a distribution centre that ships and fulfils luxury goods to worldwide buyers. Their manual paperwork process was creating costly errors and delays. We configured a document management solution that automates packing lists, certificates of authenticity, shipping documents and other paperwork, bundling it correctly to match each consignment.
The system checks for and flags missing documents before dispatch, so nothing goes out without all the right export paperwork. This reduced shipping delays and enabled faster order fulfilment, cut paper and printing by 55%, reduced the manual labour requirement and increased customer satisfaction.
Where to start – 5 clear steps
Selecting and deploying a document management solution requires careful consideration and planning. Here are the typical steps we highlight to clients when working with them to identify the best-fit document management solution.
Step 1: Identify data migration challenges upfront
How easy will it be to migrate data from your existing or legacy systems? Will you need to carry out data purge and cleansing work first? Organisations can realise most economic benefit by only digitising data that is needed for future processes.
Step 2: Determine your compliance obligations
What kind of data do you store? What compliance obligations do you need to meet? GDPR or other legislation may require you to tag, redact or delete data in some documents - your data capture and document management solution will need to embrace this.
Step 3: Decide on access rights for retrieval
How sophisticated do you need the rights-based control in your solution to be, to allow different users access to a custom range of assets and protect against unauthorised access? Defining who has access rights and limiting them to the smallest possible numbers is always best for security, particularly if sensitive financial or personal information is involved.
Step 4: Storage requirements
Do you need or prefer on-premise or cloud storage? What type of assets are you storing and what's the volume? There are considerable cost variations associated with each.
Step 5: Secure organisational buy-in
Have you defined your ROI and what you hope to achieve? Are future users involved in system and UI design from the outset? Even after go-live, it’s key for users to receive continual training and support, to ensure that the project is a long-term success.
Sensitive data in document management
We worked with a public sector organisation that holds sensitive records about Irish citizens and facilitates contact between them in controlled circumstances. Data security was particularly important, as the consequences could be severe if records relating to children and family backgrounds were shared inappropriately.
We helped them to set up a registration and search function that carefully and securely compared details and preferences among service users, to make sure that privacy was not breached. No information is shared unless every involved party has consented - there is a clear audit trail to show that the correct checks have been carried out at every stage.
Choosing document management solutions: the bottom line
Looking at the big picture for your organisation is our most important piece of advice. What do you need from your document management solution to support business processes most effectively? How will the solution cater for changes as your organisation scales? Are there added advantages and capabilities that will deliver more value than a simple like for like replacement?
If you'd like some objective support with selection, planning, customisation and deployment, the Inpute team can help. Inpute are experts in intelligent data capture, document management and workflow, with a proven approach to delivering results for some of the best-known organisations in Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe. We're also technology agnostic - if SharePoint is the best solution for you, we'll champion it, but if there's another document management platform that could serve you better, we'll put it in front of you for consideration.
With a systematic approach, you can consider and prioritise all the key factors for your organisation, make a confident selection and clearly articulate the business case.