Not sure what to look for in a doc management solution (DMS)? Look no further – well, keep looking – but take this little checklist with you. FYI, the answers from the providers to these questions should be yes. For all of them. Any less and… well, you get the picture.
1. Does the DMS connect directly to your existing client database(s)?
The DMS should connect to your existing client database so that you don’t have an additional database to maintain. Advanced DMS’s can connect to multiple databases for pulling data into letters and reports.
2. Are they document management specialists?
Is the supplier a specialist or is their Document Management module just one module/tab among many, not their core focus? A DMS is a crucial system for a knowledge intensive business such as an accounting firm. It pays to use experts. Does the salesperson actually use the DMS regularly in their everyday work, not including the demo version?
3. Is their DMS based on a zero lock-in design?
Has their DMS been designed with zero lock-in features? The worst kind of lock-in is a DMS that saves the documents and files into its own database. Another type of lock-in is a DMS that saves files with obscure file names that don’t make any sense when viewed in Windows Explorer. In other words, they are making it difficult to stop using their system – they are ‘locking you in’. Such DMS’s increase your firm’s risk, in the medium term should you wish to switch to another DMS in the years to come, and your risk in the short-term is also increased because a system down or ‘go slow’ with their DMS will mean your staff will not be able to access their documents and files.
4. Do they provide a service to include all of your firm’s pre-existing documents into the DMS and is this service provided at a low fixed price?
Most DMS providers will tell you it’s too difficult to incorporate your pre-existing documents into their DMS. They’ll use phrases like “it’s best just to draw a line in the sand” with excuses such as they can’t predict how large or complex a job it will be for them, so they will scare you off the idea by offering to provide the service at an hourly rate with no cap on the number of hours. There is only one DMS provider in Australia—who will do this ‘records cataloguing’ process on a fixed fee basis.
5. Do they offer an integrated content update service that automatically publishes updated templates directly into knowledgebase area of the DMS?
Most providers of best practice templates and standards to the accounting profession rely on you visiting their web site, downloading the new templates, deciding where to save them and what to call them, and then manually importing them into the DMS. It is far more efficient to work with a provider with ‘content push’ technology that automates this download process.
6. Does the DMS integrate with Microsoft Outlook and provide you with an optional prompt for the saving of sent and deleted emails?
An email management system without reminder prompts for saving emails will result in only a small fraction of emails that should be saved, being saved. In line with point 3 earlier regarding zero lock-in, the emails should get saved into a folder structure outside of Outlook, and not into the DMS’s own database. You also should have the flexibility to choose which emails you would like to save to your DMS. For efficiency purposes ensure the DMS automatically selects the Contact during the filing process, by recognising their email address and not having to search to find the Contact. Can you “copy to clipboard” for ease of attaching documents to email replies? Can these be a PDF version of the document? Can documents be emailed internally as a hyperlink with a meaningful title rather than as an attachment?
7. Is the Document Management System designed with the bigger picture of knowledge management in mind?
Document Management—electronic filing and retrieval—is a sub-set of Knowledge Management (KM). KM is about capturing, sharing and leveraging the know-how within your firm about how things are to be done. An effective DMS manages your ‘knowledge documents’ (templates, precedents, procedures, policies, reference material) equally well as it manages your ‘records’ (correspondence, emails, invoices, returns, statements, etc.), plus it provides integration between the two areas with automation of filing protocols. Does the DMS manage internal documents equally well as client-related documents? Does the DMS allow you to control which team members see which documents so that sensitive and confidential documents can be safely saved into the DMS? Does the DMS allow you to archive an entire year’s documents across all clients in one step?
8. Does the DMS come with the option of scanning automation software?
If your firm receives large quantities of correspondence on behalf of clients and you wish to be a ‘less paper office’, scanning automation software is essential. So is a DMS that includes this functionality.
9. Do they offer a Structured Implementation Process and Ongoing Focus Groups?
A DMS supplier should have a structured and proven implementation process, understanding the way in which your firm works. The process should include change management aspects and training for your team, ensuring almost no disruption to your team. The supplier should regularly conduct focus groups to listen to the needs of their clients?
10. Does the provider offer ongoing education and training about all aspects of ‘going paperless’ and running the firm more efficiently?
The DMS is one part of ‘going paperless’. Other aspects include scanning hardware and software, digital signatures, designing Word and Excel templates to more easily facilitate on-screen completion, the use of multiple and/or widescreen monitors to encourage on-screen rather than on-paper work.
11. Is the document search tool lightning fast and easy to use?
Bottom line, if the DMS doesn’t make life easier for your team, they won’t use it, or they will resist using it. The DMS should provide per-keystroke search speed so that it is a quantum leap ahead in terms of speed and ease of use compared with ‘browsing’ through folders. The DMS should be designed so that staff love using it. The DMS search speed should be maintained regardless of the number of documents stored in the DMS. Having documents stored in a database will slow the speed of retrieval as opposed to a database that links to documents. Can the DMS search simultaneously across all clients or is it necessary to first select a client? Does the search enable a full text search of documents, as a secondary search? You do not want a full text search to be the main search method as it will produce too many results.
12. Do you receive the appropriate support, service and a timely response when you contact the Help Desk?
Do you speak with the team members who can actually fix the problem or are you continually passed to another area? Is the organisation renowned for their customer service and responsiveness?