Effective document management is not just about having the right software (although this is extremely important) – it is also about having the right processes and procedures in place.
Exercises such as process mapping are a useful starting point, although a thorough review by an independent third party is highly recommended.
Assessing what your processes should be (and therefore what you need to change) will also help you in your selection of document management software.
Whilst every business is unique, there are certain fundamental features that you should look for when evaluating document management software. Set out below is a list of questions you need to ask of any document management software provider.
1. Does the software avoid “locking-up” your electronic files into a database, such that your documents will be available should you stop using the software?
2. Does the software allow you to save and open all types of files?
3. Are you able to easily bring all of your existing files into the software, so that all of your files (existing and new) are stored in the one location from day one?
4. Do you have the ability to show or make available only those standard templates and procedures that have been formally approved for use within your business?
5. Does the software allow you to connect to your existing database of contacts or does it require you to maintain separate databases?
6. Does the software allow you to easily access templates and create documents for your clients or customers? For example, are you able to merge contact information directly into your letters and forms?
7. Does the software enable you to store all of your procedures, standard letters, templates, marketing collateral and training and reference material (your business’ documented knowledge) in a way that is easily searchable by your staff?
8. Are you able to restrict access to particular documents to particular staff members (and hide them from view)?
9. Can you see all of the documents that have been created in your business and the status of each of these? Are you able to tailor the particular status labels?
10. Are you able to save time in new staff member induction processes by having an individual “Procedures Manual” for each role or each person within the business (without the need to duplicate the documents for each person)?
11. Does the software automatically prompt staff to centrally save emails?
12. Does the software allow you to search for documents quickly and easily using different search criteria such as client name, date range, topic, description and key words, as well as using a full text search?
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