Document Management Best Practices
How to avoid costly mistakes and set yourself up for success.
- Benefits of a document management software.
- Document management best practices.
- Getting started.
Today’s businesses create an enormous volume of documents, making it imperative to use an organized, accessible, and secure document management system.
What is a document management system? Generally speaking, it’s a system used to manage and store business data. It can incorporate any method, including non-technical solutions like filing cabinets. But that’s an old-school approach.
In today’s digital landscape, most companies are looking to go green and paperless by transitioning to document management software.
Implementing a digital approach helps boost productivity, decrease costs, and improve service with quicker document retrieval. Plus, businesses are increasingly concerned about the privacy and security of the critical documents they produce.
In many industries, compliance and risk management play a key role in following document management best practices, which is why they turn to a software solution to better meet regulatory requirements.
Benefits of a Document Management Software
The obvious benefits of document organization itself are the savings in time and money. When you can quickly locate the documents you need and identify the most current version, you increase productivity.
Taking this a step further, when you implement document management software, the benefits of an organized system increase. Take a look:
Moving to a digital format rather than a paper system reduces paper and printing costs—a huge money-saver in its own right. Experts estimate that the typical employee uses 10,000 sheets of paper annually, adding up to about $800 per year between paper and printing costs.
In addition to the cost of paper, ink, and printing supplies, it can be expensive to buy and house paper file storage. For example, a four-draw file cabinet can take up to nine square feet of office space, which might boost your rent by up to $1,500 every year. If your business puts out large volumes of paperwork, you might even need to hire additional administrative staff just to help manage the files.
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Protects the environment
Increasingly more companies are trying to incorporate green practices into their business. Going paperless and storing and managing documents online can save thousands of trees over the lifetime of your business. This also means less paper ends up in the landfill.
Provides a central location
Simple document management begins with keeping all of your documents in one place. Even if you’ve already gone digital with your policies, procedures, and other important documents, you might still be storing and managing them at different locations (such as on various employees’ computers).
This disorganized approach to document management makes it difficult for employees to find the documents they need, resulting in frustration, wasted time, and decreasing productivity.
Simplifies the process
According to a study by IDC, the average employee spends about 30% of their workday looking for information. This cuts into their productivity, pulls them away from projects, and makes it harder to quickly handle customer’s needs or questions.
But when you use a document management software such as PowerDMS, it simplifies the process of creating, updating, and filing your company’s critical documents.
Different company divisions and departments likely will have different document management requirements.
A good document management software gives you the flexibility you need to meet these diverse operational needs, providing blanket access to some documents and limiting access to other files based on a user’s role and/or group you define.
In any business – especially those in highly regulated industries – document management software helps your business stay in compliance.
How? By streamlining document lifecycle management and following best practices. This ensures your documents stay up-to-date and employees have the information they need at their fingertips.
Document Management Best Practices
If you want to avoid costly mistakes and set your business up for success, follow the document management best practices below
Consistent folder and naming conventions
With thousands of files and folders being created throughout a business, it is common to see employees using their own file names and folder structures. They might even have good intentions when naming a file or folder the first time, but then mislabel subsequent ones because they have forgotten the naming structure they originally used.
This disjointed approach to document management can create a major headache when trying to find specific files.
That is why good document management begins with how you name and organize your documents. You might want to create a template to guide employees in how they should structure their document convention. This will provide file structure uniformity and naming consistency throughout your company.
There is no one “right” or “wrong” way to do this, as you need to find what works best for your company. But what you do need to do is establish a naming and organizing convention that you (and your employees) use consistently.
When everyone follows the same format, it is much easier to find the exact document quickly.
Implement version control
Many industries and businesses have retention policies for documents that specify how long the company must maintain a copy of its documents.
A good document management software should help enforce these policies. It should also be able to archive and manage older versions of documents.
What does this mean in terms of document version control best practices? A good software solution takes the guesswork out of policy changes. When it is time to sign a policy, employees can quickly see what content has been added, replaced, or omitted against the previous revision. Plus, when they need to acknowledge the content with a digital signature, it is as easy as typing in a username and password.
This ensures that employees are only ever accessing the most current version, while still allowing administrations to access older versions for their records.
need to do their jobs.
Set up approval workflows
As noted above, one of the key benefits of using document management software is that it simplifies processes and improves company efficiency. Best practices would ensure that your document management system streamlines the process of creating, updating, and filing your company’s critical documents.
You should be able to set up approval workflows, which are pre-defined steps that ensure the right people have reviewed and/or approved documents as necessary. Setting up these approval workflows automates many processes to ensure no one gets skipped and nothing falls through the cracks.
This also provides accountability for completing tasks as assigned, as you can see exactly who is holding up a document or workflow. Automation helps keep employees on track and ensures the proper steps are followed each time.
For some documents you want to be able to track who has seen and acknowledged the contents for compliance and other risk management purposes. Here, best practices involve tracking your documents, managing where they are in their life cycle, and identifying whether they are active, archived, or ready to be purged.
This holds true especially for those high-liability, mission-critical documents, so make sure you can do this right from the document management software.
Without an effective and easily accessible document management system, employees waste valuable work time looking for the most current document they need. Working offsite further compounds the problem.
Best practices mean implementing a document management system that makes document retrieval quick and accurate while also meeting employees’ needs wherever they might be working.
With an increasingly mobile workforce, you need software that is flexible enough to meet the needs of offsite and remote employees. They should not have to be at their desks or connected to the internal network to review a document or be able to access internal documents. Put the documents in their hands, literally, by providing mobile access to the important documents they need to do their jobs.
Convinced that a digital solution to your document management system is the way to go?
Now that you understand the benefits, it’s time to put document management best practices into action in your business. It starts with evaluating your current solution.
Are you following these best practices? Can your existing system handle them? If not, perhaps it’s time to look for a new, more modern solution.
PowerDMS can do all of this and more. Our robust document management software manages policy lifecycle, drives accountability, track revisions easily, and provide secure on-the-go access.