In any business, silos of information are frequently built based on the type of work being done for each client. These silos are stored in different software packages, making it difficult to find a complete view of each client’s work product without using several different applications. Most of this information is stored as documents.
The business of the future must rely on an electronic document management system (EDMS) to store each client’s information in the most efficient manner possible. A third-party EDMS can also be used to integrate the other line-of-business applications and combine the documents from those into a single information silo.
Efficiency is the watchword for any business in today’s marketplace. With the current economic climate, it is likely your clients are examining all expenses and looking for alternatives or requesting changes. In order to remain competitive, your business must continue providing the same or better level of service with a reduced level of expenses. Simply put, your business must “do more for less.”
There are four ways that an EDMS can improve your business efficiency. An EDMS can:
1. Reduce the labor involved in storing and handling paper documents. This is by far the biggest component of the ROI of an EDMS
2. Reduce the space necessary to store paper documents
3. Increase the ability to comply with appropriate regulations
4. Allow your employees to collaborate and work remotely, thereby decreasing the amount of office space necessary (particularly during the heavy seasonal periods in some industries when temporary employees are needed)
Features of a Good EDMS
Features of a good EDMS
Almost all of the line-of-business applications used by businesses also incorporate some sort of document management system within the confines of the application. The problem, as mentioned previously, is that these document management systems are frequently not able to accommodate all documents the business requires. This becomes a real problem when trying to build a single information source for each client.
The following six features are necessary in any robust document management system:
1. Maintain a repository of electronic documents
2. Provide a mechanism for securing the documents
3. Integrate with other software solutions being used
4. Provide a method for putting the documents into a defined workflow
5. Supply audit data providing the four Ws (Who, What, Where, When)
6. Comply with regulatory requirements (retention, backup, security, etc.)
A worthy goal, and perhaps the number one contributor in making a business more efficient, is to have a single repository that contains all information about a client’s work product. A system such as this would have to integrate successfully with the end product of the other applications being used. There are two integration points for any EDMS. The first is getting documents into the system. The second is retrieving the documents when necessary and as unobtrusively as possible.
A good EDMS will offer a number of document capture solutions (depending on volume) and multiple ways of getting electronic documents into the repository. Most are based on standard Windows techniques such as drag and drop, printing and so on. These methods can be used by any leading application and are very easy to learn and use. Other tools that can be applied when putting documents into the repository include optical character recognition (OCR), bar code reading and full text indexing. These tools make automatic filing and the retrieval of documents much easier.
No matter which method of retrieval is being used, it must also enforce all of the security parameters set for that user. This ensures that sensitive information cannot be viewed without authorization and controls access.
In conclusion, make sure the EDMS selected meets the needs of your business. It must provide a great ROI. It should provide a robust set of features that allow your business to set up the system to meet your needs, not force your business to change the way it does business. The EDMS must integrate with other line-of-business applications so it will be successfully adopted throughout the business. Finally, make sure it’s a system designed and built from the ground up as an EDMS. Don’t accept multiple silos of information in your business as a necessary evil. Find a good comprehensive EDMS solution.
Andrew Bailey is President of Cabinet NG. Andrew has 20 years of experience in the software industry. Previous to Cabinet NG, Andrew was president of WireSpeed Communications Corporation, an early leader in the embedded Linux market that was acquired by Red Hat in June 2000. Andrew remained an executive with Red Hat and led the company’s embedded development team. In 1994, Andrew co-founded and was president at ABR Inc., a hardware development company. Andrew has also worked for a variety of high-tech firms such as Intergraph, Martin Marietta, and Thiokol. Andrew lends his experience and expertise to numerous industry events and publications. Andrew has a B.S. in Computer Science from Tennessee Technological University and a M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Tennessee. He can be reached at [email protected].