Your Complete Guide to Implementing A Document Management System (DMS)

Document Management

A document management system lets you collect, process, and store your business information on a single platform. You can convert paper documents into electronic data while importing digital documents as they arrive. From there, users can retrieve stored documents from any location — at any time.

Traditional solutions include an imaging component (to capture documents) and a search component (to retrieve indexed information by metadata). More comprehensive content management systems also include features for automated data sharing, mobile access, and collaboration.

Does Your Business Need Document Management Software?

Document management solutions are typically designed for the enterprise. Larger companies process a higher volume of documents and have more complicated workflows. They’re also more likely to have their individual business units spread out across different locations. In these situations, it can be particularly efficient to store and process data on a shared platform.

Smaller companies can also benefit, although simpler solutions can also meet their needs.  For instance, instead of investing in a full-featured document management system, it may be more cost-effective for small businesses to store their files on a shared network drive.

Electronic document management has a place in almost any industry, although the solutions are most commonly found in manufacturing, distribution, and construction. This is because these industries deal with a continuous flow of invoices, purchase orders, contracts, and shipping notifications. Dealing with an array of different documents can make tracking your success a significant challenge. Ultimately, you need to answer a few questions  before you commit to any option, such as:

  • Does my business deal with a high volume of paperwork?
  • Do manual processes slow down my workflow?
  • Are errors from misfiled or lost documents eating into my bottom line?
  • Are there multiple departments in my business that would benefit from increased efficiency?

If the answer to all of these questions is “yes,” a document management system like IntelliChief can help you eliminate inefficiencies, reduce costs, and liberate your employees from spending hours on monotonous tasks.

Choosing a Document Management System

When the time comes to select a document management system for your business, you want to take your time and explore your options to ensure that your solution can help your business succeed now and in the future. Very few document management systems are designed to scale alongside your business to support your ongoing growth objectives, so it is imperative that you take a long, hard look at your options and speak to an expert before settling on a point solution that fails to serve your long-term business interests.

Features and Functions

Many document management tools have comparable core features but vary in extended functionality. Beyond the basic capabilities, you’ll need to decide which features are essential to your business (and those you can live without). Take into account your need for:

  • Simultaneous multi-user access
  • Automatic indexing
  • Version control
  • Role-based access permissions
  • Bulk upload/import capabilities
  • Mobile document access
  • Sensitive data redaction tools
  • Workflow-based document routing
  • Automatic email and/or fax import
  • Third-party software integrations

When creating a list of requirements, keep in mind that more features aren’t always better. If a system is too hard to use, employees may have a hard time with the transition. Intuitive user experiences can go a long way in reducing the new software learning curve. Ideally, when selecting a document management system, you will settle on a user-friendly solution that gives you industry-leading expansion capabilities backed by dynamic, around-the-clock support.

Technical Considerations

Your IT department will play a significant role in helping you select a document management system. They will evaluate:

Server Requirements

Most document management systems require a designated server for the core application and a separate SQL server for the corresponding data. However, you may be able to separate the components based on your company’s IT infrastructure. For instance, you may be able to run multiple virtual servers on a single physical server. This tends to be more cost-effective, although it can place higher performance demands on your physical server.

Document Security 

To protect your digital data, most document storage solutions use a combination of security measures. SSL encryption and active directory authentication are common. In some systems, administrators can redact information as they share and process documents.

When it comes to document management, user access permissions let you control who can access each file. You can assign different settings for parent folders, sub-folders, and individual files. Many document management systems also provide exhaustive records of each user who opens, edits, or shares each document. Your documents are also protected against unexpected disasters that can damage information stored in paper formats.

Integration With Your Current Software Architecture

You can get the most value from your document management system by integrating it with your other business applications. With a fully connected solution, you can share data in real-time across all connected platforms. Why is this important? If your data isn’t shared across all of your applications, you’re simply creating a standalone document repository, which offers significantly less value for your business. Integration also provides the foundation for end-to-end workflow automation.

Some software programs can integrate with popular ERP systems, like Oracle, SAP, and JD Edwards, right out of the box. Other systems require custom coding, which can be expensive, complicated, and time-consuming. If you use more than one ERP across your organization, you’ll want to find a solution that has been designed from the ground up for cross-platform content management.

Price Considerations

When you invest in a document management system, you’ll need to budget for several costs, including: 

  • A one-time software license (your primary up-front expense)
  • Implementation fees (depending on the scope of your project)
  • An annual maintenance fee

The cost can also vary based on how many users you have throughout your organization. Does the solution you’re considering offer concurrent users? Individual licenses per name? Or both? A solution that can be molded to your budget can help you produce significant savings. On the other hand, a poor fit could end up costing you more than you initially expected. 

Service Considerations

Although you’re purchasing a software system, a vendor’s service and support are just as important as the solution itself. Even the most advanced technologies can’t help if your employees can’t use them correctly. When selecting a vendor, pay attention to:

  • Professional service team average response time
  • Software downtime rate
  • Implementation team familiarity with your current ERP system and applications
  • Frequency and complexity of system upgrades
  • Their availability for user training and post-implementation customization

Configuring and Implementing Your Document Management System in 4 Steps

Configurable Document Management

Once you’ve selected a document management system, you can expect to go live within three to six months, with additional time allotted to increasingly large or complex projects. Take this time to work closely with your provider to:

  • Design your solution
  • Customize individual features
  • Run a test implementation and make any necessary modifications
  • Complete your rollout across all departments
  • Train your end-users
  • Deactivate previous solutions

1. Import Your Existing Documents

If you’re currently using a different document management system, you’ll need to migrate your stored content to your new solution. This is a perfect time to take an inventory of your existing records and decide what to streamline. Your new vendor can then transfer your content to your new system.

As part of this process, you’ll design a unique file structure for your storage system. This lets you keep your content neatly organized and easily searchable to cut down on lag time.

Depending on how many files you need to import, you may move your documents over in small batches or all at once. In either case, consider a test migration to make sure everything goes as planned before completing the entire project.

If you’re just getting started, you can choose which documents to add from the start. You can then use a document scanner to transfer your paperwork into your digital archive. You can repeat this process whenever new files need to be added to your system.

2. Configure Business Rules

If you choose a solution with workflow automation features, you’ll need to set up your custom business rules. This lets you move your documents through predetermined paths. For instance, if one employee is out of the office, you can have their documents routed to another user for processing until they return.

As you build out your workflows, identify and eliminate any unnecessary steps to streamline your process. From there, you can have your software complete certain tasks without any input from your team.

3. Create Custom Reports and Dashboards

If your software has the ability to display individual user dashboards or run custom reports, now is the time to get these features set up. Decide what you’d like to track, such as the number of documents that are in need of attention at any given time. You can then configure your system to track this data from the start.

4. Train Users and Implement Modifications

Most document management providers recommend a multi-step rollout. This lets you make sure that your software is correctly programmed before introducing it to your entire organization. You can collect feedback from a small group of end-users, then modify your solution to make sure it’s ready for day-to-day use.

At the end of the implementation process, you’ll want to factor in several days for user training. Some platforms are easier to learn than others, but you’ll still need to teach your users the basics. At a minimum, your team needs to learn how to import documents, search for stored information, and update existing workflows.

Getting the Highest Return on Your Investment

Document management software can save you thousands of dollars each year. To make the most of your investment, though, you’ll want to:

  • Get your employees on board from the start. Changing established procedures is always a challenge. That said, electronic document management is designed to make your employees’ lives easier. They’ll spend less time on monotonous tasks, and more time adding value to their team. To make the transition easier, get your team involved throughout the entire process. Ask your employees to help document their daily workflows, or have them develop a list of must-have features. This makes them active supporters of the project from day one.
  • Use your solution in multiple ways. The more you use your document management software, the lower your cost of ownership. When several departments move to the same digital platform, your ROI improves considerably. This requires investing in a flexible solution, but the ability to scale pays for itself.
  • Regularly review your strategy. While you shouldn’t need to make major changes, you can always look for ways to use your software more efficiently.  Develop a schedule for business process optimization, and reach out to your vendor to plan for regular system updates.

Discover IntelliChief: An Award-Winning, ERP-Integrated Document Management System

At IntelliChief, we’ve been providing enterprise document management solutions for more than 10 years. With a full-featured, user-friendly platform, we can help you work more efficiently. Whether you’re new to document management or moving away from a system that no longer meets your needs, we make the process easy.

To learn more about our software, integration services, or implementation process, contact us today. Or, visit our Resource Library to see how other companies have benefited from IntelliChief document management.