What is Document Management?

Document management (DM) as we recognise it today, began in the 1980's when the hardware and technology became readily available offering the ability to scan existing paper files, on a large scale, into additional space saving formats, for example on to microfilm and then directly to a personal computer (PC). However recently, in say the last ten years or so, with the advances made DM solutions have been developed that store not only scanned paper files and images but also electronically created files such as word processed documents, spreadsheets, Portable Document Format (PDF) as well as email.

For many organisation and individuals, their primary objective for using a DM system is the opportunity it presents to save space and in some cases massive amount of space. I’ve been to several large organisations to see rows up on rows filing cabinets and storage boxes taking up valuable office space which could be utilise far better in other ways or even sold. I’ve been to investigate off-site storage facilities, which are so expensive and really is an unnecessary cost to incur especially with the technology available to all today.

Nevertheless, whilst the obvious direct savings achievable by saving space or eliminating the expense of off-site storage are both very useful, the main benefits from any DM system are time save and increased efficiency.

Time can be saved when filling documents, if the index structure is not too complicated, always try to keep it simple for your users, and an enormous amount of time can be saved when it comes to retrieving documents. In addition, the data retrieved is far more likely to be accurate when compared to the more traditional process of searching through a potentially massive mountain of paperwork. The quicker and more accurate the results, the more proficient the organisation or individual should become.

A typical DM solution usually includes two elements - a scanner which will convert paper files and images in to electronic format more often than not Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) or to PDF and requires software that will store, then allow you to retrieve the files.

Software could be as simple as an operating system (OS) file/folder structure e.g. MS Windows combined with a scanning application, e.g. Windows or MS Office or in large organisations could be an enterprise wide dedicated DM system which utilises high speed, large capacity databases.

There are some good example of very basic (and inexpensive) DM software some of which utilises the Windows OS file/folder structure but offer you much more than merely using the OS. If you’re a small business or sole trader look for a system that will allow most file type to be stored and that documents can be readily searched by their given file name or on the document content e.g. the words within each page, regardless whether or not they are scanned documents or electronic files. Some of these basic packages can be networked simply by purchasing more copies or licences of the software (professional version).

High end usually dedicated DM solutions are usually designed for large (possible multi site) organisations hence come with a correspondingly large price tag. Although there will be some exceptions, the majority of larger organisation would be looking to quite easily spend somewhere in the region of six figures to implement their DM solution, it’s that important and in some cases their lifeblood, so often have their own bespoke requirements.

In conclusion to this brief overview, hopefully you now appreciate that DM systems can be utilised in lots of ways and could quite simply store scanned paper files for storage or swift retrieval when required. Or encompassing all of an organisations data, allowing users to search for and find relevant data quickly and easily.

Think of it like this... you have an office with perhaps a dozen or so filing cabinets, some stand alone pc's all containing their own locally stored copies of documents and files e.g. letters to customers, customer invoices, an individual emails etc, a few servers storing additional customer quotes, correspondence, client data etc and you have the software that can instantly search through all of this stored data (privilege rights permitting of course). Could you save time? Will you save space? Can your organisation become more efficient and therefore, as a consequence, more profitable?

I’ll be going in to more detail on some of the processes mention above, for instance

  • How to save space and in some cases massive amount of space.
  • How do I justify it?
  • How to measure cost benefits for saving.
  • Should I scan to TIFF, PDF or other format?
  • Should I OCR each page what are the implication?

And much. Much more... Click to go to the DMS page