Document management system (DMS): reasons to use and how to create one

Why do you need a document management system and how to create one?

Meet John, a CEO of a company with traditional paper-based workflow. He is constantly losing vital documents. As a result, his partners find it difficult to deal with such a disorganized person. On top of that, the low productivity of the staff overwhelmed by the paperwork causes damage to company image. It is a gloomy picture. Is not it? However, there is no need to press the panic button. There is a solution that can make things better. It is called a document management system. Are you intrigued? Let’s discuss this magic bullet.

5 Reasons you need a document management system

Some creatives prefer organized chaos. They say it inspires them to come up with the brightest ideas. However, concerning storing and retrieving the documents, the mess at the workplace is out of the question. The discipline and order prevail there. So if the search for a file turns into an intimidating quest, it is high time to equip your team with a stable DMS. It solves the following typical job-specific challenges caused by the abundance of paperwork.

business risks when you need to create a system of document management
Image 1. Business risks when you need to create a document management system, Ricoh

  1. File damage caused by technical issues
  2. Imagine the following scenario: your sales manager spent day and night on a presentation for a new client. He left the office satisfied. Coming back the next morning, he sees the document disappeared or even worse; it suddenly became inoperable. A virus attack or a major system crash is among the possible reasons for this mishap. Either way, the meeting is in half an hour, and the sacred file is beyond repair. Sounds scary, right? Luckily, there is a solution which can avert this catastrophe.

  3. The stack of papers looks like the Mount Everest
  4. The paperwork is an annoying issue for all companies without exception. The documents produced, signed, and exchanged between departments on a daily basis should be stored in a secure place. In practice, they are strewn across your desk, the desks of your personal assistant or other employees. The document management software allows leaving behind the long row of filing cabinets or cold repositories where secretaries spend their lifetime searching for long-forgotten accountant’s reports. Just think how awesome it would be to tackle the paperwork using your laptop or a smartphone. It is still a dream for many business owners, but not for you. We will talk about it a bit later.

  5. Team collaboration is far from great
  6. Collaborative project work like updating the brand book can unite the team members better than any team building activity. However, this assumes an organized document workflow for the engaged users. The inability to see who edited the file and what changes were made, to track down the final version prevents from meeting the deadlines and influences the team’s microclimate negatively. The document management services become useful there. They leave no room for mistakes by showing the latest version. The out-of-the-box integration with SharePoint or Google Docs can only empower users to work with files simultaneously regardless of their location.

  7. When data security is a primary concer
  8. The leak of confidential information is a crucial issue in the modern society. Business is not immune to this problem. It is difficult to imagine the possible damage to an enterprise if the customer database falls into the wrong hands, e.g., to your direct competitors. The DMS for the internal use only with no access to the system outside the building and built-in encryption eliminates those risks.

  9. Desire to save the planet
  10. Conscious companies feel their responsibility for the environment. They adhere to paperless principles showing their intent to be more eco-friendly. Why don’t you follow suit? With document management services you have the opportunity to reduce paper usage in your location. Imagine, how many trees you can save throughout the year. Moreover, you can also save energy if you use printers and copies less frequently.

Paper consumption per person
Image 2. Paper consumption per person, The Economist

Types of business that need a document management system

What are your ambitions? Have you already worked out plans for the next business season? You should take into account the current state of affairs and potential growth of your business when you consider embracing a new technology since it will affect your further cooperation with the software providers.

For example, the vendors will offer a cost-effective and user-friendly solution to small organizations and focus on security and enhanced features for big enterprises. Let’s see how the attitude toward the CMS is changing as the size of business increases:

SMB (small and mid-sized businesses)

Even the companies with less than 100 employees have business files of great importance that should be carefully organized, stored, and retrieved. With the annual revenue of $5-10 million, these businesses can afford a turnkey DMS system with the diverse out-of-the-box functionality. However, if the extended functionality, adapted to the specific needs of your company is required, there will be additional costs for some enhancements. They will not beat the expenses of the big enterprises for sophisticated Content Management System though.

SME (small and medium enterprises)

The bigger companies where the staff is up to 500 employees apply new technologies more willingly. As usual, there is an IT department with alfresco developers to implement document management software. Sometimes business owners still see the DMS as a potential training problem for the staff. The lack of in-house experts forces them to seek vendors who offer customized technical support and maintenance service. It is not a big deal because there are vendors on the market who provide staff training after the project completion.

Large enterprises

The big companies with more than 1000 employees and the annual revenue that exceeds $1 billion solve the typical and specific content management challenges with the DMS system. Excessive use of emails, sending confidential data via messenger or chat, the duplicated versions of one file are some of them. Such platforms are designed for addressing these issues by storing carefully lots of previously unstructured and duplicated business files.

The list of challenges solved by a reliable CMS is far from complete. Not only different types of business can benefit from its implementing but different industries as well. Let’s consider this issue in more detail.

Top 8 industries in desperate need for the stable DMS

The power to save time, space and money makes document management software a lifeline for any business but especially for the following industries:

1. Logistics

If you are in logistics, you know for a fact how hard your personnel relies on shipment information. All relevant documents involved in order and delivery process should be at their fingertips. The doc management system is meant to streamline the workflow. Logistics specialists can easily share and monitor all shipping information such as proof of delivery, receipt confirmation or supply chain requirements.

2. Education

At all times education was the industry that consumed the enormous amount of paper. Every educational institution produces lots of student and alumni reports, enrollment forms, annual reports, and admission details. The implementing one single platform for storing all these documentation is no longer a choice. Its main benefit for education is improved cooperation between the school office, parents, and the external bodies (local authorities).

3. Healthcare

Healthcare is another paper-driven industry. The stacks of paper cause disorder. It is so easy to lose or misplace a vital document, for example, patient prescription. Without having it in time, a patient may receive an improper dosage of medicine that can lead to a fatal outcome. The DMS that guarantees safe keeping medical records and patient information, secure sharing of patient discharge instructions, e-prescriptions, billing information, and insurance details improves patient safety and reduces the number of legal sanctions against the health workers.

Read also about app development for healthcare and how to create an EHR software.

4. Government

The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released the report showing that the malicious cyber activity including the theft of sensitive financial and strategic information cost the US economy between $57 billion and $106 billion in 2016. As we can see, saving confidential information (e.g., tax information, financial records, business licenses, land-use records, building permits, and other sensitive data) becomes the primary task in this field.

the need for security DMS
Image 3.The need for document security, Canon Solutions America

5. Accounting

The account statements and spreadsheets are carefully monitored within the company for fraud detection and prevention purposes. Admit it; it is pretty hard to control all financial paper flow in the organization without a document control software which can convert every incoming invoice into an electronic file with a unique identifier. It wouldn’t be too difficult to manage any records (receipts, vouchers, debit and credit, cash memos, and e-checks) either for accounting firm or departments. The digital solution with an option of advanced search, for example, greatly contributes to preparing accounts for the financial audit of your enterprise by the regulatory bodies.

6. Retail

As the volume of paper sales records grows, the retailers struggle with fast finding the necessary item. In its turn, the document mismanagement and the nonconformance for the movement of products within the vast supply chain lead to the delays in customer service. The retailers start contemplating the idea of an EDMS to keep the purchase orders, inventory reports, invoices, receipts, retail and wholesaler contracts, and employee records coming from dealerships in one place.

7. Banking

The bank officers deal with the great number of papers including policy papers (rules, regulations, circulars, instructions, orders) which should be accepted for execution, intrabank documents concerning bank operations and services, bank’s regulatory reports, loan reporting, and accounting. It is getting hard to manage and provide per request any record without the DMS platform which fits industry standards and offers audit trails and robust data security. The proper digital solution will improve cooperation between bank centers giving those parties concerned instant access to necessary files.

8. Legal firms

The legal experts sometimes have to review the statements, abstracts of records and protocols retrieved from the storage in the process of progression of a new case. The absence of a specific record at hand hinders the lawyers from moving forward. The precious time is lost. Often, when the document finally arrives, it requires being copied to dig into the case all members of lawyers team at a time. The implementation of the DMS solves these problems. All engaged team members can get the access to the documents and can work on them simultaneously via out-of-the-box third-parties like Office 365 and Google Docs.

 

Know more about the digital document journey in different industries and its touch points with users.

How to develop a management system for your document workflow?

The next big question to delve into is what points to consider when you are wondering how to develop a document management system so that it works smoothly and efficiently afterwards:

First of all, it is essential to define how applications and software used by your staff must be integrated with the new document management system you are going to create. You can get document management on the right track only with a fully integratable DMS solution.

Decide what type of system you need: a standalone solution or a cloud-based one. The first option does not require the internet connection and work best for companies intending to protect their confidential data since it is less exposed to security risks. If access to the files via the Internet is fine with you and you want to save on purchasing hardware, then the cloud server will be a perfect option.

If you have agreed on a web-based DMS, you should choose a platform that will serve as its basis. If you do not have any preferences, it will be a sound idea to create document management system based on Java due to the scalability, modernized architecture of this enterprise-level programming language, the great number of libraries and extensive pool of developers. If you have some other option, you may fix your preferences in the Statement of Work which is a document where all requirements related to your future project are fixed.

It is advisable to carefully choose the technology stack. Make sure that the technologies you are going to apply are up-to-date and suit your project.

If you need to create a completely new document control system or use existing solutions, the target database will be different, so you have to think carefully about how your data will be migrated. If you have a database, experts from the company you are going to work with should analyze it and decide whether it needs optimization or not. If it is needed, specialists will do it for you. ER-diagram (entity-relationship diagram) is often applied for database optimization. It highlights undesirable characteristics and redundant data to eliminate.

The number of concurrent users is an important metrics for planning, measuring and managing the system capacity. If developers know the number of your employees using the solution simultaneously, they can perform load tests for checking the reliability of the software. As a result, it will be scaled up if the testing shows that DMS can’t withstand the load.

At some point, a need to scale up your project may occur. Clustering is the best solution here. Even if you do not need it right now, it can prove useful in the future. It is important to use clusters before starting any actual development: the architecture of the application should support it from the beginning even if you do not require scaling your DMS software now. Be aware that adding this feature on the existing solution takes enormous efforts.

Implementation of the system

In order to understand how to create a document control system and implement it in the shortest time, it is necessary to define what features a DMS should have. Businesses regardless of their size or industry can benefit from choosing an open-source platform with rich out-of-the-box functionality. Such extensive basic feature set can be found in Alfresco DMS. It includes data storage, advanced search, the role-based system of permissions, audit trail, version tracking, discussion threads, task lists, and activity feeds. Basic installation and configuration usually take up to 2 days. In addition, you will get a basic automated workflow for your company.

Choosing the right DMS solution

You have already seen how to solve document-related problems with DMS and learned main tips on how to create a document control system and implement it flawlessly. All that is left to do is to get back on the track and take specific actions that will lead you to the right solution.

Define your document management needs

Before you even start searching for possible options, mark the business tasks that the CMS is aimed to solve. Bear in mind possible alterations of these challenges in case of the business extension. Discuss the current paper flow with the employees. What are their most common tasks? Is it the document scanning or review and modification of previously created files? Getting timely responses to these questions is crucial to implement the DMS with the essential features whether it is batch scanning, optical character recognition or easy work with the drafts.

Explore the basic software in your organization

Take into account an operating system used by your staff. This rule particularly applies to the on-premise solutions since each of them works correctly with only one specific OS. Look at the system requirements for the DMS you have picked out. If your computers have low configurations and low disk space, find a digital solution that would fit it. Check the compatibility of the chosen DMS with the other services and applications used in your company, especially with your CRM and ERP databases.

Check the compliance of the system with industry regulations

Every industry has the specific regulations that control the process of storing electronic documents. HIPAA for health providers, FDA for pharmaceutical and PCI for the retailers are some of them. The system you are going to install should be compliant with the regulations of your industry regarding the work with the confidential information. It is vital if you want to avoid judicial proceedings in case of security leakage.

Take care of post-launch support

At Aimprosoft, for example, the DMS integration comes with the post-release staff training. However, it would not hurt to inquire if there is someone for backup after a sudden outage. Suppose, you want to learn more about the particular option. Is there any training material (e.g., online help desks, guides, manuals, and videos) that will help you? What about live chat available 24/7? We know it firsthand how vital for clients to get assisted. We provide them pre-agreed manhours dedicated for the technical support monthly. It might be the perfect variant for any organization.

Focus on security settings

Clarify the security measures against identity thieves or disgruntled employees. Is it possible to restrict the particular departments from viewing the documents? Can you set a password for the specific folders or files? What about data encryption and multi-factor authentication? How are the e-signatures generated for the digitally approved documents? These questions should not be left unattended.

Pay special attention to the user interface

There is always a person in a company who is reluctant to embrace an innovative technology even if it promises to free him from routine tasks. Opt for a solution with the simple, user-friendly interface so that your employees with any background and skills could quickly understand how it works.

Why Alfresco is the best choice for document management software

Alfresco enterprise DMS solution
Image 4.Alfresco Document Management System

You have already found out what makes the document management software such an irreplaceable tool. Now you might wonder, what is the best solution for all platforms offered on the market.

Over ten years our customers have been going paperless with us. We manage to do this with Alfresco Document Management solutions, and that is why:

Open architecture

Alfresco is based on the principle of open source. It can work effortlessly with any system or database. The high-quality and consistency of operation distinguishes this platform from other open-source software.

Seamless integration

Alfresco Document Management System is famous for the out-of-the-box integration with the most popular third-party services including Microsoft Office, Google Docs, email clients, etc. Cross-platform nature, modular architecture, and openness of its components allow integrating Alfresco ECM with any existing infrastructure. If there is a need to implement an off-beat functionality, it is much easier and faster to develop new modules rather than create the product from scratch.

Find a minute to read about the most popular third-party integrations in Alfresco like Seclore and Ephesoft and others.

Highly customizable

The open source basis of Alfresco document management software makes it possible to change the default functionality. A Spring Surf framework allows adapting the UI to your specific needs. Dashlets (modules) effortlessly extend capabilities. They are mostly used to display the collected information. Another win-win offer is custom pages for full view. When it comes to metadata, the flexibility of Alfresco enables users to add properties to the uploaded files apart from using the default ones. A wide variety of options are designed to meet the most extraordinary needs of the business with Alfresco ECM.

Reliable data protection

The authentication and the authorization guarantee the security of sensitive data. Alfresco supports different types of authentications. You can also implement additional modules for custom authentication types. If you need to integrate Alfresco with your employees’ database, the system has an OOTB LDAP support that simplifies this task. With a role-based security model of Alfresco DMS users should be authorized to access the business files. It is possible to register via invitation only.

Scalability

When it comes to scalability, the main difference between Community and Enterprise Editions is that the latter supports clustering and has cloud versions. Both Community and Enterprise Editions of the DMS by Alfresco provide the unlimited number of the concurrent users and API sessions. The only restrain you can meet is the performance of servers and database you use. The number of active users and the number of files define the required hardware capacities. For example, you need 2x server CPU (1xDual-Core) 30GB + storage for storing 1 billion documents viewed and edited by 20 users maximum.

Choosing the development services company

The last but not the least important thing to discuss is choosing the right software partner who knows how to develop a document management system and will be able to build one for you.

Usually, a software development company specializes in particular technologies. You can check their practical experience in the portfolio or case studies. It will give you a valuable insight into the scope of projects the company deals with.

You may outline the technological challenges in your company which will influence further development and ask your potential partner how they are going to solve them. The developers’ answers will reveal their level of competence and expertise.

So if you decide to create document management system on Alfresco, search vendors with real-time hands-on experience in Alfresco development. It is advisable to have a partner who is a member of the Alfresco Community where developers have access to the latest Alfresco technological advancements.

Search for the reviews of the company that will provide you with services related to development and implementation of a document management system on the Internet, read customers’ testimonials and ask the potential software vendor for the Certificates. These measures will also prove to be handy.

You probably know that the cheapest option seldom is the best one. However, the most expensive services can also raise suspicions. Transparent pricing policy helps to avoid any miscommunication when it comes to the services cost. It will be a sound idea to inquire how the price for a specific service was calculated. Remember, all prices should have reasonable justifications.

Communication between the development team offering document management system services and your company is another important aspect. It is crucial to have the possibility of interacting with the developers during working hours regardless of their geographic location and time difference. Define what communication means you will use. It should be easy to contact any member of the development team as if they are sitting in the next room. Bear in mind such possible issue as the language barrier when you hire the developers from another part of the world. English is a must these days.

Everybody is interested in frequent deployment. Based on our experience, we can assert that Agile development is the preferable technique for early delivery of a product. It is a good sign if the company you are going to work with knows how to use it successfully. However, they also should know other PM methodologies as well and advice you the technique which will be effective for your business.

Suppose you have your document management software installed. It is now up and running. What is next? What if your employees do not know how to use it properly and need further assistance? Or a major system crash had caused DMS failures and malfunctions, and you need to bring the server up to avoid forced downtime? If you want to prevent such consternation-causing situations, it is practicable to discuss with the vendor their maintenance services beforehand. Ideally, it is your vendor who provides ongoing maintenance and support, including the development and release of the new system versions and updates. Besides, you should have 24-hour access to the support portal or knowledge base.

Avoid companies that settle for any solution you offer without second thoughts. Serious companies providing document management system services always show their expertise by providing you with better options if the initial one is unnecessarily complicated or expensive.

The final thoughts

With the document management system by Alfresco, John definitely will be able to righten his ship. The documents will be carefully stored and accessible per request. The staff will be freed from the abundance of paperwork and become more productive. If his example convinced you to implement the Document Management Software, our Alfresco team is ready to hit the ground running.