How Do "Best in Brand" Products Differ from the Competition?

It seems like lately the market is being infiltrated with electronic Document Management products. Now that companies are recognizing this emerging growth market, everyone wants to get a product in the game. A product that is new and novel may not necessarily equal quality. The opposite may be true in fact.

When selecting a product it is important to focus on the manufacturer and the research and development time and costs associated with the product. Always ask, what version of the product am I getting? And when is the next version expected to be released? What functionalities will I gain by with the next version? And most importantly what costs are associated with version upgrades. While it is traditional for software to carry a charge of approximately 20% for the annual maintenance and support contract cost, one should expect professional service charges associated with version upgrades. I would be wary of a product on version 1.2 or 2.1 and prefer something like version 5.0 or greater. That shows that the manufacturer has been in business awhile and has invested and reinvested in their product. You should expect a version upgrade every 2-3 years with period updates and service packs available in between.

Another key differentiator is whether a product holds external certifications. Some to things to consider are Quality assurance certifications such as ISO 9001 by The International Organization for Standardization. External certifications help assure customers that they are using a product of the highest quality available. For example, the main requirement for ISO 9001 certification is that companies implement methods and processes to prevent errors and maintain a seamless Quality Management System (QMS). ISO makes recommendations for the trustworthiness and reliability of information stored electronically. They also suggest optimal design for an EDMS. Several documents are available on their website to assist with the selection and implementation of an EDMS.

Certified professionals are also a plus when selecting a product. Manufacturers should require that vendors are product certified. Find out if the manufacturer offers training to its vendors and end users. How often is the training updated? Is online training available? Vendor competency is crucial since they are your liaison to the manufacturer and are also providing your system administrator and user training. Your vendor should also carry industry certifications are also valuable. In the document management arena key professional certifications to look for are those such as AIIM Enterprise Content Management and AIIM Electronic Records Management designations. Another is CompTIA’s Certified Document Imaging Architect. I recommend that you check out the website to anyone working with an EDMS. AIIM stands for the Association for Information and Image Management. They also offer both free and low cost memberships to get you started.

And finally ask about technical documentation. Find out if there a knowledge base? What kind of help files are available and how often are those updated? Can users access the information?

Remember finally to shop based on value, not cost. A document management solution consultant should be able to demonstrate ROI for your organization. Make sure there is an upgrade path as the solution grows. Ask questions and then do the math. All products and vendors are not equal. When you shop based on price, you just might get what you paid for.

By Lynn Downs

AIIM Electronic Records Management Master