In many small businesses, people tend to be very good at their jobs – but fairly poor at keeping track of documents. Without the right processes and workflows in place, efficient document organization, control and management is a struggle.
By introducing software that aids in overcoming that struggle, small businesses gain back enough wasted time that it’s like adding another full-time employee to the business.Before focusing on improving the document lifecycle in a small business, it’s important to understand the different terms associated with modern document management.
Document Management Vs. Document Control
Traditionally, the term document management refers to the storage, search, retrieval, archive and safe deletion of electronic documents. Document management software enables easy conversion of paper to digital documents.
The term document control refers to the larger lifecycle of a document: security, version control, review, approval and disposal. With control comes an audit trail that ensures compliant behavior when dealing with documents, as well as the ability to automatically flag documents that have reached their required retention period.
Today’s modern document management software combines both facets in a kind of 360-degree digital document management and control that businesses require, regardless of whether they operate in a regulatory environment or not.
Document Management Vs. Content Management
When tackling document management for the first time, it’s also important to make the distinction between what’s traditionally referred to as document management and content management.
Document management usually refers to documents by departments. In the accounting department, this would include POs, proof-of-deliveries and invoices. In a document management system, these files would be scanned, stored and incorporated into interdepartmental workflows directly from the software.
Content management refers to all other materials surrounding those documents, which would be customer voicemail, email, pictures of damaged goods from the shipping department and other physical papers related to the entire job or project.
External And Internal Document-Handling Process Improvement
In a document management system that combines both documents and associated content, businesses are better able to control the entire lifecycle of a document through both external and internal workflows.
In terms of external document handling, communication with a client over a sales order becomes much simpler with version control and change-tracking technology. If a client comes back with changes, the salesperson may edit the document. The system automatically logs changes, and the salesperson can revert to a previously edited version if necessary.
Without this version control and change-tracking technology, employees are creating another version of the document, storing the old version in a new folder and pointing employees to the new version of the file. In some cases, the naming convention may change and be entirely inconsistent with the one before it, so any employee remains unsure of where the document stands in a state of readiness for the client. This kind of manual work slows businesses down.
In terms of internal document handling, collaboration workflows may be set up for each document so that every relevant person in the process knows where the document stands at any time. The ability to create an audit trail increases a company’s ability to stay ISO or SOX compliant, because the digital document management system will ensure that every employee follows the same process every time with the correct checks and balances in place.
Prioritizing Demand For Document Management
Where does implementing document management have the highest impact on a small business?
The answer is in the most popular department in the business, which often turns out to be the accounting and finance department. Nowhere else in the business is so much paper distributed and managed both externally and internally.
The next most popular department to implement document management is sales, followed closely by customer service and human resources.
The advantages of moving from paper-based workflows to digital are numerous.
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