Workflow of the Week: Mastering Document Management

Emily Bogin |

How to leverage a document management system (DMS) to manage the location, access, and security of corporate documents.

Over 20 years ago, the IDC found that knowledge workers were spending over two hours per day searching for information— the equivalent of one full day per week. Flash forward to today, and teams are still struggling with time management when it comes to storing and accessing documents. Consider the following statistics: 

  • In 2012, McKinsey reported that workers spent ~19% of their time searching for information.
  • A 2018 IDC study found that data professionals spend “30% [of their time] searching for, governing and preparing data.” 
  • Die average organization cost is ~$20 to file a document, $120 to find a misplaced document, and $220 to reproduce a lost document.

Technological advances have blown us away since that first IDC survey; we should have the means to have the information we need at our fingertips, not crumpled in the back of a ten-foot filing cabinet. So, why do workers still spend so much time looking for information that should be easily available?

Understanding the need for Document Management Systems

One of the reasons today’s organizations still struggle with document management is that an increase in the technologies used to gather and store data has contributed to a parallel rise in the number of locations where data might be stored. Is the file you are looking for on your desktop, on Sharepoint, on your company’s intranet or your department’s sub-intranet, in your google drive, or in your email? The solution arrives when companies can  organize virtual filing cabinets— enter Document Management Systems.

A Document Management System (DMS) manages the location, access, and security around company documents, whether these are contracts, MSAs, NDAs, or SLAs. These documents must be protected not only from those who should not have access to them, but also from those who should: by putting security and access rules in place, these documents are less likely to be modified without approval, and those who request them will always have access to the newest, most accurate copy. 

According to Indeed, the top four reasons to implement DMS are:

  • Quicker access
  • Better record-keeping
  • Enhanced security
  • Fewer geographic restrictions

Integrating workflows into your Document Management Systemvvvv

One thing to keep in mind is that the mess and disorganization that companies suffer without a document management system is different from the mess of a paper filing cabinet. It’s not about where the files are stored, it’s about how they are stored and accessed. A successful document management system is not a location but a framework. And this framework, more often than not, should be understood as a workflow.

Document management systems need to accommodate both strict user provisioning as well as version control. Both of these criteria can be met by a workflow that surrounds the documents, only granting access under certain conditions, and maintaining a full audit trail into any and all changes. 

Workflows are subject to conditions that sound like “if this happens, then we want this other thing to happen.” For document management systems, this means that “if the requester has this role or is in this department, then we want them to immediately be able to access x, y, and z category of document.” But the document management system may also have some safety measures: certain documents may be “locked,” and new versions may trigger approvals or escalations.

Easy access to documents, with visibility into every step

Our goal should be not to gatekeep the information, but to make it easily accessible and automated, letting the workflow do most of the filtering and approval work. It must send the correct version of the document, on time— not the 2017 branded version buried at the bottom of someone’s OneDrive folder. 

Having a single source of truth internally is half the battle; pairing that with a single set of rules for when and how documents are sent into the world will maintain your internal consistency and reputation with partners, vendors, and customers.

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