by May 1, 2005 0 comments

If you’re planning to implement a document management system, then start by identifying what type of documents you want to manage. Prioritize on which documents are the most important for your business and list down the challenges you face by leaving them unmanaged. For instance, an engineering firm needs to manage all the engineering drawings and blueprints it creates for its customers. 

Passing around paper blueprints is very time consuming, because every change has to be marked on the paper. If this is digitized and collaboration done online, think of the time saving one would get. Therefore for this engineering company, it’s essential to get the process of managing its blueprints right. All other documents are not as critical in this case. Similarly, a public services govt department like a transport authority needs to track all application forms it gets from citizens. Even a bank needs to retain all records for its customers, so they need to be managed. 

Once the documents have been identified and challenges for managing them understood, work out the flow of this document. Who all will see it, what action would they take on it, and what will they be allowed to do, etc. So essentially a document management system is not just something that stores and retrieves documents, but a solution that helps you collaborate better, improve internal efficiencies, and reduce incremental costs. In such Document Management System, control and security will go hand in hand, and not to mention editing rights management or tracking the changes throughout a document’s flow. Let’s look at each of these concerns in more detail.

Access control, security and verification
Access control is an integral part of any document management solution. For instance, using the document management system, you can create users and groups in the system with permissions on folders as well as documents and data classes. These would help decide which user can access what documents. On the other hand if you want a more rugged solution, then you can use a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) based solution, which would not only provide access control facilities, but also ensure that the right person gets the right file. It would also be a digital signature solution that verifies the identity of the creator of the document and makes sure that the document doesn’t get changed before it reaches the intended recipient. This is even more important in today’s world where the verification of the sender is emerging as one of the biggest faced problems. 

Achieving effective document management
Along with growing the top line, most medium and large organizations see their top challenges as cutting costs and increasing profits, yet few assess and manage documents, the lifeblood of business processes and a key source of costs. Information flows throughout organizations in the form of documents, whether in electronic or paper form. Driving the growing importance of documents are the demands of regulatory compliance, the need to communicate with customers, suppliers and employees in multiple media, and the role of documents in achieving ROI for business process solution investments (e.g. enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), content management, and collaborative applications). IDC research finds that companies with the fastest growing profits in their industry sectors are tackling document processes and achieving real benefits. Specifically, we find a positive relationship between effective document management and two factors: above-average profit growth and an organization’s ability to respond to changing market conditions. These organizations can achieve effective document management with: 
– A formal and centralized strategy 
– Initiatives driven by C-level executives and IT that empower workers to initiate 
– Document process improvements and document workflows that address all affected departments.
– Integration of document workflows into ERP, CRM, supply chain management (SCM), and workplace collaboration enterprise systems 
– Incorporation of paper documents and electronic documents. Web, email, and fax output from enterprise applications into digital workflows 
– Outsourcing of some document processes. 

LV Sastry 
Associate Director, Xerox Global Services

Editing rights management
But, you may not actually want the recipient to edit or change all parts of the document. For instance in a form distribution you may want the person from the dispatch department to just enter the airway bill number. Thus, only that field should be made editable in the whole form for that person. The same form going to another person could have some other field editable. 

Change Tracking or versioning
Another important facet is versioning, which goes hand in hand with editing rights management. Versioning can be supported in various ways depending on upon the order of business. 

This not only reduces the amount of paper used but also reduces the ambiguity on the processes being followed and made sure that the right people had the latest version of the document available at all times.

Legal and compliance issues
Rules and regulations like the Sarb-Ox (Sarbanes-Oxley) bill and the NCC (Naresh Chandra Committee) proposal seek to place legal bindings on how documents are managed within our companies. For example, when you need to maintain digital copies of all your correspondence or financial transactions for a period of seven years, you would need to build in suitable facilities to comply with it. 
Document-management systems of today will not let you remove such documents from the system before the compliance schedule is adhered to. Also, they have provisions for automated removal of such critical documents to secure backup systems for read-only retrieval when called for. Documents that you should manage this way, would include all your core-business correspondence including emails and digital-faxes, financial transactions and personnel records. These would be in multiple formats, and usually with attachments. All these attachments need to be tracked along with their master files and be readily available. Of course, plug-in storage solutions would be handling this part of the task.

Output management
As the documents come into the business system they need to be outputted in a particular format, be it Web, fax, archive, or print, all the outputs are needed. Your document-management system should be geared to handle the type of output needed by your organization. 

Solutions are also available to professionally manage your print jobs. These kinds of products can be helpful especially for financial organizations that are using a lot more of the print medium than other organizations.

Both Adobe and Newgen have specialized modules for output management.¨

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