Choosing a Document Management System
Implementing a Document Management System (DMS) in the enterprise is a very demanding task and is often linked to the radical change in your current business processes. Generally, the electronic document management software implementation changes the style of your business management.
But if you finally decided that you really need this kind of software - then which one to choose? How quickly the software will pay for itself? What kind of effort and resources it would require during its normal operation?
You need to answer all these questions before you buy and install DMS software in your company.
When your business needs a DMS
Here you can see a typical example of the DMS client workspace.
Generally speaking, the electronic document management complex in any case does not to be implemented as a shiny new thing, kind of "trending technology". If your business is working successfully without electronic or even paper document management, it is very unlikely that the installation of the DMS will make it more effective. Although, it can extremely enhance the convenience of working with paper correspondence.
For example, we all have long been accustomed to e-mail and "conventional" e-mail client user interface, in which your letters placed in folders. Similarly, DMS will store your documents in folders and will take care of all the problems related to search, access and storage. The best solution for the average user here will be a program with the UI that resembles the usual e-mail client, for example, Microsoft Outlook. Thus, you will be able to work with e-mails and electronic documents, without having to learn a new program.
However, if your company has the troubles listed below, you should really consider automating your workflows and business processes:
- — there is a large flow of incoming, outgoing and internal (official) correspondence, processing of which takes large amounts of time;
- — the work meetings become longer and their number increases;
- — the decision-making becomes very slow. Important decisions have to wait for months;
- — finding the violators of executive discipline becomes problematic;
- — the number of reporting forms increases;
- — there is a problem of information security of the company.
Ignoring the above mentioned situations, or attempting to solve these problems without the help of automated software systems can lead to loss of efficiency in your business.
Modern DMS Features
Various DMS systems offer a set of very diverse features. In the first approximation they can be divided into next categories:
- search and storage of documents;
- workflows and documents execution control;
- analytical reports;
- information security;
- additional (specific) functions.
Let's look closer at the most popular features from these categories:
Search and storage of documents
Modern DMS allows you to quikly find any documents using advanced search algorithms.
Centralized document storage - perhaps the most important goal of transition to electronic document management for small companies. In this regard, it is worth paying attention to data storage vendor used in some of DMS. Here are some of them:
- — Lotus Notes / Domino storage;
- — Microsoft SQL Server in a variety of editions;
- — Oracle;
- — MS SQL and Oracle combination;
- — other databases.
Among the search functions we can distinguish:
- search by attributes (fields);
- search by attached files (full text search);
- advanced search (with Boolean operations).
Workflows and documents execution control
Modern DMS can greatly simplify your business with the help of workflow templates.
The functions of this category are suitable for both large and small organizations, and allow you to control information flow and documents processing in your enterprise. The main functions of this category are:
- — designing a serial-parallel (mixed) workflows;
- — support for different actions during the workflow: approval, signing, resolution, etc;
- — sending documents both using workflow templates and user-created workflows during the execution of the task;
- — employees notification upon arrival of the new files;
- — notifications in different workflow points;
- — document version support;
- — automatic control of the due dates.
Typically, Reports are created in EDMS for a specific customer. However, there are common reports such as:
- average load per user;
- documents progress report (retrospective);
- overdue tasks report.
You can easily set the necessary permissions for anyone in your company.
Functions in this category provide information security for the company:
- user authentication programs;
- access rights management for the DMS users;
- Electronic Digital Signature (EDS) support;
- encryption of emails and documents;
- History and Statistics of the documents;
- audit of the users in the organization.
Additional (specific) functions
Some DMS developers offer a number of specific features that are unique to this particular system. For example, Lotsia PDM Plus integrated with CAD software and supports the design documentation. FossLook can be integrated with the corporate mail framework - FossMail. Also, some solutions offer integration with popular ERP-systems. Many EDMS provide their own API-interfaces to develop new functionality for the customer.
What to Look for in a Document Management System
In our opinion when selecting DMS, buyers have to look for a compromise solution, that meets the following criteria:
- the required functionality with the ability of further extension;
- minimum total cost and high return on investment;
- sufficient level of technical support;
- reliable manufacturer with existing client base;
- subjective preferences of the customer.
Let's look closer at some of this criteria.
Providing the required functionality
On the Internet you can find a lot of reviews comparing different DMS. Since most of these reviews are made by request from certain developers, you may take their suggestions with the grain of salt. At present time, the common terminology to describe the functionality of the DMS is still being formed. Moreover, the implementation of the same functions declared by different manufacturers can be very different.
Full functionality of modern DMS may be interesting only for large corporations and public authorities and is unlikely to be in demand for small and medium-sized businesses. Therefore, you may prefer the systems with the modular licensing. You buy a basic platform and then select the modules that you need, to solve your tasks.
For example, a system based on Lotus Notes / Domino architecture because of it's nature provides a modular approach "by default".
FossLook platform has a set of external modules designed for specific tasks, such as "History", "Statistics", "Workflows", etc.
Also, it's worth to paying attention to the possibility to add new features during further operation.
Total cost and high ROI
As a rule, the full Total cost consists of:
- — the cost of the server that implements the business logic;
- — the cost of client workstations;
- — the cost of data storage;
- — the cost of implementation, and technical support during the operation;
- — the cost of third-party products that are integrated with the software.
- — the cost of implementing additional custom functions.
The cost of a data storage is a significant factor in the overall cost of the system. Quite expensive can be DMS that store data in Oracle, the database which primarily is used in large organizations with high demands on reliability and safety. If you are a representative of a small and medium-sized businesses, the best solution for you may be DMS that supports Microsoft SQL Server. They have some interesting pricing options that are worth to look at.
Good Technical support suggests that developers provide all possible means for a comprehensive study of the system and give counseling services when needed. Below are the main components of an effective technical support:
- technical support forum;
- other on-line services and traditional telephone customer support.
- demonstration videos or tutorials on working with the product;
- localized documentation on the product;
- free demo version;
Preferences of the customer
Often in practice customer preferences become the main deciding factor for choosing a DMS. Nevertheless, we can highlight the following common customer preferences:
- the use of the same business terminology in DMS as in the existing enterprise workflow;
- the similarity of the DMS user interface with the software used by the customer (for example, e-mail client);
- the ability to integrate third-party software that provides additional functionality.
Currently, the software market is full of various systems for office automation, document management and other business related tasks. Before buying DMS be sure to check the following:
- make a comparative analysis of DMS functionality that best suits your requirements.
- rate the total cost of the system, pay attention to the cost of third-party software required to operate the DMS.
- explore the licensing scheme offered by DMS supplier and select the most appropriate option.
- check out the range of technical support services provided by the manufacturer.
- install the demo version of the system, watch the sample videos.
- highlight the main features of the systems that you are analyzing. Find out which of them are critical for you in terms of legislation, compatibility with the installed software, the convenience of use, etc.
The final decision in favor of the one or another DMS system can be done by analyzing above mentioned factors and choosing the software that suites your business.