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Getting started with digital document management – what should you think about?

Starting with digital document management requires thorough preparation. To avoid duplication and clutter of documents, practical issues such as; who writes which documents and when? Who is in charge? And how are we going to offer documents to the end user in an accessible way? The technical aspect also requires attention. In the current times, when users work more and more with mobile devices such as an iPad or smartphone, the demand for making documents accessible via these kinds of devices is increasing.

Which standard do you want to work with?

In many organisations, quality management is an essential part of day-to-day operations. There are various stakeholders (governments, customers, clients, principals) who demand this of organisations. You can think about ISO or INK certification processes, for example.

Such processes often involve large quantities of documents. To secure these documents and avoid fragmentation, software support that can simplify document creation and management is regularly searched for.

How do you get started with document management?

Before you start implementing a document management system, you must first determine what wishes and requirements the system must meet. Think about how documents are managed and accessed, what types of documents are allowed, how version control is handled, the speed of consultation and ease of use. But also answer the question why your organisation needs a digital document management system.

A good system supports the route of document creation, storage, review/authorisation, retrieval and archiving. These activities are automatically secured from start to finish.

Access to published documents should be set at document level. And the route from concept to publication is supported by a dynamic review flow.

Metadata such as check date, version number, author and authoriser, but also customised fields, can be applied to find your documents quickly. You can also use metadata to generate overviews such as ‘number of documents per department sorted by status’ or ‘documents requiring attention’.

A modern document management system is web-based and can be accessed via any workstation or mobile device inside or – if desired – outside your organisation. Documents can be shared with your chain partners via the cloud in a secure and controlled way.

And then how to proceed?

Once you have listed all requirements and met all preconditions such as; a project group, project plan, budget and supporting tools for document management, you can start the implementation. Make sure you are sitting around the table with the right people and also take care of communication to the users. In addition, involve the IT department in the overall project so that they can also think about the technical consequences and anticipate them.

Implementing document management is not just a matter of introducing a system and making a few agreements on organisation and metadata. The way documents are handled will also come under scrutiny. Documents should be managed uniformly in one place instead of on one’s own network drive. Agreements around document management need to be in the users’ minds and complied with. This process requires a direct link to the work floor to identify and discuss any ambiguities. Finally, a well-functioning document management system is only as good as the total organisation makes it.

In conclusion; take your time and engage professionals who can help you with the practical side and certainly answer organisational questions. They have years of experience and can add value using best practices from your industry.

6 tips on getting started with digital document management

  1. Form a project group with delegates from the appropriate departments; include the IT department. This is often forgotten.
  2. Decide how your documents should be presented (on each workstation and on which mobile devices).
  3. In consultation with end users, identify which metadata is important to find documents quickly.
  4. Map the route of document creation, review and authorisation, retrieval and archiving.
  5. Designate appropriate authors, administrators and reviewers of documents and ensure adequate formation.
  6. Get a professional involved in time to guide you through the practical side, but certainly also answer organisational questions.

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