Considerations in Choosing or Upgrading to a Document Management System
Hundreds of DMS systems are currently on the market. Although the basic functionality is similar, it is important to consider multiple factors before choosing or upgrading to a DMS system. These items are important because it will inherently affect the use and trust employees have on a DMS system. Employees who trust the DMS system to save, retrieve, and manage documentation easily, quickly, and reliably will be more apt to use and adopt the system. Some DMS systems were designed with a focus on an industry or profession. These DMS systems have additional features and functionality specifically related to that industry. Other DMSes are more broad-based and can be used with any profession and/or industry and customized accordingly.
Some key issues to consider before purchasing a DMS system include the following:
- Size of system required. Determine how much file storage your organization is currently using on the server. If possible, do a date sort of the data on the hard drive and determine in a one-year period the amount of data that was accumulated. This will help you determine how much storage will be needed on an annual basis.
- Scanning functionality. It is important to have robust scanning options when moving towards a paperless office. Survey employees to determine what types of documents and frequency in which employees scan data. Once the data is scanned, determine if employees need data converted into other formats beyond the standard PDF.
- Search functionality. The search functionality is probably one of the more important aspects to consider when choosing a DMS system. This is a key element for finding and retrieving data quickly. It is important to have the ability to search by multiple fields such as keywords, date created, author, etc. Make sure the system is speedy and can display results in 5-10 seconds. Having robust search functionality builds trust with the system, and employees will have a tendency to adopt the system more quickly.
- Ease of use and user training. Any new software in an organization requires staff training. Make sure the DMS system seems user-friendly and intuitive to non-IT related employees. Engage a few employees to test the proposed DMS system, and observe the ease of navigating the system. Be sure to inquire about the type and cost of training programs the vendor offers.
- Permissions. To ensure confidential data is secure, it will be important to understand the function of access rights within the system. Ideally, the system should allow the author of the document the capability to grant permission to the appropriate job level and/or specific individuals.
- Recognition and integration with other systems. The DMS system should easily integrate and recognize other major software systems used by the organization. It will be important to test various document formats and files to ensure capability. Make sure that the DMS system can search email profiles to find specific emails.
- Retention. Regulatory compliance and document retention is more important than ever. Make sure the DMS system has strong retention functionality. Fields should be available to denote how long a document should be retained. Industry-specific DMS systems should have the compliance guidance built in to the system. If the system has an autodelete function based on the retention inputted, be clear on the system process of those deleted documents.
- File hierarchy structure. Make sure the system has the ability to create and design a file hierarchy. If a system has a robust search function, a file hierarchy becomes less vital. However, file hierarchies are still important for users who think of data and documents related to a specific file structure.
- Scalability and transferability. As with all systems, eventually an organization will outgrow them. First determine if the prospective system has the capacity and functionality to grow along with the business. If your company decides to use another DMS system, determine if the data can be easily migrated into a new more robust DMS system.
- Upgradability. Ask the DMS vendor how many upgrades it has had in the past five years. It is important for the vendor to have a few upgrades to show improvements in the system, but if there is a significant upgrade every year, this cost might need to be budgeted annually.
- Backup. Although all companies have an internal backup system, the DMS system should also have its own backup utility. Find out what type of format or encryption code is used. Be clear on the restore process if data is ever needed and/or lost.