How EDMS Software Can Increase Collaboration, Productivity and Efficiency
Read our complete guide to document management software – including key features, benefits and how to choose the best EDMS for small business.
Businesses large and small experience issues with document storage, employee access to information, and cross-department collaboration. Other businesses still have documents which are stored inefficiently and insecurely as physical files.
The reality is that poor or dated document management doesn’t just cause headaches for employers and employees alike – it can significantly impact productivity, efficiency and profits. By taking advantage of Document Management Systems, businesses can reduce the risks associated with document storage and accessibility.
What is a business document management system?
At a basic level, a document management system helps a business to capture, store and manage key business documents in a secure manner.
This might include secure storage for signed agreements such as employee contracts, but also “live” collaborative documents such as timesheets or spreadsheets.
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Types of Document Management System
It may be helpful to clarify some key terms and acronyms related to document management and storage:
1. Document Management System (DMS)
A system which enables a business to store, access and manage business documents.
2. Electronic Document Management System (EDMS / EDMS Software)
The majority of document management systems offer electronic storage via online or cloud-based software. This allows a business to access files securely from multiple devices or locations.
Online or cloud-based capabilities are now such an integral part of document management, that there is no practical difference between a DMS and an EDMS. This article will use the EDMS acronym or EDMS Software when referring to document management systems.
4 .Electronic Records Management System (ERMS)
Businesses in heavily regulated industries such as legal services may use electronic record management systems (For example – to store digital versions of client details, deeds, wills and more).
5. Enterprise Content Management (ECM)
Enterprise content management takes the principles of electronic document management and extends it to all information and assets that a business uses to operate. This might include data, assets such as video files, or even content such as social media posts.
Why is document management important?
Document Management & Productivity
For most business owners, the storage and management of business documents is unlikely to be a high priority. However, the impact of poor document management on productivity and – ultimately – profits is greater than you might imagine.
A study on business information management by M-Files found that 65% of employees experience challenges in reviewing, approving and signing documents. Meanwhile 83% of workers have had to recreate a document which already existed because they couldn’t locate the original.
Perhaps even more troubling for business owners was a comparable study by a leading document management company, which found that 27% of senior managers have missed client deadlines because they couldn’t find a document. They also estimate that poor document management can cost businesses thousands of pounds each month.
These studies show that there are several ways in which poor document management can lead to an increase in workload, loss of time – and even a loss of clients.
Document Management Compliance: The Requirements of UK Law
UK legislation requires that a business stores and retains certain documents for a set period of time. Well-known examples include tax and national insurance documents, but UK statutory retention periods are wide ranging. Examples include:
- HMRC Tax documents and correspondence must be kept for at least 3 years
- Accident Books & Accident Reports must be kept for 3 years from the date of the last entry
- Working time records such as overtime and holiday must be kept for 2 years from the date they were created
- Medical records must be kept for 40 years after the date of the last entry
Depending on the industry that a business operates in, it’s possible that more documents are required to be kept, for potentially longer periods of time. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development recommends that a business keeps documents for at least 6 years in the event of any doubts around retention periods.
The upshot is that, while some are affected more than others, all UK businesses have a responsibility to retain and securely store a variety of documents – often for years after they are used.
What are the advantages of using a document management system?
Using document management software does not guarantee an increase in productivity or document management compliance. However, there are a number of ways in which an EDMS can make it easier for a business to achieve these goals.
EDMS software allows a business to store and manage all documents on one central file management system. This makes it easy for employees to locate, update and distribute documents within the organisation. By streamlining these processes, an EDMS can save employees time – and save a business money.
A good document management system will include tools to facilitate collaboration and approvals between both internal and external stakeholders. This will include version control features, which significantly reduce the likelihood of issues arising from old versions being shared, modified and signed-off (something that can happen all too easily via email or instant messaging).
A central feature of all document management systems is that they store digital files safely and securely. Cloud storage services such as Dropbox or Google Drive are capable of storing files – however they do not offer the same level of security as a bespoke document management system. Good EDMS software will also make it easy to restrict access to confidential documents to authorised users only.
Save Physical Space
Traditionally, a business might store hundreds of physical documents on their premises in filing cabinets. This outdated method is impractical, insecure and not viable for the thousands of online and start-up businesses with no permanent office space. An EDMS is a practical, efficient alternative to storing physical documents.
Effective Policy Management
Policy management is essential in helping a business to define employee expectations, ensure departmental responsibilities are clear, and develop a shared company culture. Company policy documents might include a code of conduct, employee handbook or – as required by UK law – a policy for disciplinary procedures.
However, it’s all too easy for company policies to lose their effectiveness because employees are unaware of – or cannot access – said policies. A document management system can help to ensure that a businesses’ policies are always accessible to managers and employees alike.
What are the features of a document management system?
While the exact feature set will vary from one piece of software to the next, there are a number of features that are common across document management systems.
Cloud Storage & Mobile Access – This enables documents to be securely accessed from multiple devices via the cloud. This is an essential feature for larger businesses, whose employees may need to access documents from multiple locations or devices.
Smart Indexing & Search Functionality – One of the primary goals of a document management system is to streamline the process of locating and accessing documents. A good EDMS will have a user-friendly search interface and give employees a range of metadata options with which to tag documents. Advanced features may include automatic indexing, whereby the software scans the content of the document and automatically generates metadata from its contents.
Document Collaboration Tools – EDMS software should make it easy for employees to collaborate on documents – including making amendments, providing feedback and managing document approvals.
Document Version Control – EDMS software will ensure that employees are always viewing the most recent version of the document. Changes and previous versions of a document will often be logged and recoverable.
Document Scanning – Document scanning is essential for those businesses who want to digitise historical records and documents. Meanwhile nearly all businesses handle some documents which are not digital as standard (for example, expense receipts).
For those businesses that already have a significant quantity of physical documents, some EDMS providers will even come to your office premises and scan those documents for you.
Workflows & Automation – Advanced EDMS software will allow you to set up a document workflow and automate some processes. This is particularly useful for businesses with extensive document sign-off processes. Here, the EDMS software can streamline the process by automatically forwarding documents to the next reviewer. It can also provide everyone on the approval chain with updates and notifications.
How To Choose A Document Management System For Your Business
The key features of a document management system are common across all providers, however different providers will specialise in different elements (for example, security or document scanning). The following considerations will help you to determine which EDMS features are the most important for your business.
What level of customisation is there?
No two businesses are the same, so it’s important to select EDMS software that is likely to benefit your business and aid your employees.
Your employees may value an in-depth EDMS with extensive features, or they may prioritise a user-friendly interface. Choosing EDMS software with a greater level of customisation can help make the on-boarding process easier, by allowing you to tailor the experience based on input from your employees.
How important is document scanning for my business?
The number of physical documents that a business uses and stores is often dependent on the industry it operates in.
For businesses that need to digitise a large number of documents, choosing an EDMS with advanced scanning capabilities – such as automatic indexing – is essential. In contrast, document scanning may be a secondary consideration for online businesses.
How important is document collaboration for my business?
This is another factor which is often dependent on the industry a business operates in. One business may only require simple approval workflows for signing-off documents. Another business, perhaps in a more creative industry, may need the capability for multiple employees to collaborate in real-time on a document (for example, a sales pitch).
Do I need document management software to Integrate with existing systems?
A larger business may already use different software for functions such as Payroll or CRM. In these instances, it becomes more important to choose EDMS software that can be integrated with existing software.
Ideally, an EDMS will become a central store for all business documents. The advantages that an EDMS brings may be watered-down if some documents are stored separately.
Can a document management system grow alongside my business?
It’s important not needlessly select – and pay for – EDMS software that has capabilities well over and above the needs of your business.
However, it’s also worth keeping in mind what your business might look like in 2, 5 and 10 years time. Choosing a software provider with tiered plans might make it easier to add new functionality to an EDMS as your business grows.
The Best Document Management System For Small Businesses
This guide should have demonstrated that secure document storage and easy access are the primary benefits of all document management systems. EDMS software can also be a powerful tool to increase productivity and help a business to remain compliant when it comes to document storage.
However, choosing the best document management system for your small business will depend on what secondary features your business can benefit from the most. These features might be advanced search and indexing, intuitive tools for collaboration, or quick and easy document scanning.
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