Currently, there are hundreds of Document Management Systems (DMS) systems on the market. Although the basic functionality is similar, it is important to consider multiple factors before recommending an electronic record keeping system. These issues are important because they will inherently affect the use and trust employees have on a DMS system. Employees who trust the cloud-based document management system to save, retrieve, and manage documentation easily, quickly, and reliably will be more apt to use and adopt the system. Some electronic file systems were designed with a focus on an industry or profession. These systems have additional features and functionality specifically related to that industry. Other document systems are more broad-based and can be used with any profession and/ or industry and customized accordingly.
Some key issues for clients 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. And 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. The DMS system should have scan software options available.
- 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 using multiple fields such as keywords, date created, author, etc. Make sure the system is speedy and can display results in five to ten seconds. Having robust search functionality builds trust in 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. 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 built-in compliance guidance. If the system has an auto-delete 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. 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, an organization will eventually outgrow them. First determine if the prospective system has the capacity and functionality to grow along with the business. If the client company decides to use another DMS system, determine if the data can be easily migrated into a new more robust DMS system.
- Upgradability. 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 and/ or prohibitive to an organization.
- 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.