If you are reading this tutorial, then you probably are an entrepreneur. Maybe you have recently found out what Document Management is, or maybe you already knew something about the topic but you could not asses it thoroughly. Nonetheless, this tutorial will teach you the necessary steps to follow in order to successfully introduce a Document Management System (DMS) in your business, managing to avoid the expenditure of time and energy in shady and poorly organized activities.
The objective of this reading
Bringing a DMS in a business is nothing like installing a fancy new coffee machine in the office.
The use of a DMS requires a change in how documents are managed from all the people involved in the business’ life and, being documents (and information) an invaluable asset for every organization, this topic cannot be underestimated.
I have been working in this environment for many years and you cannot imagine how many times I have witnessed companies procrastinating their considerations (about the choice of a DMS) for months, even years, without ever reaching any conclusions.
I guess you understand what this means…
It means that one or more people have employed many of their days and their time doing something ultimately to no avail.
This, in business terms, is translated in “waste of resources”.
Here is why this tutorial is so important
A DMS is needed to eliminate inefficiencies concerning document management. Its main purpose is to optimize and give efficiency the entire management system for the company’s knowledge.
However, in order to optimize the use of a system (one that’s partly complex, as a DMS can be) it is crucial to give equal efficiency to the path leading to its choice and implementation.
This is not an entirely theoretical guide with the only purpose of promoting a product (as is usually the case while searching online), but a real “user’s manual” to be promptly put to practice in order to successfully implement this activity, with no further wastes.
Before we start
If you think you do not have time to dedicate to this activity then DO NOT go on with this reading.
As I already told you, introducing a DMS in a business is no easy feat. It can lead to great benefits (economical, organizational and productive) but it can also be a source of losses if you are not able to dedicate the due resources and energies (it is indeed an investment).
So, are you willing to invest some of your time and energies in order to obtain these benefits for your company?
If the answer is yes, then carefully read the lines below!
7 steps for successfully introducing a DMS in a business
Each one of these steps will give you very precise guidelines on what to do in order to successfully introduce a document management system in your business.
You’ll have to read and follow these steps according to the order in which they are proposed, avoiding to jump from one point to the other. This is the only real way to not waste precious time.
1. Spot the main causes of inefficiency in your document management
Spotting the main causes of inefficiency in your document management is the first crucial step to follow. A rightfully executed document management has the purpose of avoiding wastes of time, limiting human mistakes, improving joint efforts and, most of all, to simplify.
Your business may offer products or services of great value and it may have a super qualified staff, but if the personal spends half of their day trying to recover the documents needed in order for them to execute their job, they’ll be half as productive since the time spent looking for the documents will be subtracted from much more productive activities.
I willingly wrote MAIN CAUSES since document management systems (DMS) feature many possibilities, however, in order to avoid confusion, it is better off to start from what is able to make a difference the most from the beginning.
Below I prepared four simple questions that you’ll be able to answer right away. These questions may seem rhetorical for you (and they are, indeed) but they can also help you what is the main initial difference between a correct and efficient document management and an obsolete one (costing you time and money). Furthermore, they are the base for starting the evaluation of solutions available on the market (if they allow you to do this and that then you can consider them, else it’s not the case).
1) Are your company’s employees always able to recover the documents they need, in less than a minute, without needing help from other colleagues?
2) Are your company’s employees able to quickly recover the documents they need even when they’re out of the office or busy with clients?
3) Is it possible to go back to the earlier versions of a document and understand who performed modifications or any other action on it?
4) Do your company’s employees receive automatic notifications when a document of their interest is modified?
Now, if your company is not fitted with an avant-garde document management system, probably most of these questions you may have answered with NO.
Anyhow, you now know where you need to work to start and what to look for or discard, so we can go on to the next step.
2. Calculate the impact they have and the consequences of their partial or total elimination
ROI (Return On Investment) is an estimation of what your return on the investment. Such an estimation can be useful so you can have a precise idea about the budget you have to dedicate to the introduction of a document management system in your company.
Taking into consideration ONLY the main benefit that may initially give you the introduction of document management, that is, the time savings, try to do some basic calculations.
On average, each employee for company dedicates about 50 minutes every day to duties usually linked to documentation (based on recent statistics and studies on productivity). Recovering files, saving them, storing them, correctly classifying documents, making sure that interested people have copies, faxing pages, sending emails back and forth, and many other things.
I’m not going to tell you that with a document management system you can eliminate this waste of time, but you can nonetheless reduce it significantly, let’s say to about 35 minutes (it can realistically be much more but we’ll stay low).
50 – 35 = 15 minutes of time saved for each employee, each day.
Have you been following me ‘til now? Good!
With circa 220 days of work in a normal year, this produces around 165 hours of work wasted for 3 employees of your company each. If the medium cost of work is in the range of €20/hour, this is equal to more than 3300 euros on an annual basis that you are giving up.
In order to execute this calculation, please follow the formula below:
(N ° employees X wasted minutes daily / each X 220 days X 20 working hour cost) / 60
Or you can find an easy tab on the site: http://www.logicaldoc.com/resources/savings-calculation.html
Note: This is an approximated estimation that does not involve the results that can be achieved with further productivity and efficiency (you can evaluate those only after having put the system into production), but only immediate savings can give you a correct document management. I’ll take for granted that the recovered time will have to be used in a profitable way and not to add a coffee break (and that can be considered even more productive indeed, since it can be used to talk about work and it’s an occasion for comparisons).
3. Assign the project to a responsible for identifying the best solutions available on the market
Now that you have individuated the main causes of inefficiency and that you understood how helpful a correct document management could help you, it is now time to start a market research in order to implement possible solutions.
At this point, guessing that you are NOT in charge of the technical issues of your company, you’ll have to nominate a project manager (someone who knows his stuff about IT) which can be able to follow this evaluation for you.
BEWARE! Before delegating everything and washing all responsibilities away, it is of crucial importance that you clarify your intentions and the objectives with your project manager.
You individuated the most important aspects, now you have to pass this feedback over to your responsible and make sure that he digests it. Furthermore, it is important that the two of you can establish together a Timing, meaning the deadline before which the system has to be put in production (in order to avoid wasting time and resources).
Before moving to the next step, I want to give you another small suggestion that I consider of great importance.
Push your manager into considering, during the evaluation, also the aspects that surround the product (not only the features) such as:
Technical Support => The DMS will regulate all (or almost) of your informative process in the business. This way you can understand how important it is to have an efficient support that is capable of solving each and every problem quickly and to communicate in your own language with.
Integrations => It is possible (if not certain) that in your company many other systems are already being used (management systems, cloud storage systems like Dropbox, etc.…). It is then very important that the DMS software support the possibility of being integrated with these in order to create synergies that can be crucial.
Simplicity => I am writing this as the last one of these three points but, in reality, this could easily be the first one. A document management system has to be simple! You cannot think about introducing very complex solutions that can require months of education for the entire personnel. If the people of your company will find it complicated or problematic they will struggle in taking advantage of its potential, or even worse, they will sabotage you by avoiding to use it. Therefore, you’ll have wasted money and time for nothing.
4. Assess an initial evaluation
Having come this far, the manager should be the one dealing with evaluations. Anyhow, it will be important that, whoever he may be, he understands that the project really matters to you, so it would be ideal that you constantly ask him for feedback in order to prevent him from relaxing, or worse, that he gets lost in all the activities that he has to attend to.
This is the phase in which the initial tests need to take place.
Every document management system worthy of its name offers the possibility of downloading a Trial (generally lasting one month) with all of the final product’s features. This step is the most important one because it will lead to the final decision (or semi-final, if you will) of starting a pilot project, or not (see step 5).
The Trial enables you to evaluate the product like it was already available in the company, starting to configure it and executing all of the necessary tests.
During the test, I would also suggest to evaluate the willingness by the manufacturing company to answer all of your questions.
Another suggestion would be that of requesting a demonstration.
Be careful, though, the demonstration should not be requested before starting the testing phase, but in the final phase, when you have to resolve your last doubts, at the conclusion of your evaluation you’ll indeed know what to ask precisely and on which topics you’ll have to focus on (those that you noticed to be of bigger relevance to you).
5. Starting a pilot project
The definition of Pilot Project on Wikipedia is:
“A pilot study, pilot project or pilot experiment is a small scale preliminary study conducted in order to evaluate feasibility, time, cost, adverse events, and effect size (statistical variability) in an attempt to predict an appropriate sample size and improve upon the study design prior to performance of a full-scale research project.”
This phase can be important in the case that your company is one of larger size (as possibly in the case of many branches all around the world), making it necessary to start with a smaller project (possibly in one office or in a particular division), without putting the system in operation for the entire company.
Anyhow, at this point you should have a precise picture of the situation, of the possible solutions and of the companies that proposes them. You already tested the products that closest got to your needs and executed the final demos. It is also likely that you may have already got offers for the products (if you don’t, request them).
Now you are ready to choose the solution to adopt and start your Pilot Project!
In the case that your business is a small-scale one (a few offices and a little more than a dozen of employees) it is likely that your pilot project coincides with the definitive one.
One last thing: DO NOT hesitate!
Many end up correctly executing all these steps only to stop at the last second, wasting all of the effort put up until that last moment.
You cannot imagine how many times I have had to deal with business which suddenly stopped after months of energies and time dedicated to testing, only to revisit everything and start the projects from scratch, after one or two years (yes, from scratch! Because software evolves and changes just like the needs of the business and its personnel) with a gigantic waste of time and resources.
So, if you have come this far, do not stop, go ahead!
6. Request constant feedback
Maybe now you are asking yourself why there are two more steps, maybe you hoped you finished and finally being productive but it’s still way too early to scream in victory.
If you remember, at the first step of this guide we have individuated the MAIN causes of inefficiency, not ALL of them. Now that your DMS is operational in the company, you’ll have to find out how to take advantage of it over the long term, and you’ll only be able to do this with the help of all of the users.
Therefore, you have to often request feedback on its experience.
You may find out that someone spotted an even more efficient procedure comparing to those that you initially thought, or maybe someone else found the way to intuitively simplify the process of organizing documents in the documental…
The first step is done, but the improving margin is still very big!
7. Implement gradually but consistently
It is from this perpetual confrontation and search for improvements that your business will be able to continuously grow and prosper.
With time, you and your collaborators will be able to learn and take advantage of all of the DMS’ potential (like, let’s say, the workflow) and exponentially increase your ROI percentual (not only a saving but a better productive capacity with a correlated growing of income).
Alternatively, you may realize that for you it’s important to request the development of specific BUSINESS related features on the software.
In a few words, a constant grow and improvement for your business!
We have come to the end and I wish I’ve been useful with this guide.
A small favour 🙂
Before saying goodbye, I have to ask you a little favor though…
As you probably have noticed, this article is fairly long and it took me more than 3 days to write it.
If you liked it or think it can also be useful to others please click on +1 below.
It will be a small gesture for you, but of a big value for me!