A Document Management System (DMS) is an enterprise-level software that controls and organizes documents throughout an organization. There are many of these systems in the market. We will not address the selection process here; rather, I want to focus on the importance of having one in place that it’s being used to its fullest. At a basic level, the goal is a “paperless” office, fully functional, optimized, and in compliance with internal and external rules and regulations.
A DMS can make data storage, access, processes, and workflows seamless, letting your office become more efficient. While it is an investment, a carefully selected, well implemented, and systematically executed DMS will provide a handsome ROI. An understanding of what document management is, how it differs from records management, and why a DMS is essential to your organization can help you drive change management and increase efficiencies within your organization.
Right off the bat, you need to understand that document management and record management are two different animals. Do not think of them as interchangeable. They need to be married at points, but they are not the same thing.
Record management helps organizations comply with laws and regulations, hence avoiding penalties.
The status of a document is important and determined by its different phases.
The focus is on the classification of the document (insurance, HR records, training, etc.) and its retention schedule.
E.g., you will reap measurable improvements in document drafting, editing, sharing, locating, and automating.
Drafts and invoices move rapidly through the approval and distribution processes.
DMS are organized with the needs of general users in mind. Knowledge management becomes possible.
A DMS will help organize unstructured data. Any piece of data outside of a formal database is unstructured. This includes data stored on computers, hard drives, shared drives, phones, laptops, or any other storage device.
Corporate legal departments have a voracious amount of data to handle, resulting in volumes of unstructured data. As the magnitude of data increases, costs of storing, sorting, and processing become overwhelming.
Some report that unstructured data accounts for 90% of the digital universe and that these files are growing at a rate of 60-70% per year. Just look at these metrics and the business case for using a DMS becomes obvious:
Information is a business asset. All companies have an information governance strategy to govern the information cycle. As an employee, officer, or director of the company, you have a duty to comply with company policies and procedures. A robust EDMS provides the foundation for defensible compliance:
One of our main functions as attorneys is to create and handle documents. However, at its most basic level, we need to remember that the documents we deal with on a day-to-day basis are the property of the client and confidential in nature. We have ethical and fiduciary obligations to secure our data. Indeed, security is one of the most critical aspects of a document management system. The ideal software will provide:
Also, clients are stipulating “need to know” security. This means data is secured and limited only to those who need to know, then deleted or transferred back to the client as soon as it is no longer necessary. This may also be true for corporate transaction deals and litigation as agreements or protective orders may demand document destruction and certification of disposition at the conclusion of the matter.
Role-based user permissions differentiate standard users from users with permission to access certain files within a DMS, and these permissions can be specified quickly and efficiently. With role-based user permissions, administrators can also manage file retention schedules and employees. Also, clients are stipulating “need to know” security. This means data is secured and limited only to those who need to know, then deleted or transferred back to the client as soon as it is no longer necessary. This may also be true for corporate transaction deals and litigation as agreements or protective orders may demand document destruction and certification of disposition at the conclusion of the matter.
A DMS is also crucial to comply with privacy laws and regulations. It will assist you in segregating or locating sensitive data for further handling or scrubbing. Your documents may contain PII or sensitive information that needs to be secured and cannot be disclosed unless specifically authorized.
From the moment reasonable anticipation of litigation arises through the resolution of a case, a litigant has several specific duties the DMS can help address:
Often times, DMS aren’t used to their fullest capacities because of a lack of time and training. Other barriers include resistance to change, which can include reactions such as “I have my own system that works” or “Is it really worth the hassle?”
One way to bypass these barriers and smooth the transition is to ensure you choose the right DMS before you implement it. Some are easier to use and others are more complex. Also, you must communicate to your employees that a DMS is a logical step towards continuous process improvement on a technical and process level, not a radical change to their workflows. It is simply a tool to make the job easier, if not possible.
Many of these challenges can, and should, be anticipated. I recommend that before you roll up a new DMS, you have a process map in place for the implementation and execution of your new initiative.
A robust DMS provides accountability, organization, compliance, integrity, and protection. It eases challenges of retention or disposition and allows for transparency of data. It saves resources, time, and money. And it helps the environment and reduces the need for physical storage, among many other benefits.
Ready to select, update, or take full advantage of a DMS? Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.