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How to Develop and Implement a Document Management Strategy

Close up of a work board where planning a document management strategy is depicted with notes/

The software-based document management trend continues to rise as more business owners learn its benefits. Implementing a system where your documents are retrieved quicker, protected during a disaster, and compliant, are some reasons why this option makes perfect business sense.

Many business owners consider implementing the upgrade themselves, which is entirely doable. However, when taking a magnifying glass to your current system, you may be surprised to know how much is involved in making document management work.

What Is Document Management?

Document management is a process or system used in business to capture, store, and track digital documents, like word processing files and digital images of paper-based content. The system is intended to save time and money.

What Are the Benefits?

A software-based document management system will offer your business the following benefits:

  • It enhances data security. Businesses of all sizes need to keep sensitive data protected.
  • It creates more space since it reduces the need for physical storage space.
  • It improves document regulatory compliance, as non-conformance can result in fines, revoked licenses, and criminal liability in some cases.
  • It improves backup and disaster recovery. All document systems should include a backup and disaster recovery plan (DRP). A DRP outlines the method describing how quickly an organization can resume work following a major incident.
  • With digital backups, documents are protected from flood, fire, and other disasters.
  • Better collaboration. Software-based document management offers shared access to content for simplified collaboration.
  • Productivity is increased as a streamlined search and retrieval system makes documents easier to find.

How to Develop and Implement a Document Management Strategy

The following high-level method should give you an idea of what's involved in developing your approach.

1. Establish a dedicated team

When developing your strategy, you should know who will be in charge of seeing it through. To ensure all documents and company-wide processes are considered, you'll need to establish a project team and appoint a manager to oversee the project.

This team will consist of staff from all areas of the business. E.g., admin, departments, specialist roles, etc. All team members will act as intermediaries between the team and the department they represent. They'll determine which documents from their department should be saved and what can be disposed of. In addition, they'll record how their department processes documents.

2. Determine requirements

The project team now needs to:

  • Assess the current document management system, both paper and digital.
  • Find out how documents are received and handled.
  • Use one or two departments for a test run. The team can then develop a strategy to find out how all departments handle documents. Ensure all steps are documented.

Side note: Bear in mind that various departments may receive their documents differently. The team will then need to decide whether their process should be standardized across the business or customized to their department.

  • Agree on whether the whole strategy should be developed and implemented by the project team or through a document management company.
  • Understand what's required to fulfill the process. This could include upgrading IT solutions to store and retrieve electronic documents and ways to convert paper documents to electronic ones.

3. Document identification

You may have decided to get a data management company to assist at this stage. With an understanding of how your company manages documents, it's time to understand document types and their use. An inventory should be developed to highlight all kinds, for example, records, client information, and duplicates. This information will help you to understand details like the information that needs to be available immediately.

4. Document procedures and requirements

Once the inventory stage is complete, the following should be defined:

  • How documents should be stored.
  • How working papers, drafts, and copies should be handled.
  • Which system should be implemented to maintain records.

5. Strategy preparation

At this stage, the team should understand the types of documents your business deals with, their purpose, and where they're stored currently. They can develop a document management strategy to outline how the new system will work. It should include information like how documents will be received, retrieved, and processed and how they will be handled when the business no longer requires them.

6. Eliminate unnecessary documents

With a detailed outline, it's time to purge the documents that are no longer required and are taking up space, potentially causing a liability risk. These documents should have been identified during the inventory stage, and eventually, this process can be delegated to each department.

Unused documents can be stored in a company archive to develop a history, and an electronic document management system can handle this efficiently. Other ways to handle dated documents should fit your company's requirements and legal obligations.

7. Implement the strategy

This stage includes activities like transitioning documents to their new home. If certain documents need to remain, you'll need to create folders to organize them. Then, with the strategy entirely in place, your staff must understand how it works and how to keep the information up to date.

An Efficient Document Management Strategy Offers Peace of Mind

In addition to easier file management overall, an efficient document management strategy will give you peace of mind. Most importantly, it guarantees that customer and staff data is protected, and you can get it back if there's a disaster. However, implementation is no small feat, and flaws may put you and your business at risk.

JD Young offers local businesses direct access to technology experts. If your company is based in Tulsa or Oklahoma City, reach out today for personalized advice on the right document management system for you.

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