Digitisation of documents done? So what?

(Image credit: Ditty_about_summer)

At first glance, a large Hollywood movie studio, a global financial institution, an accounting firm, and a corporate legal department might not seem to have much in common. Along with plenty of other enterprises, however, they share a common need: effective management of their most important documents.

As part of their digital transformation initiatives, many enterprises have digitised their documents and stored this content across disparate systems. However, digitisation of information – in the absence of a comprehensive document management strategy – delivers very little value.

Understanding some of the key components of a document management strategy, and the role that a document management system (DMS) can play in that strategy, will go a long way towards helping enterprises unlock that value for the organisation – successfully enabling everything from greater productivity and collaboration, to stronger security and regulatory compliance.

The challenges of ‘good enough’

For many enterprises, their document management strategy is simply to make use of repositories that they already have in place. These repositories typically take the form of shared drives or filesharing services like Box or SharePoint.

While there’s value in these ‘good enough’ solutions, there are also some inherent limitations. For starters, these solutions don’t necessarily provide “anywhere, anytime, from any device” access, which is essential for firms that want to further their own digital transformation and give their workforce the full mobility they require. While employees can often “tunnel in” to their critical documents using a VPN, this presents challenges of its own around dropped connectivity and clunky interfaces.

Another problem with the approach of using ‘good enough’ systems is that there's really no proper way to audit which pieces of content are being touched by different users or leaving the system. This raises the risk of a security breach or other malfeasance going undetected longer than it otherwise would. It also makes it difficult for an enterprise to demonstrate to clients or regulatory agencies that the organisation has the proper safeguards in place to ensure compliance with regulations – such as GDPR or FINRA – around how data is stored and protected.

Further difficulties stem from the fact that the architecture for shared drives tends to center around elaborate folder structures. Practically speaking, this means that a professional might know that a crucial document is somewhere inside that repository, but finding it is quite another story. This presents a daily productivity challenge, to say nothing of hindering effective internal and external collaboration.

The net result? In digitising their documents – but not coming up with a comprehensive document management strategy – enterprises have simply swapped one set of problems for another.

A better approach

A comprehensive document management strategy, utilising a DMS as the foundation, has few of the limitations associated with the above approaches. Consider the following as some of the most important components of a document management strategy.

  • Centralisation

Digitising documents is only the first step. The next step should be to centralise those documents. When it's not centralised, content is much more difficult to search on and easily find relevant results. When content is spread around on different file shares, it’s also more difficult to secure it and create an audit trail. In today’s threat environment, brimming with external cyber-attacks and insider threats alike, it’s inevitable that at some point, a bad actor will breach the system. Having centralised, secured, and auditable documents will limit the potential damage of a breach.

  • Ease of use
  • Digitisation is only the beginning - true transformation runs deeper

Why is ease of use a foundational component of any document management strategy? Because if the systems and processes around document management aren’t intuitive and easy to use, there won’t be significant user adoption. Instead, users will come up with their own “workarounds” for accessing and working on their documents – whether that involves saving files locally on their laptop hard drives or emailing copies of documents to themselves. When user experience is placed at the forefront, user adoption follows – helping ensure that documents can be securely managed and shared not just internally within an organisation, but also externally with the ecosystem of partners and vendors that enterprises regularly need to work with.

  • Meeting users where they live

Like making ease of use a priority, ‘meeting users where they live’ should be a key principle of a comprehensive document management strategy. This approach means recognising the way people work today, and then effectively working within those systems and processes. For example, almost all enterprises depend on Outlook. That’s where professionals spend the bulk of their day: within their email. They also spend significant chunks of time within Word because that's where they draft their documents. Given that professionals ‘live’ in these Office applications, document management capabilities should come to them – that is, be easily accessible from within these environments – rather than professionals having to leave these environments to ensure a document is properly tagged, filed, or shared. This is the essence of meeting users where they already live.

Addressing the challenges

Ultimately, every enterprise runs into the same set of challenges around document management: the need for enhanced security and regulatory compliance around sensitive data. Ease of use and streamlined collaboration. Greater knowledge management and operational efficiency throughout the enterprise.

A comprehensive document management strategy addresses these challenges at the root level, showing that with a little careful planning, enterprises can address these issues around document management, and – in the process – accrue significant benefits across the organisation.

Scott Dumore, Director of Solutions Engineering, iManage