How to manage electronic documents across your business

The level of complexity your business needs in terms of electronic document management will be determined by the goals your enterprise sets at the planning stage. Even a simple setup with a document scanner that is now built into most multi-function printers coupled with an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) application such as OmniPage is a good place to start, with Nuance Cloud Connector offering a simple means to embrace cloud-based document management.

David Jones, Cloud Solution Marketing Manager at Hyland, Creator of OnBase, says: "The cloud has made document management accessible to small businesses, but getting the best out of any system still requires careful planning and hard work.

"Understanding how the business currently works and its key processes, documents and stakeholders are vital insights, but needs to be balanced against what can be gained from using the document management system. Cherry pick the parts of the business that can be migrated easily, but that can also be improved, and implement those first."

Hybrid approach

Most businesses will approach their implementation of a document management system as a hybrid that will incorporate on-site storage and cloud services. This enables businesses to leverage their use of mobile digital devices and their increasing use of remote working without any degradation in their ability to operate efficiently.

Document management also means much more than simply moving paper documents into the digital space. Small businesses also need to manage emails, spreadsheets, and even capture receipts, and all this must be factored into a comprehensive document management service.

Stuart Evans, CTO of Invu, observes: "Document management is not just about digitising manual documents – it provides so much more. Document management systems are solutions that work alongside existing business applications to increase efficiencies.

"Small businesses that are thinking of deploying a document management solution should work with a partner that understands business processes – not just how to digitise paper documents. Speak to those providers with a proven track record as it is a more specialised area than perhaps initially thought."

Agility first

For small businesses working on the move and developing flexible teams, which could be geographically dispersed, the move to more electronic document management is vital. Businesses need to be agile and have access to a myriad of documentation. The document management system that is chosen must therefore have the flexibility to deliver the required services. Secure connections are a must with VPN (Virtual Private Networks) essential to securely connect remote devices to what can be highly sensitive documents.

Ultimately a well-designed document management system offers these key benefits to your business:

• Increased efficiency

• Support for mobile and flexible working

• Lowers infrastructure and maintenance costs

• Delivers high levels of collaborative working

• Hybrid document management systems produce highly secure document environments

• Data backup and recovery is more secure and seamless

Document futures

"The future of electronic document management is firmly grounded in analytics and software intelligence because the ability of the electronic document management (EDM) software to integrate the contents of documents is essential," said Alan Bainbridge, Head Architect, Danwood Group.

"Presently, most EDM systems use metadata for indexed searches," he continued. "However, with the power of the cloud, the contents of entire documents can be read and analysed from any device. The progression of artificial intelligence will allow EDM systems to offer business insights, trending information and a host of other business critical data to users on any device from any location."

Furthermore, AIIM's Doug Miles also stated: "After initial resistance, content is moving to the cloud, either exclusively, or more likely as a hybrid between cloud for the most shareable and collaborative content, and on-premise for more sensitive content and perhaps core records. The need for simplicity is core to user adoption, and this is being reflected in automated systems that take care of classifying and tagging documents based on their content."

One size doesn't fit all

What is clear is that one size does not fit all where document management is concerned. Businesses of all sizes, however, can clearly benefit from developing these platforms to increase their efficiency and future-proof operating systems.

And with flexible working practices continuing to expand, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) impacting more businesses, moving to an electronic document system should be a top priority for all businesses that want to remain relevant in their market sectors.