How do you find the right document management system (DMS) for your business?
Before we can answer how you find a document management system, we need to answer the question of *why* you would want a document management system for your business? Well, that answer can be different for everyone – because each business or company has different needs. Some, like hospitals, handle sensitive records and have a long list of requirements for how documents are stored, edited, and accessed. While other businesses simply need a workflow to speed up invoicing processes. Ultimately, the idea of needing document management comes down to money. Most things do; in business especially.
It costs money to pay someone to file documents. It costs money to print. It costs money to store. It costs money to hire employees whose only job is to handle documents. Then, it costs money in the form of time on top of all that! When’s the last time you tried to access some old records at your local city hall? If they’ve not made the change to digital, chances are it took weeks for them to get it to you – and that’s assuming they found it in the first place; which they might not have for any number of reasons.
Figuring out the logistics of making the switch can be a daunting task. But there’s help. There’s a free downloadable document that will help walk you through the process. And it all starts with creating a plan – a good plan, which will help you ensure you’re getting the right software and service for your specific needs. I recommend picking up the recently published, “Document Management System Buyer’s Guide” to help you start out on the right foot. It breaks down this process into 5 lessons that are designed to help you get the right product for your business. These lessons include:
- Defining Success
- Making the Business Case
- Calculating the Real Cost and Returns
- Finding and Buying
- Implementing and Beyond
Once you have a plan, you can then set out to find a product that works for your needs. There are a plethora of options out there. But take your time and really look at all the options. Surf the Web and read websites, read testimonials and case studies from customers, watch YouTube videos and request live demos from each software provider that fits your specific needs. Contact other businesses that have already implemented document management workflows for tips and suggestions. Just remember, you’re not the first to buy a document management system.
Here are a few tips to help you narrow your DMS list:
- Consider how long a company has been around. It might be wise to steer clear of start-up companies who haven’t been around long enough to prove they are capable of supporting their product. That’s not to say that all companies who have been around since the 90′s or early 2000′s are going to be perfect – but companies that have some years of business under their belts typically have built reputations for their support and overall product specs. You will most likely want to look for someone who has been around long enough that they’re not in any danger of closing up shop a year after you’ve purchased.
- Do you require a technical, legal or regulatory spec to your DMS? Think about any hoops that you have to jump through in regards to your documents. Do you need to ensure that they are stored securely and only accessible by certain individuals at certain stages of a workflow? Think about those needs and eliminate any DMS that cannot comply.
- Support can be a sticking point for some looking to purchase document management systems. It’s always wise to look for those systems that offer 24-hour support and have resources available online. It’s a bonus if that support is provided in-house, so you know that you’ll be able to understand and reach the support lines whenever an issue arises.
- It goes without saying that you would consider costs. Some DMS products are sold in complicated ways – sometimes called ‘modules’ – which means that figuring out a true cost to the product is both confusing and early projections can be grossly inaccurate. Not all products are sold in this way though, so you’ll want to investigate pricing structures to find something that’s both simple to understand and that fits within your budgetary needs.
After you have compiled your list of possible DMS candidates, you can request an RFP or ‘request for proposal’ from each vendor. If you’re unfamiliar with what an RFP is, but might want to utilize this part of the procurement process, I recommend checking out the Wikipedia Article on this topic. Basically, you’ll be asking vendors to detail:
- Organizational Structure and Background
- Proposed Solution
- Implementation Plan
- Support Structure, Cost and Conditions
- License and Maintenance Options
After you have that information, it’s a good time to schedule a few demos on products that you like so you can get a feel for how their interfaces work and how they can be customized to fit into your own workflows. The best types of demonstrations of products are referred to as ‘proof of concept demos’. Those will often times be mocked up in a way that will mimic the look and functionality that your company most likely will be using so you can see exactly how the product will work for you. They require a little more information on the vendor-side, but truly do give you – as the customer – the best feel for how a product will fill your needs.
Often, companies not only have to compile this information, but they need to be able to present it to another group of individuals who will make the ultimate call on implementation of the DMS. Creating a plan of action as stated above will not only help in the collection of pertinent data, but it will also help you to share that valuable information accurately and efficiently with those individuals.
For further reading check out, ‘What is Document Management?‘
Stay tuned for our next post on common missteps when purchasing and implementing a document management system and how to best avoid them! Please feel free to leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you might have about this article and how our document management system, Content Central, can help you change your business for the better!