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If you’re planning an electronic document management system (eDMS), use these top tips to make sure your new system sets you up for document management best practice.

1. Try to forget about how you’ve been doing things

Your current system may not represent document management best practice – in fact, that’s probably why you want to move away from it. Take the opportunity to improve the process and remove inefficiency from it. Avoid the temptation to simply replicate the manual process that’s been in place – the same one that’s causing bottlenecks and delays, compliance problems, and unnecessary cost.

Manual processes often contain steps that nobody can remember the justification for. It’s just ‘the way we’ve always done it’. If you can’t find a good reason to include a process step, you probably want to leave it off the wish list for your new eDMS. Design the system you want – not the system you want to move away from.

2. Don’t stop with regulated documents

Of course, your regulated documents have to be managed according to the relevant regulatory requirements, but document management best practice can benefit other parts of your business, too. Think about how your quality management system (QMS) could benefit from having clear, simple, automated workflows to streamline activities. And how about automating your accounting processes?

An eDMS can include workflows for all kinds of business processes and can include electronic forms to capture data at the point of creation; approvals can be recorded within the system, saving time and effort and creating an audit trail in the process. Workflows can even be made to interact with databases. Increased automation gives you better data quality. All your data becomes searchable, allowing better decision making.

3. Work out your document management best practice metrics

You’re going to invest time, money and energy in your new eDMS, but how will you know it was worth it? Using your current system as a baseline, set some measurable goals that the new eDMS will help you meet. A ‘before and after’ approach can provide some really compelling data that you can share with stakeholders to increase uptake of the new system. For example, if you’re currently spending $100,000 per year on off-site archiving, aim to digitise as many future documents as possible and store them in the eDMS, where they’ll remain accessible without storage or retrieval costs. If you know your current system contains obsolete documents, some of which are still in use and causing compliance headaches, set a metric that says there will be zero obsolete documents in use within X months of launch, as document owners will receive automated alerts when their documents are approaching their review dates.

4. Remember the KISS principle – Keep it Short and Simple

You’re going to ask users to adopt a new way of working, so make it as easy as possible for them. Make sure the eDMS user inferface is clean, simple and intuitive. Set user permissions to display only the number of fields users actually need to work with. When designing your workflows, include only those process steps that will give you the outcomes you identified as important to the business. For indexing, plan to collect only as much data about each document as you need to allow for efficient searching and retrieval and a clear audit trail; any more just adds to users’ workloads without adding value to the business.

5. Seek expert advice

If you’re unsure about how to implement document management best practice in your business, let us help. A QikSolve consultant can show you what’s possible, what various solutions would cost, and how to go about setting things up.