In the United States of America, the auditing standards board of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) provides a Statement on Auditing Standards to help auditors with the best practices for document management. Before the days of digital document management, files were tangible—able to be held with our hands. This led to many problems when it came to finding and reading documents. Some reports say that professionals spend 50% of their time looking for certain files, and only 15% of that time actually looking at and gleaning information from that document. It’s no secret that digital document management can significantly help a company, but with it comes document legal issues. Outlined below are some good practices to follow for document management.
It all starts with capturing the document. Good scanning systems can identify text in documents, and even checkmarks in check-boxes—a typical element of many office documents. One thing to look out for at this first section of document management is that the scanning technology should be able to support many different file types. Since there are so many different kinds of files, the systems need to support that.
At the heading of most documents is a title explaining the nature of that particular file. This is called metadata. A good file management system should store metadata so that employees can use keywords to look up files later on. This saves time and energy and is a good practice for file management.
Along with document storage comes certain legal issues. While the web is often unregulated due to the international aspect of it, an in-house document management system can be subject to legal scrutiny. Every manager needs to review the rules of AIM (Association for Information & Management) and other information-related organizations.
Amidst all the technical aspects of document storage that make it safer and more secure, trust is perhaps the most important part of a well-run document management program. While managers can’t possibly go over every single standard in document security, they need to find a way to educate their employees as much as possible, and urge them to also use their best judgment.
For example, some managers utilize a sole disclaimer, which is a pop-up that appears before the user accesses a certain document. Many employees barely skim this information and most don’t read it at all. Managers need to understand this and find creative ways to educate their staff.
The next part deals with secure document storage. Since files can quickly take up loads of space, it’s necessary that leaders constantly monitor how much storage capacity is left. Managers must juggle between destroying, archiving, and storing files. Every so often, a review needs to take place so that the company can organize all the files and decide what it wants to do with them. To safely store files without any outside tinkering, hierarchical storage management can be utilized. This basically means that the system uses artificial intelligence to transfer data from hard disk to optical drives. This process makes sure that only the relevant data is stored.
Document distribution and security is rightfully regulated by strict laws. Only the proper people should be viewing certain documents, so rules need to be set in place so that certain files aren’t seen by the wrong eyes. The original document should never be used; instead copies need to be utilized and only seen when the proper application is filled out in advance. It’s important to copy the original because only original files can be marked legitimate in a court of law. Applying read-only parameters with documents can also add another level of security as well. PDF files come with the ability to set security parameters as well. This is called rights management, which allows only limited access to certain users.
Training is another important aspect of document management. What’s the use of having a sophisticated document system without the proper people to run it? Without the proper training employees may not even know certain aspects about the system and therefore lose time in the process. With workflow automation, management can create a rule for certain documents to automatically be delivered to several employees in a hierarchy. This can help create a system where each user needs to sign an invoice before it’s passed on to the accounting department.
Ultimately, the purpose of document management software is to have the required document readily available when needed and have that process secure at the same time. With that said, data management poses a big problem for companies throughout the United States. 55% of companies have little to no confidence that their emails are being recorded at all. And even though the industry is shifting towards digital document management, paper documents are still managed better in the long run. However, if managers keep training, scanning, storage, and legal issues in mind when implementing a data management system, then there should be no problems moving forward for any company with their data needs.