Whether your organization is thinking of implementing a document control policy for the first time or working on ways to improve an existing document management system, this fantastic piece by business consultant David Baldwin is essential reading. The article, titled “The Principles of Document Control,” looks not only at the core purposes of document management and what strong document management software (DMS) can do for an organization, but also takes a look at what a modern company might look like if it failed to observe document control principles. Lastly, the article provides tips for implementing document management software within your own enterprise.
Life Without Document Management
Does your business already observe document control and electronic document management policies? If so, imagine for a moment that all of those policies were cleared from the ledger for a month or a year. Often when we think about “life without document management,” we automatically start reflecting on how things used to be, when all documents had to be stored in physical filing cabinets and when every file took forever to find.
Baldwin’s article, though, looks at the absence of document control principles from a different angle. After all, a company without a document management policy isn’t necessarily one that’s stuck in the Stone Age, still using inefficient physical filing systems. On the contrary, many businesses have moved full on into the digital realm, but still don’t have document control requirements in place. The result, as Baldwin describes, is out of control. Documents are created every day with a slew of purposes in mind, from communicating ideas to providing instructions. Distribution of these documents can be just as random and chaotic: people print documents out, copy them, share them, send them as email attachments, and more. Deletion often isn’t organized either; some people leave files sitting on their computers or in their email inboxes for weeks, months, or even years. Others delete them immediately.
Document management policies, in addition to providing a central place to store, secure, and access documents, also initiate organizational requirements about how files should be created, shared, copied, printed, distributed, revised, formatted, and more. In other words, when your company adopts an electronic document management system, it is probably also adopting document control principles.
Why Controlling Documents Is Important
So why is this type of document control important? Why do companies that use electronic filing systems need to have rules about how employees can create and use documents? And don’t these rules create a cumbersome system, thereby canceling out the efficiency benefits that come from making the jump to an electronic DMS in the first place?
In his article, Baldwin discusses all of those questions. He talks about how, over time, documents can build up into a significant asset for a company. Since documents contain proprietary ideas, personnel data, information about company processes, and even intellectual property concerning “new or expanded business opportunities,” they can damage a company significantly if they fall into the wrong hands or are deleted without backup. As such, Baldwin suggests a “rational and consistent means of creating and managing documents” to protect a company’s assets, ideas, day-to-day functions, and long-term goals.
In fact, while the convenience and efficiency of electronic document management systems are often championed above all else, Baldwin believes that protecting the value of the content of company files is reason number one to adopt comprehensive document control policies. Reason number two, meanwhile, is to make the information included in those documents accessible and useful to the people in the organization. He also lists eliminating waste of resources; ensuring validity of information; keeping information up-to-date; protecting confidential, classified, or proprietary information; retaining information to create opportunities, avoid errors, and dodge litigation; and more as reasons for a company to adopt a document management system that enforces the principles of document control.
The First Step: Finding Good DMS
As Baldwin discusses in his article, there are a lot of things a company needs to think about when drawing up a policy for document control. From determining what types of information should be included in different documents or forms, to deciding how documents should be reviewed and approved, planning a document control policy is almost like planning a mini company hierarchy within your organization.
The entire process starts, though, with finding the right document management software. Strong DMS is more than just a central location for storing and accessing files digitally. On the contrary, good DMS will include features for file versioning, auditing, review and approval, encryption and other security, user access permissions, and more. In short, great DMS will be more than a digital filing cabinet; it will be a system that walks you through the tenets of document control and helps you implement them within your business.
Do you want to find DMS that is both a document management system and a master in document control principles? If so, start by checking out eFileCabinet today. From ample file security to features that make it easy to track who is accessing and editing which files, eFileCabinet will help you eliminate your physical filing system and keep your company data safe and confidential at the same time. Visit us on the web at www.efilecabinet.com to learn more about our software or to try out our free demo.