Document management systems (DMS) run the real danger of losing significance in the increasing noise around data lifecycle management solutions. However, if the need is true, organisations can benefit from DMS investments that can serve as the first step to comprehensive information handling.
In the growing noise that surrounds the subject of data management and the need to integrate big data into organisational functioning, it is easy to forget the seemingly simpler topic of document management. However, for companies of a certain size, document management systems (DMS) can
prove to be an effective starting point for managing the majority of their structured information.
“Data management is a broad field of study, but essentially it refers to the process of managing data as a resource that is valuable to an organisation or business. Databases are for structured data, whereas DMS is specifically suitable for managing information found in unstructured data contained in documents and files like Word, PowerPoint, Excel spreadsheets, PDF, and other popular formats. While document management is a subset of data management, whether an organisation needs document management or data management depends greatly on the scope, type and quantity of its information assets,” says Mahesh Vaidya, CEO of ISIT.
For a significant number of enterprises in the Middle East, DMS proves to be the first step in the process towards comprehensive management of an organisation’s data lifecycle. In other words, achieving effective management of documents in a company can help companies in achieving efficiencies across the organisation’s multiple divisions.
“Effective document management within organisations allows customers to manage information to simplify and streamline their document processes. All organisations have documents. Many have elaborate document management solutions that facilitate the capture, storage, management, and delivery of those documents to meet the needs of their business operations. Some have very informal
or even manual approaches that meet their needs,” says Dan Smith, GM for integrated marketing for the Middle East and Africa region of Xerox’s developing markets operation.
He adds, “The following four considerations are essential to ensuring longterm success of an organisation’s business operations and the document management approach that supports the business – effective and consistent capture and classification, management and processing, delivery, formatting and presentation, and finally, storage, retention and disposition.”
Initial use of DMS can increase the organisational value of information work – accelerating time to market, and improving decision making and idea generation – by enabling better organisation of, and access to, information and providing tools for more effective collaboration and overall information management. According to Smith, no matter what size or what industry they are in, customers can reduce costs and grow their business through smarter document management.
In truth, DMS has been around and been talked about in the Middle East and global market longer than their data management peers. However, adoption of DMS remains relatively small, and currently might even be outpaced by larger data management systems or enterprise content management (ECM) solutions.
“In the Middle East, the technology landscape in the document management space is changing rapidly. The economic downturn of 2008 has changed the global economic outlook and, as a result, enterprises are forced to re-evaluate their technology investments. Technology evolution in the Middle East document management market has been driven by the changing regulatory environment, risk management requirements and user preferences for broader content management functionality. The convergence of traditional document management and more comprehensive ECM is increasingly evident, with collaboration and process management now considered a standard document management feature,” says Vaidya.
Vendors like Xerox remain confident about the potential in the market. Says Smith, “Companies are becoming more receptive to adopting document management solutions. Sectors that are more interested in selecting these solutions are diverse; they come from different industries, communications, manufacturing and trading. Some industries have specific requirements, for example
those architects, engineering consultants and project managers involved with the booming regional construction industry have a requirement to work collaboratively, store, revise and share a large number of documents. Any sector offering services on a contractual basis to its customers needs
to keep copies of those contracts, even for relatively small companies. Over a number of years, the volume of paper can be significant, and can benefit from digital storage. Many trading companies in the region use paper based records of transactions, leading to a mountain of paper work.”
He adds, “Customer call centres need quick and easy access to information. If a service operative cannot answer the customer query on the initial call then a follow up is required, which can be prone to error (ie., the customer does not get called back). This can be time consuming, expensive and can adversely affect customer satisfaction. All of this can be addressed by an effective DMS.”
The existing problems with the appeal of DMS is compounded by challenges that plague them.
Vaidya points out, “In an informationintensive society, efficient document management is especially critical to enable organisations across verticals to effectively create, capture, store, retrieve, distribute,
archive and dispose of content. The common document management challenges faced by enterprises include avoiding documents duplication, improving information visibility, ensuring the security of critical information and reducing the overhead costs of printing, reproducing and distributing
of paper documents. There are also the issues surrounding document traceability years after creation, lack of integration and collaboration between various departments, poor efficiency and accuracy of procedures, and strict regulatory requirements causing a slow approval process.”
“Enterprises need to choose a right document management solution to manage the enterprise wide data. The DMS should be a comprehensive suite with strong document management, imaging, scanning, records management and BPM capabilities. It should be a complete capture solution for production and distributed scanning, well integrated with ECM and BPM. Management should cover check-in/check-out, version control, library services like folder/subfolders, access controls and sharing. Imaging should include capturing, transforming and managing paper documents, with a focus on high-volume imaging. Organisations will also require certified records management to comply with regulatory and legal policies for long-term archival of content, and enterprise class search capabilities including profile, index, date based and full text search. There should be strong integration capabilities, with support for web services, Java-based API, URL-based integration and enterprise-class security conforming to security norms of banks, financial services organisations and BPOs. The product suite should provide strong security features, like access permissions on folders and documents through control lists, with support for user, group and rolebased rights. Audit trail facility of all actions should be there in the system,” explains Vaidya.
“There exists a plethora of vendors offering technology and services to assist with many aspects of document management. Listening to all these vendors can result in confusing and contradictory messages. A knowledgeable partner, who can work as a consultant to refine the business requirements and develop a suitable solution, potentially using technology from several vendors is what an enterprise needs to get the best out of any DMS investment. This will ensure a suitably sized solution is deployed to fulfill the current and foreseeable requirements,” points out Smith.
He adds, “Implementation needs to be handled in a professional manner. Typically, a pilot is run whereby one smaller manageable part of the business is targeted, rather than the big bang all at once approach, which can increase the risk.”
Despite the many advantages that a DMS or ECM can bring to an organisation, the increasing popularity of larger data management systems and data lifecycle management solutions can undermine adoption of these comparatively basic systems. While that is one fear, other experts in the industry believe that as with most other solutions of the past, companies will adopt technologies piecemeal, and therefore DMS can become the first step towards achieving more comprehensive information management across organisations.
“While there are apprehensions in the market that document management will lose importance to the more comprehensive data management, it is important to understand the scenarios in which each system fits in. The purpose of a document management solution is primarily to digitise and archive files, and ensure compliance by tracking and managing new documents throughout their lifecycle, as they are written, revised, and updated. An ideal document management solution also includes advanced imaging and scanning capabilities (for digitisation of hard copy files), which a data management solution may not include. Which system is best suited to an organisation’s requirements is entirely dependent on the nature of the information assets of the organisation,” says Vaidya.
In other words, DMS can add huge benefits to an organisation only if its need has been rightly identified, and the suite with the right set of functionalities has been chosen for implementation. This places a lot of onus on customers doing the right internal and external research. The responsibility lies equally with the chosen vendor partner also to lead a customer the right way, and prevent them from overspending on technology that they might not need.
That might appear to be a tall list to fulfil. However, if enterprises are willing to invest the time and effort to decide between a DMS and an information lifecycle management solution, and deploy it right, they might find that their work has not been entirely at vain.