As a business owner, you may see the benefits of scanning documents that are critical to your business and implementing a document management system. At the same time, it may seem like an overwhelming task and you are not sure where and how to start.
Armed with some basic information, however, it's possible to make an informed decision about which document management system makes sense for your firm. You will also be better able to determine if you should outsource the scanning of your documents or scan them within your firm. Here are six questions to ask yourself that will help you get started implementing a document management solution that best fits your needs.
I. Where do You Have the Most Paper Pain?
In every firm, information that exists on paper has to be accurately captured, made available to staff for decision making and entered into software applications for processing. This is especially true in accounts payable, human resources and credit departments, all of which rely on substantial amounts of documents to operate. Take a look at your company's business processes and answer these questions to determine where a document management system will best improve your business:
II. Who Will Need Access to the Scanned Documents?
You may be a one-location firm with a small staff who will need immediate and simultaneous access to documents. You could, on the other hand, be a multi-national firm for whom 24/7 access to documents from remote locations is imperative. One of the first questions you must answer to make an informed decision about document management is "who will need access to our scanned documents, how often and from what locations?" Don't forget to include access to certain documents for clients and vendors, if that's part of your business model.
III. Does Your Staff Have the Time to Scan & Index Documents?
You must decide whether your staff has the time, in addition to their primary job duties, to scan documents and index them accurately. If your staff is stretched to the limit, an outsourced document scanning service is most practical. If your staff can scan a few documents as they come in, you may want to have them do so in-house. For many companies, a hybrid solution makes the most sense. In this scenario, you outsource the scanning of backfiles - the multitudes of documents that are being stored in file cabinets or boxes - and have your staff scan the few documents that come in on a regular basis going forward.
IV. Can Your Documents Leave Your Premises?
Having a document management company scan your documents at their production facility does not mean losing control. There are document scanning service companies with extensive security and tracking systems to insure the proper handling of your documents while in their possession. If needed, they can even email you a copy of a document in production at their facility. If your documents can leave your premise, outsourcing your document scanning makes sense. On the other hand, if your documents cannot leave your premises for security reasons, an in-house document scanning solution may be better. In this case, document scanning services can be provided on-site by a document management service provider.
V. Is Your IT Staff Equipped to Support an In-House Document Management System?
Some firms have sufficient IT staff to support in-house document scanning software and document management systems. Other companies may contract with IT vendors who might not include such a service in their usual duties. Look at your current IT structure and determine if you have the resources in-house to implement and support a document management system, or if allowing your document scanning services provider to implement and maintain an on-line system is a better choice.
VI. What Sort of Investment Can Your Business Afford?
Many companies cannot afford capital expenditures, especially during these economic times. But if your business can, an in-house system might be the right option, if you have the IT staff to support it. If not, a low monthly operating expense is all that is needed to implement an outsourced online document management solution.
VII. Meet One-on-One with a Document Scanning Company
Once you've answered these questions, it's time to interview potential document management service providers. Meet one-on-one with a document management specialist and explain your business processes. They should then be able to create a document management system tailored to fit your needs. Avoid document scanning companies with "one size fits all" solutions, and spend your time with a provider who has experience and will implement solutions that meet your specific business model. One more consideration: your planned business growth will result in more scanning volume, the need to roll out a document management system to other departments and the need for additional services. Choose a solution that allows for seamless growth.
Making an informed decision about document management isn't difficult when you start by analyzing your key business processes. Use this checklist to evaluate your document scanning needs and then meet with a full-service document scanning provider to craft a solution that makes sense for your firm.