Most of the activities that take place in a company are linked to documents – document management is, therefore, an area that can significantly affect the results and effectiveness of a company. Anyone in a company – regardless of its size – that works with certain documents finds after some time that their organization requires quite a lot of effort to ensure that the documents are in order and sharable, i.e. accessible to those users that they should be accessible to. The whole issue is made even more complicated when several people work on the same document or where it is necessary to track the history of the origin of the document together with several different versions. With an increase in the time needed to retrieve the required information, the value of this information decreases, and oftentimes documents are repeatedly created rather than reused, which has a great impact on the effectiveness of working with documents and information.
Fig.: The phases of digitalization in a company.
All the above activities and the negative consequences from them can be minimized or even eliminated by using a document management system – DMS. Working with information is one of the most important parts of a company’s activities, so it is no wonder that document management is also gaining in importance and, if reasonably implemented, can represent a noticeable competitive advantage.
Documents and their connection with processes form the basis of a DMS. Firstly, it must be said that the term document in the concept of a DMS does not mean only a classic piece of office paper with a certain text on it, as most of us imagine it when saying this word. A document is also an electronic file regardless of its format. MS Office formats are the most commonly encountered types, but a document can also be an e-mail, audio or video, technical drawing, fax, etc. All of these are information carriers that are created, modified, shared, processed and stored. Documents can be divided into structured and unstructured. Structured documents are in the form of tables and databases, which are very easy to process electronically. Unstructured documents are the exact opposite. DMS systems have been created to process these unstructured documents, which are also carriers of very important information, quickly and effectively, and combine these documents with real “business” processes.
Processing document in the framework of individual processes becomes much faster and more efficient with DMS support. The ratio between the amount of the above-mentioned types of documents and the information processed in companies is also clear for DMS: 10% of structured versus 90% of unstructured information.
The basic principle of DMS is to effectively manage and share any document or information. This is achieved primarily by implementing a secure centralized repository. A DMS application runs above this repository, offering users wide document processing functionality as well as controlling access to documents based on the set authorization concept, which prevents misuse of the information being shared.
The basic features of DMS include:
- Organization of documents into a clear structure,
- Automatic creation and control of versions and revisions of documents,
- Support for multiple users working with a single document – check in/check out function,
- Effective document retrieval
- Support for the creation of standardized documents, transfer of data to a document,
- Creation of dynamic views of documents
- Support for electronic approval and release of documents,
- Administration of company document templates
- Records of the history of work with documents,
- Publishing documents on the Intranet,
- Support for converting paper documents into electronic form (scanning).
Access to the DMS system can be provided through a web interface or through a locally-installed DMS client. If necessary, the DMS can be fully integrated into the host application environment, such as an SAP ERP system or a Siebel or SAP CRM system, etc.
Areas of application
Depending on the processes and their connection to documents, the areas of application of a DMS can be divided into three groups:
- Documents are the output of a process – DMS offers support for the creation and management of a documents throughout their lifecycle. These documents also require functionality to electronically approve the document before it is released. This group can include all documents created in the company – orders, requests, contracts, materials for requests/offers, directives, letters to clients, information for the website, project documentation, etc.
- Documents are the input that starts the process – here DMS primarily solves the registration of documents, which usually includes scanning and subsequent approval, performed through a workflow. Examples of this group are incoming invoices that are registered, go through the approval process, and are then billed. For these documents it is especially necessary to ensure secure archiving and to prevent their alteration, because the company performs its activities based on them, which must be retroactively demonstrated. In addition to invoices, all incoming documents can be included here. The archiving of all incoming documents is based, for example, on a filing service solution. In the banking sector, clients’ requests for various payment operations can be processed on this principle;
- Documents supporting a given the process – the third group includes, for example, all documents that employees need as a basis for performing their work tasks. It is important for these documents to be easily accessible and searchable. In principle, it is a secure document archive, which consists of most of the documents in the first two groups, which have already been processed and closed, but must still be available to employees. Within a company, these include valid internal regulations, signed contracts, submitted offers, approved orders or invoices, ISO documentation and others.
Of course, these groups have been very simplified. Usually, the areas overlap each other, and the individual documents and processes cross them. A DMS also provides a solution for the secure archiving of all of the documents that are part of it, which ensures access to this information for many years. DMS systems are very flexible and can be customized to meet specific requirements of the customer.
More and more companies now realize that DMS is a way of keeping things in order in an organization. These are no longer only companies that have to manage documents and provide proof of it, but also companies want to optimize their internal processes. It cannot be unequivocally stated who needs a DMS and who does not. All companies would benefit form it. The question is rather, to what extent should the system be implemented. The greatest benefit can be logically expected when it is implemented into key company processes or processes that are most associated with documents that need to be effectively processed and safely archived. These can be clear and quantifiable items. However, so-called incalculable benefits – such as customer or employee satisfaction – are also associated with the DMS solution.