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Document Management and Imaging: Storing Your Paperwork Electronically

We have all been in a position where you need a certain document from a co-worker. You know they have it, they know they have it, but it’s still missing. Waiting for those blueprints from the project manager? How about the manufacturing specs for a new product? The wait is not only frustrating, it’s a source of inefficiency and lost revenue. What if you had one repository creating easy document access? This article discusses what a document management system provides as well as how it can benefit your organization.

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Document management and imaging

Document management systems have a couple of obvious advantages including organization and prevention of lost documents. These systems allow for one shared location for documents. Getting documents into the system as soon as they are received provides your staff quick access to the documents. It also reduces the chances that those documents are lost or destroyed.

Document management systems allow you to create a single working version of a document by having a definitive resource to utilize. You may have created a new order form for your customers and forwarded it on to three other users for edits and comments. Now you are looking at three different opinions and have multiple, unreconciled documents. A document management system maintains a single version, by having a definitive resource to utilize. This centralization helps you to create a master copy, keep version histories, and facilitate edits, all while keeping a single source link for user access.

Improve your workflows with document management

Basic solutions will allow you to scan and store your documents. Taking that a step further, you can track documents to specific transactions in your accounting software. Now, when you go back to look at that transaction in your accounting software, you will be able to pull up a copy of an invoice or other supporting documents as well.

In many companies, approval is required before paying an invoice. Approval levels can be set up so the accounting department can determine who has the authority to approve transactions of various types.

Examples of document management uses in varying industries

Document management applies to a variety of areas across the business. Here are a few examples:

  • Financial institutions can scan in loan papers and supporting documents such as customer pay-stubs, tax returns, disbursement checks, lien filings and releases, collection and legal documents.
  • Property management companies can track lease agreements, work orders by unit and by property, late notices, legal documentation, etc.
  • Construction firms can track job specific information such has contracts, change orders, draw requests and other project specific information.
  • Health care organizations can track medical records through HIPPA compliant document management systems

Features of a document management system

  • Identification. When a document is scanned into the system, the user will enter their name, date, and associated transactions for that document for cross referencing.
  • Integration. Integrate with your financial management and operational systems. It is one thing to have a place to store the data. But finding a solution that integrates with your current systems is going to save you time when trying to retrieve those transactions. Retrieve documents, make changes and then store that new version.
  • Capture. This refers to the action of scanning the documents into the system using a scanner or a multi-function printer. Often times, optical character recognition software is used to convert the image to readable text. This can be taken a step further to include optional mark recognition software which is used to extract values of check-boxes.
  • Indexing. Classify the documents through the document ID or even through word indexes extracted from the documents’ contents. This function is mainly for supporting retrieval.
  • Storage. Storing the documents also includes identifying the location of the documents, how long they are to be stored, migrating the documents from one storage center to another and document destruction when necessary.
  • Retrieval. Access stored documents. Documents can easily be referred to specific transaction for cross-referencing. However, more complex retrievals rely on keyword searches allowing you to list all documents associated with a keyword or phrase for searching and retrieval purposes.
  • Distribution. Once the document is scanned in and stored, it may need to be shared with other entities. The document needs to be locked so it cannot be altered. Depending on the industry, distributing these documents are highly regulated requiring the equipment to be endorsed and validated for security. Distribution carries also have to follow the same guidelines.
  • Security. As stated above, some industries are highly regulated. In the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) requires documents meet certain security requirements. Some document management solutions allow you to set up restricted accessibilities as well. For example, a purchasing agent in the company will have access to the invoices received, but not access to image of checks produced.
  • Workflow. Manual workflow. This requires the user to look over the document and decide who to send the document to. Rules based workflow allows an administrator to create a rule that dictates the flow of the document through the organization. For example, the program recognizes the dollar amount to be approved on an invoice and routes to the CFO for approval. Once approved, it is then sent to the accounts payable department for processing.
  • Collaboration. One of the main purposes of a document management system is to share documents. Authorized users have access to the documents, at least for read-only access. Documents can be locked when a user is making adjustments to the document and tracking can be done to see who made what changes on the document. This will give you a final document but storing the changes for review purposes. Pull together multiple different document systems into one comprehensive resource by bringing together files, images, forms, spreadsheets, video, audio, and other document types.
  • Versions. In a collaborative environment, it may be necessary to retrieve previous versions of the document for reference or to revert back to a previous version due to incorrect changes.
  • Publishing. In publishing a document, the procedures of proofreading, peer or public review, authorizing, printing and approving the document is important. Tracking those steps routing, the document accordingly, and keeping a history of those changes is very important, especially in regulatory heavy industries.
  • Central repository. Eliminate hard-won company expertise being lost when employees leave the business by storing documents in a central location.
  • Data back up information. Document management systems can interface with a variety of physical media storage options.

How do I get my paper documents into the system?

There are a couple of ways to import your documents into the system. Obviously if you have it in electronic form already (email, PDF, etc) it’s as easy as just attaching the document to the correct file and importing it.

But what happens when you have blueprints or paper contracts?

Imaging is the simple process of scanning the document and storing the document into the software. What you scan is what is stored. Typically you are storing it as an image, not a workable document.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is more complex. These systems allow you to scan in the document and converts handwritten, typewritten or printed text into machine encoded text. When you have mass amounts of documents, this is the preferred way to scan in your documents. Once in the system, you can copy-paste or edit that document. You can also set up your software to import specific data from the document. Track the original as version one and then each version going forward.

A good example of OCR software is at financial institutions. The bank teller gathers all of the paperwork for a transaction, (checks, deposit ticket, etc) and scans those through a scanner. The scanner reads the information on the check and fills certain fields in the software. This allows them to easily total the checks in the deposit but also keeps an image of the transaction in the event of discrepancies. After being verified by another department, those checks are destroyed. The customer is able to access those transactions through their online banking system.

Locally installed vs hosted

The information in a document management system is complex information requiring a large amount of storage space. You could install the software on a server that you install on premise. This will give you control of the software and your data will be on site. Give your field sales representatives access through a remote desktop connection to upload documents such as contracts or expense reports and receipts. With a locally installed solution, you are purchasing the software outright and may need to purchase a dedicated server to store the data.

Having the software hosted for you reduces the amount of storage and maintenance you have internally. These solutions allow you to backup the software using the software vendor’s servers as opposed to your own. Furthermore, it allows you to pay monthly for access to the system, basically renting the software. Many vendors will charge you based on the amount of storage space you need while others charge you a flat monthly rate regardless of the amount of data you are storing.

Integrated vs standalone

You have learned about what the software can do for you, but is it best to have an ERP solution with the document management software built in, find a document management solution that can interface with your current ERP system or find a standalone solution?

It is best to have a solution that works with your ERP system allowing you to transfer information between the different programs. Systems that have document management built in allows for the best integration and ease of access to documents.

Many companies specialize in creating document management systems but do not have the expertise to create financial management or ERP software. However, they do have the ability to integrate their document management system with your current system. This allows you to purchase a solution that was specifically designed by experts in document management but still allows you to access and store documents easily through your ERP system. The difference between this option and using an option that is fully integrated with your ERP system, is you are using a separate program. If you are looking at a payables transaction and want to see the originating document, the software needs to be programmed to look at the source document in the document management software. Likely this is a fairly simple process, however, it can take slightly more time than the option above.

Standalone document management systems are good for companies that have a lot of transactions that don’t necessarily need to be integrated with their financial or ERP software. A patient records system is a good example of this. You don’t necessarily want to share this information with other systems but want to electronically store the data in a central repository instead of maintaining patient folders.

Taking the next step

Hopefully the information above is a good start to your review process. You have a better understanding of the functionality available in a document management system and would like to see some options in action. We can help. Our free search service is designed to put you in touch with appropriate software vendors and solutions. Just enter some basic contact information here and one of our Project Specialist will give you a call to discuss your company’s needs further. Get started today!

Popular Document Management Software Products

Looking for great document management software options? Below you can check out a list of the products most commonly considered by others searching for document management software. The list on this page is based on many years of real software matches. But everyone’s needs are different. Browse for fits with your specific requirements or let us help you identify your top options.

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The companies and representatives you sent our way were prompt and thorough… I definitely would recommend your company as a means to exploring options with qualified providers. — Bruce Conley
Your service saved me some very valuable time and hooked me up with some excellent resources. Thanks for providing this top-notch service. — Linda Vittori
Thanks! Having a service like this to help navigate the ocean of accounting software and help identify potential good-fits without having to delve through numerous bad-fits is of tremendous value! — Mark Carpenter
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