Document management (DM) is a programme or set of programmes used to track and store electronic documents. It typically has version control and audit capabilities, says Hennie Kruger, DDS product and marketing manager of Océ South Africa.

Other features include capture, collaborative creation tools, search capabilities, security, workflow, and routing capabilities. Document management solutions range in size and complexity from small, standalone systems to complex enterprise-wide deployments.  An important component of most DM solutions is converting hard copy to digital. This is often done using a multifunctional device (MFD) that can scan, print, and play a role in automating workflows.

In 2013, an InfoTrends study of 257 of IT professionals and C-Level executives in the U.S entitled “Vertical Market Study on Document Solutions”, found that only 41 percent had invested in document management and that most organisations have an unmanaged document environment. The study highlighted a plethora of common issues in organisations that had not implemented document management. They were:

* Documents are filed in various locations—at the desk, through workgroups, and often off-site. InfoTrends estimates it takes an average of seven minutes to file a paper-based document.

* Significant time is spent searching for documents. InfoTrends estimates that the average time to retrieve a document from a file cabinet is five minutes.

* Some documents are lost or misfiled.

* In many instances, nobody knows where a document is at any moment.

* Documents are often “hoarded” by individuals and are not made available to anyone else.

* File structures are confusing and inconsistent.

* Some documents are purposefully destroyed, taken, or misfiled.

* It is difficult to access documents remotely.

* There is no audit trail for documents.

* Version control of office documents is rare and almost impossible to manage.

The main advantage of document management is gaining control of your documents. A DM system brings order to what is currently unstructured and not well managed. While there is a return on investment (ROI) for DM, risk mitigation may be the main advantage.

The ability to locate a contract, an employee agreement, and correspondence with a client or to meet regulatory requirements is the primary advantage. These documents may be related to conflict resolution, litigation, or compliance. Given the importance of documents, a DM solution is a prudent investment. It is comparable to investing in physical security or utilising an accounting system.

Organisations have legacy, paper-based documents and regularly create or receive new paper documents. A MFD routinely acts as a bridge between the physical (paper) world and the digital world. These devices not only copy, print, and fax, but they have high quality, fast scanners. Advanced devices interact with other systems and complex functions can be enabled by pushing a “smart button” that is comparable to hitting the “copy” button. These “smart buttons” are also known as device personalisation and the result is a MFD designed for individual use. This functionality enables addressing multistep processes into one button that could scan, index, and archive information based on pre-defined rules.

In short, the MFP plays a critical role in the deployment of a document management solution. It allows organisations to gain more value from a device that is needed to support routine office functions.

If you have yet to deploy a document management solution, you should do so. The ROI is compelling and the positive impact on your organisation should not be overlooked. To get started, the following steps will help:

* Assess your current state. Interview relevant staff by asking where the pain points are and what solutions they would like to see implemented.

* Develop your goals, objectives, and the benefits you want from a DM solution.

* Explore options with trusted suppliers and work with partners who have implemented comparable solutions and who understand your requirements.

* Appoint someone to own your implementation that has time to work with your partner and with your relevant staff.