The results for “document management” in popular search engines will feature a wide spectrum of products and services, which are often very different from each other. The reason for this is because “document management” is a broad term that can encompass imaging and text recognition, database indexing, version management, business process automation, and records management and many other capabilities.
Organizations seeking a solution for managing their documents and business processes often find that the task is often not as straightforward as procuring other business products. Document management solutions can range from multi-million-dollar enterprise-wide systems for global corporations, to free, open-source applications for small businesses and individual users, and can vary drastically in price, features and areas of specialization.
Because document management needs can differ significantly by industry, and due to the fact that every organization has its own unique requirements, so too do information management offerings vary greatly in capabilities and price. Evaluating the various alternatives and making the right choice for a specific business can be a daunting proposition. There is a real risk that an implementation will fail if it does not align well with the practical day-to-day needs of the users.
This is why the selection of a document management solution should begin with a thorough needs assessment, rather than jumping right into product investigation.
Choosing one solution to be at the heart of business operations — one that must integrate seamlessly with other systems and support a diverse set of users – deserves a careful and methodical approach. A strong understanding of both the technical features of the proposed solution and one’s own existing business processes is a prerequisite for any successful document management initiative, which is why conducting a needs assessment should be your first course of action.
A needs assessment entails a discussion between managers and staff, and should result in a written outline of an organization’s document management and processing needs, constraints and objectives. Different organizations may require drastically different solutions to best address their particular environment, so it is important to clarify exactly which issues the solution must solve.
Creating a custom checklist of preferred features will help build a consensus for action while identifying all the document management needs the new system will need to address. Evaluators can then use the checklist when talking with vendors to help focus the conversation on how the system will actually fit into existing IT infrastructure and work processes.
Assessing needs, stating desired outcomes, and collective planning lay the groundwork for a thorough and efficient selection process and smooth document management deployment.