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The Importance of Good Document Management

Globalization means that workplaces are ever more geographically dispersed. This means that documents are also used more than ever by people in several countries and continents for communicating and collaborating.

You will see communication problems even between employees in the same office because they do not have easy access to the documents that they need. You find some documents kept by someone in the accounts office, shared directories that serve everybody, some documents in paper form, others in electronic form – quite a free-for-all.

An explosion in the number of documents that a company needs does not help. If their storage and indexation are badly organized, these documents become useless because they are almost impossible to find.

The results of poor document management can lead to a significant loss of time. Ask yourself how often you find yourself looking for:

  • A supplier catalogue that has been sent to a purchasing manager,

  • A customer contract signed several months ago,

  • The final set of Terms and Conditions offered to a specific customer,

  • The documents required for employing a new member of staff,

  • An order confirmation sent by a customer to one of your salespeople or, perhaps even more common, when the relevant salesperson has gone on vacation, if you ever received such an order confirmation,

  • A procedure from your quality manual if there has been a process fault,

  • An email which was sent to one of your colleagues,

  • A document that you need to be a template for a specific type of contract,

  • A complete history of communications between yourselves and a supplier about a given contract.

Even worse than the loss of time, perhaps, the lack of good document management is bad for the quality of your organization and the service provided by your company. In such a company it is likely that:

  • sets of documents do not follow a standard layout,

  • all the salespeople prepare quotations in their own way and gradually change the way they do it for themselves but not for the group,

  • a correction to a type of contract stays with a small group of people and does not percolate back into the rest of the company to benefit other users,

  • version management is chaotic or even non-existent.

So a good integrated document management system can be a powerful tool to help in day-to-day company management. With it you could also easily:

  • Continue the work started by a colleague if she has gone on vacation, and respond to her customers if needed,

  • Get hold of examples of all document types with just a few clicks, so that you can follow company standards in such areas as order confirmation, price requests, meeting minutes, customer deliverables, contract examples, and models for faxes and letters,

  • Retrieve procedures and other associated documents if you do not know how to do a certain task – such as things you should do when hiring a new employee, organizing a conference, or structuring meeting minutes,

  • Reuse work done by a colleague to meet similar needs and build on all the individual work done in your own company,

  • Find all the orders for a customer or from a supplier in just a few seconds to answer questions or to continue a discussion when the initial contact point in your company is not available,

  • Build on your working methods and enable your colleagues to benefit from each improvement in a document type or a procedure.

From these examples you can see the importance of a good document management system, and what it might contribute to the improvement of productivity and the quality of the output from each employee.