3 Document Management Best Practices to Boost Your Business Efficiency

Do you have documents spread across different folders and cloud systems? Learn why and how you must implement a proper document management system to increase efficiency and security.

Updated May 28, 2020

Document management systems have become essential tools for businesses to create, secure, and share critical documents. There’s no reason to be doing business via paper anymore.

And businesses that have adopted and implemented document management software have a clear advantage over organizations that have delayed going paperless.

Top view of table with laptop, coffee, notebook, and pen.

Get all your documents and records into one organized location. (via Tech Radar)

But not all document management systems are created equally, nor are the needs of every organization the same. It’s important to understand exactly which business metrics you’ll need your document management solution to impact.

Overview: What is a document management system?

Document management systems empower you to digitally record, secure, store, organize, and share critical business documents. Documents management solutions are the modern filing system, rendering filing cabinets and drawers of paper documents costly and unnecessary.

You can access any document you need via secure login on your business website.

Man pointing at post it notes on see through glass

Your business’ document management system is a secure, organized, online repository. (via Soda PDF)

5 benefits of a document management system

Document management systems offer numerous benefits to businesses of all types, regardless if you’re document light or document ladened. Here are five key benefits your document management system provides.

1. Centralized repository

Imagine being able to access any document from any filing cabinet or local computer across your entire organization. That’s the power document management solutions provide. These tools empower you to create a centralized, searchable repository of all your documents.

You can find anything you need to reference in a single, easy-to-use system. And there’s no risk of losing, misplacing, or accidentally spilling coffee on the document. These systems provide full documentation retention, similar to your content and creative on your website management platform.

2. Controlled accessibility

Centralizing all your documents into one digital location allows you to control who can access which documents. You’re not limited to one catch-all login and password.

Document management users can set up file management software to put unique protocols and access requirements on individual documents. These requirements can help you ensure employees and clients have access to everything they need to access without giving them access to everything.

3. Easy dissemination

Placing all your documents into a single digital repository makes it incredibly easy to share. You can search your document management systems to find and download documents and send them directly to coworkers, clients, and prospects.

But the real benefit of easy dissemination is in using your document management software to create a shared link and access code so that you can share documents without you or the recipient having to unnecessarily download anything.

This is great for large files such as lengthy legal documents or in-depth manuals. You’ll definitely want to establish some communication strategies when sharing any documents, especially sensitive ones.

4. Hassle-free collaboration

Digitizing your documents empowers your company and your clients to conduct and finalize business anytime, anywhere. Most document management systems have digital signing or authentication capabilities that are just as official as signing a document in person.

Such collaboration saves you and your clients from having to print, sign, scan, and then send documents. And depending on your business budget, removing postage and other paper-based fees could be a great way to free up resources.

Document management solutions empower you to complete this authentication with just one click, which is especially great for people on the go using mobile devices.

5. Enhanced security

While you can establish custom protocols to customize document access for employees and clients, you’ll also need security to protect your document library from hackers and data breaches.

Digitizing your documents does naturally expose them to the potential perils of the digital world. But using constantly updated security protocols and methodologies makes it increasingly difficult for hackers to access your files.

Most providers employ varying encryption best practices that keep your documents even more secure than the safest filing cabinet.

3 best practices for effective document management

Here are three best practices you can employ to optimize your document management adoption and usage. Use these best practices to reap the benefits discussed above and get the most value out of your document organizer.

Practice 1: Organize to optimize

All the positively impactful business benefits that document management systems provide are completely dependent on the organization of documents in your new solution.

This is one of those times where you want to go overboard in your organization. Include as many tags and as much detail as possible on each document.

Tips for organizing your document management system

Here are a few tips for achieving proper document organization and optimizing the efficiency and benefits of your document management system.

  • Comprehensively tag and categorize: Take the time to include as many tags and categories as possible for each document. Common tags include dates, owner, relevant client(s), and business group.
  • Be consistent: Your tags and categories must be consistent from document to document for you to realize any value. Take dates for example. You need to define how you want to write out the date and then write it in that format every time.

Practice 2: Define and share process and protocols

This is a general business best practice that especially applies to your document management system. You can’t allow a free-for-all regarding usage and adoption on your document management system.

That would defeat the purpose and create too much inconsistency in document organization. That’s why it’s critical that you create an implementation and onboarding team to be the sole document system users during migration.

These sole users can define best practices and serve as gatekeepers dedicated to at least establishing, if not maintaining, a tidy and organized document management system.

Tips for processes and protocols

Here are a few tips to ensure the onboarding and usage of your new document management system remains consistent from the beginning.

  • Onboarding team: Assign a team to manage input and restrict access to all but that team throughout onboarding.
  • Share protocols and process documents: Release protocols and process documentation for the rest of your organization to adopt and begin using.
  • Update process docs: Even your skilled onboarding team is probably not going to get everything right initially. And you should definitely expect to learn and tweak as you go, so be sure to think of your protocol and process documents as living things that change over time.

Practice 3: Create explainer for clients

One of the great benefits of your new document management system is boosting efficiency in working and communicating with clients.

If you’re going to incorporate this usage, then you should put together some boilerplate copy that explains to your clients what your document management system is, why you’ve adopted it, and how it benefits everyone.

Electronic signature is becoming more and more ubiquitous across all industries, so the copy may be overkill for most of your clients. But when you’re looking to finalize a deal, the last thing you want a salesperson to be worrying about is how to explain your document management system.

Tips for creating explanation copy for clients

Here are three tips for putting together a blurb that you can share with clients that explains your document management system.

  • Highlight mutual benefits: Let your clients know that they stand to gain a newfound efficiency from the sharing and electronic signing components of your new document management system.
  • Create in multiple formats: Create your client boilerplate as a PDF, presentation slide, and as a working file that can be copied and pasted into emails and other communications.
  • Don’t dwell on security: Include brief, simple verbiage describing your system as safe and secure. Keep it limited and don’t dwell on it, but do be prepared to speak to it in person if the situation arises.

Efficient document management begets efficiency

Implementing and properly using a document management system has a domino effect on your overall business efficiency. You must be disciplined and consistent in your data entry to achieve this efficiency.

But once you’re on the right track and have your protocols in place, your new document organizer will add hours of time annually back to you, your employees, and your clients.

The Motley Fool has a Disclosure Policy. The Author and/or The Motley Fool may have an interest in companies mentioned.