How to Develop a Document Management Plan for Your Business

Steve Breault, President & Founder, Vircosoft

Documents are a major part of every business, and without them it would be impossible to keep track of transactions. Not long ago every office consisted of shelves and boxes full of files and folders with all kinds of documents. With the advancement in technology, document management software has provided a platform for a paperless office. All your documents are saved in a centralized system, with access allowed only to authorized parties.

Most businesses today have their documents in both soft and hard copies. Even with management software, it is not possible to transition overnight from paper offices. The shift is gradual, towards the electronic storage mode which is easier and more convenient. In the meantime, both types of documents have to be managed efficiently for the business to run smoothly. Developing a document management plan involves the following steps:

1) Set a standard: Related documents should be presented in a particular format. For instance, you can decide that all the monthly reports are to be created using Microsoft Excel. For all other documents such as receipts, spread sheets, payment notices and invoices, come up with an appropriate format or template for each one. Present these procedures to everybody in the office and explain the importance of maintaining the set standards.

2) Obtain soft copies: Hard copies can be damaged easily and consume a lot of space. To enhance the efficiency of your business, scan your documents and work with electronic copies. The papers can be retained as a backup but not for daily references. They can even be transferred to a separate room or the basement, so that the office has enough space. The electronic documents need a backup too. You can save some copies on a separate drive or online so that you are on the safe side even in the case of a system breakdown.

3) Establish a retrieval system: One of the major benefits of document management software is the ease of retrieval. Time, money and energy are lost whenever document retrieval is a lengthy process. In an efficient system, it is possible to search for a document by simply typing in the file name. In a manual system, all files and folders should be clearly labeled. You can simplify the process further by coming up with a file location list. Print and post it on various locations where staff members can locate it easily. The list specifies the location of various documents, whether in soft or hard copies.

By following these steps, you will have brought your business closer to a paperless office. Document loss, misplacement and damage will be a thing of the past. You will save money and space that is required to store all these documents. Sending and receiving information will be as fast as the click of a button. In the near future it will be rare to come across paper documents, as management software is quickly taking over. Prepare your business for the shift as you enjoy the convenience of properly managed documents.

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