The fundamentals of document management systems

Successful businesses today demand instant access to important information, which means that taking control of document workflow is becoming more important than ever.

June 4, 2014

With Mark Hiller, country general manager at Lexmark South Africa

What is a document management system (DMS)?

Successful businesses today demand instant access to important information, which means that taking control of document workflow is becoming more important than ever, especially when you consider how document workflow can impact a company’s bottom line. Document management technology provides the tools required to work smarter and increase productivity by adapting to the unique operations of a business.

Has document management gained more traction in South Africa recently and, if so, why are companies opting to invest in these systems?

We have definitely noticed an increased level of interest in document management systems as companies start to feel the effect of an ever-increasing amount of paper-based and digital data passing through their business.

What are the main benefits of implementing DMS?

Businesses have varying objectives and priorities when implementing a document management system. From personal experience, an important prerequisite of doing so is operational visibility. A good system will enable the business to identify existing bottlenecks and hone-in on areas that may require urgent attention. Likewise, visibility of processes that are working well is highly beneficial in terms of understanding which areas provide the quickest benefits – from cost reduction to efficiency gains.

Document management can assist companies to address compliance and security requirements. The introduction of the Protection of Personal information (PoPI) Act has prompted businesses to find ways to secure their client data in order to comply with the legislation. For example, Perceptive Software’s document management capabilities address data security issues as well as enable digital signature solutions, archiving and retention and disposal management.

How has document management evolved over the past few years in terms of product offering, technology and ease of use?

The product offering has grown significantly, mostly due to tailored systems becoming more readily available. This has sparked growing interest in DMS due to its ability to address an increasing number of business challenges. Today’s document management systems have the capability to strategically support the complex processes of a business and truly offer value by addressing the ever-growing information management challenge in a structured and cost-effective way.

Is document management still only relevant to the enterprise market or are there options for SMEs?

DMS was primarily designed as a viable investment for corporates that were dealing with substantial amounts of data and complex business processes. More and more SMEs are realising the benefits of document management systems on a smaller scale, however.

Vendors have now adapted their products for smaller businesses, allowing a company to start small with a minimal investment and thereafter growing the system to accommodate business needs as required.

What important questions should customers ask about document management hardware and software?

Customers should discuss and define their expectations clearly and understand any system limitations with their provider upfront to avoid any frustrations in the future. In terms of hardware, a customer should have a thorough understanding of their current IT infrastructure and its proficiencies and limitations, including servers, storage, local area network, WAN, multifunction devices (MFDs) and workstations.

Software requirements should be looked at on an individual basis in order to correctly factor in customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise content management (ECM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, legacy systems and integration should the company need to grow its DMS in future.

How is document management evolving?

We can expect to see a growing platform of simpler and more cost-effective systems that will also cater to mobile and cloud computing technologies.