I recently read an article by Joe Shepley titled ‘Where document management went wrong.’ In it, he says that ‘the precise moment when everything became unhinged and started hurtling down the twisted, rocky road to document management perdition we’re currently on: the day we fired the file clerks.’
I have visited many companies over the years that had file clerks and they really did know how to manage documents. They had a methodology that they followed to store the information so that they could easily find it. This methodology was used for all of the information stored in their ‘file room’ [vault]. They would meticulously pay attention to versions/revisions. Many of these file room clerks did an outstanding job.
However, what happens when one of the file clerks moves to another job? What happens when they are on vacation? What happens when they make a mistake? What happens when someone bypasses the file clerk and takes/deposits a file?
Document Management Software
What you get with Document Management Software is control and visibility. You will still need a methodology, but the software will make sure that it is followed.
Control means that the software allows people with the right privilege access to their documents. It means that only one person at a time can edit a document [check-in/check-out]. It keeps versions/revisions. It makes sure files are not deleted. It can make sure a process is followed like your engineering change control procedures.
The software doesn’t move to another job; it doesn’t go on vacation; it doesn’t make a mistake; it doesn’t allow anyone to bypass the methodology. It provides control based on your methodology.
Visibility means you can quickly search for documents. You don’t have to know what someone named the file. You can see the current version/revision and easily see how it got to this state. You can see if someone is working on the document and who that person is. You don’t have to call a file clerk or go down to the ‘file room’.
Implementing a Document Management Solution
Implementing your new software requires a great deal of planning. You should be able to configure it to follow your document management methodology. The software is fairly complex so the more time you spend on analysis and design, the easier the construction and implementation.
Done right, you really can get the right information to the right person at the right time…