Document management software features
As you evaluate different document management software packages, keep in mind that your choice should be based on your specific business needs: tools that are useful for one company may only serve as a distraction to another. Comparing several document management solutions can help you figure out what works best for you.
It's best to make comparisons by getting live product demonstrations. Whether it's face-to-face or online, a live demo will allow the vendor to show their strong points while giving you the opportunity to ask questions.
How to evaluate document management software
The most important aspect to consider is ease of use. If creating, filing, and retrieving documents isn't easy and intuitive, your employees may resist using the system, decreasing your ROI.
Seeing the software in action is the only way to really judge ease of use. You can accomplish this via live product demonstration or by visiting a company who is already using the system (ask for referrals from the vendors you are evaluating).
Systems that use familiar metaphors such as file cabinets, folders, and paperclips can help even the least computer-savvy employees catch on quickly. The interface should also provide easy access to the screens you use most without being overly-cluttered with buttons.
Other general attributes to consider:
- Architecture - Many companies today prefer non-proprietary systems: in document management, this means that the system should store your documents in their original formats and run on a range of hardware, and be easily transferable.
- Customizability - Because their function is so central to your everyday operations, the system you choose should be customizable to match your business processes. In many cases, the supplier will be able to integrate the system into the applications you use today, making use of the system almost transparent.
- Scalability - The system needs to be able to grow with you - both in terms of how many users it supports and how many documents it can handle.
- Modularity - In the best-case scenario, you'll be able to buy only the functionality you need at first, and add more as you expand your use of the system.
There are also more specific document management software features you'll need to investigate:
- Security - The more granular the security options, the better: security rules may be applicable to the entire system, per cabinet, per folder, per document, or even to specific sections of documents. Systems that rely on Windows security capabilities alone are not considered very secure.
- Searching - Is it easy and logical? Can you easily call up all related documentss - all W2's, for example, or all documents with a certain customer number?
- Compliance - Auditing features can track activity by user and by machine. In some industries, you'll need to prove that documents are unaltered.
- Access - Some systems require client software on each computer that will access the system; others only require a web browser. Make sure to consider your remote users.
- Workflow - Document management software can automate approval processes, editors, and other document routing. Extensive workflow rules can be a distinguishing factor between small to mid-sized solutions and true enterprise-level systems.
- Compatibility - Microsoft Office integration allows you to check-in and check-out documents while working in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. E-mail integration allows you to send direct links and share native documents with remote customer. And some systems allow you to generate PDF versions of your documents. Make sure you take into consideration the needs of remote employees: do they need access from mobile devices? tablets? Macs or PCs? Check with your provider to see if the system supports these configurations.
- Open Source - Some businesses prefer open source software, as it can offer a more adaptable, cost-effective alternative to proprietary systems. However, this may require you to have staff with the knowledge and experience to implement company specific coding.