Did you know that poor document management can be incredibly costly: searching for documents costs professional services firms nearly $4,000 in lost productivity per employee each month, and a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers study reports that the average worker spends 40% of their time managing non-essential documents.
Thriving practices have moved away from windows explorer in favour of robust document management solutions and regularly review and update their saving/storage protocols and conventions. There are a host of solutions on the market to choose from (our own included!) but the key is to ensure the solution is fast/responsive, intuitive & easy to use, integrates with your existing practice management solution, and has comprehensive security capabilities as standard.
When implemented correctly, and regularly reviewed by an internal process champion, a robust and well-maintained document management platform can have big benefits for your business, including:
- Increased communication and collaboration: Using a DMS makes it much easier to share documents with colleagues and clients. A good DMS should be able to be accessed remotely – providing you access from any online location (eg the client’s office!). You also want to be able to balance security and accessibility – set controls over which documents are available office wise, compared to those that may be secured for management only.
- Get documents signed on the (virtual) dotted line: Integrating your DMS with a portal solution like HowNow Portal not only allows you to provide your clients with quick and easy access to their documents, but also provides eSigning capabilities so clients can sign off on important files from anywhere and any device. To make things even easier for clients to access their files, a robust document portal should also be able to be connected to your website and be branded to your practice’s look and feel.
- Enabling automation: Looking for documents is a manual and repetitive process – one that takes up way too much time and distracts your team from what’s important. A quality DMS platform will have some automated workflows built-in as standard, or have the functionality to create workflows customised to your practice. For example, you may be able to design specific rules to streamline specific document procedures, automatically notify staff when specific actions happen, or monitor user activity.
- Increased productivity and efficiency: Which makes sense given the greater collaboration and automation your DMS can and should be enabling. Features like recommended save locations and predictive searching make a big difference in increasing productivity when it comes to file management. Coupled with integrations to your practice management system, and other key business software platforms, your document management solution should support your team to work more efficiently and collaborate more effectively.
If you’re considering a review of your existing platform or approach to document management, there are several things to consider ensuring the solution you choose is right for your practice. To help you, we’ve highlighted some of the key questions to start thinking about:
- Data capture functionality: What options are available for inputting data (electronic filing, direct-scanning), what types of bulk import & export options are available,
- Indexing flexibility: Can you create indexing/naming templates, can you enforce specific indexing fields, how easy is re-indexing or re-filing if needed?
- Searching functionality and & ease of use: Do text searches cover the entire collection of documents, can you perform specific searches and/or custom searched from a google-style search bar, can you save search criteria, is there any context displayed to show how the word or phrase is used without retrieving the entire document?
- Distribution options: What options are available to distribute documents both internally and externally, can you drag and drop into an email, does the solution have a portal or client-facing document sharing option – or what services does the solution integrate with?
- Document management: Can you track, compare and revert between previous versions, are there check-in/check-out capabilities, can you specify which fields are visible within the folder browser, can users place notes/comments on documents with searchable text and hyperlinks?
- Integration options: What type of out-of-the-box integrations are included? Are there add-ons or additional integrations we should be exploring, Does the DMS automatically file email correspondence? Are there templates or tools included?
- Storage & Security: What document segregation options are available, is the data stored alongside that of other practices, is two-factor-authentication possible, what type of user management is available?
- Support, updates, and future development: What support is available, how regularly are updates provided and how are those deployed, what is on the horizon feature and enhancement wise?
Once you’ve run the rule over the options available on the market and you’re ready to implement a new document management system, make sure you take the time to thoroughly consider and document how your practice interacts with client information. Map out important fields and implement a structure naming convention. The most important part of your file name is the document’s description – so take the time to create a filing reference sheet/guide for your practice, and review and update this regularly.
Of course, regularly monitoring, reviewing, and maintaining your document management platform is critical to ensuring its long-term success. Think about your own team members – you regularly check-in with them, provide support, and review their interactions with the rest of your team. You should think about your DMS as any other key member of the team too. From doing the due diligence prior to implementation, through to regularly providing refresher training to your team on how to file and find documents, to checking in with the solution provider for updates and best practice information, we recommend charging one of your team with the invaluable task of product “champion” to ensure the long term success and sustainability of the DMS.
Looking for a robust and reliable DMS that will serve your firm for the future? Find out why HowNow is so much more than document management. Click here to find out more or click here to book an online discovery call now.