How to Evaluate a Document Management System

Purchasing a doc management system is no small decision. Here’s how to make sure you’re picking the right one.noun_21720

1. Take a team approach

Involve your colleagues in the evaluation process. This includes people within the firm of various levels of seniority as well as from different areas of the firm. It is usually a mistake to ‘go it alone’ in the evaluation process because:

– Other team members will think of aspects or desired features that may not occur to you;

– Your evaluation process will be more thorough as a result; and

– If you do go ahead with a document management system (DMS), you will have gone a long way to achieving ‘team buy in’ by involving your team in the evaluation process. They will feel informed, valued and they will welcome the DMS.

2. Get clear on what you want

Write down a list of problems or inefficiencies that you want the DMS to solve. Have a brainstorming session with your team to list out all the things that waste their time on a regular basis. Identify those items that are related to filing/storing or retrieving information. As you become more familiar with DMS features that are available, write down a list of the features—regarding not just the software but also the implementation and the ongoing support services—that are important to you and your team.

3. Get clear on what you DON’T want

Likewise, be very clear on things that are not acceptable for your firm. For example, many DMS’s are designed with ‘lock-in’ features that make it difficult for you to stop using the system in the future. Such DMS should be avoided. Refer to the checklist on page 12 for more details.

4. First evaluate the supplier, then evaluate the software

Your DMS is a vital tool for your firm and therefore your choice of DMS should not be taken lightly. Evaluating DMS software on a feature-by-feature basis can be a complex process due to the many dozens of features in each system, the strengths and weakness of each, and the difficulty of knowing whether you are ‘comparing apples with apples’ so to speak. Bigger picture, it’s more important to first evaluate the supplier of the DMS, then evaluate their DMS software in detail. For example:

– What is the supplier’s track record in providing DMS?

– How many years have they been providing DMS and how many clients use their DMS?

– Are they willing to provide reference sites?

– Are they DMS specialists with deep expertise in the area? Or are they new to providing DMS?

– Did they develop the DMS themselves—and therefore have the ability to implement fixes and improvements directly themselves—or have they acquired a smaller software company or are they simply a reseller or licensee? Are the key software developers part of their organisation?

5. Be systematic – use a checklist

Don’t think you will remember the details of each DMS demonstration. You won’t. Many features will be demonstrated and after you have seen two or three DMS, your recollection may start to blur as to which DMS had which features. Use a checklist as you progress through your evaluation process and set aside 30 minutes after each demonstration for your team to stay in the room and discuss what they liked, what they didn’t like, and to complete the evaluation checklist of the DMS you have just seen.

Keep in mind however, that a feature list is one thing, performance is another. For example, two DMS may both get a ‘yes’ in the Email Management column, but the ease of use, speed of filing, and reliability may differ greatly. Ultimately you need to go with the provider who you trust will deliver on what they demonstrate.

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