For decades, large companies have been faced with the challenge of organizing the sheer volume of corporate information stored in documents, either on paper, electronic files, databases or corporate portals. During the 1990’s, the concept of “knowledge management” began to develop. Its purpose was to measure and preserve the intellectual capital of a company.
In the early twenty-first century, the goal of many organizations was to prevent this information from being generated on paper, but the initial unfamiliarity with document management systems and the fear of losing the information, led to the coexistence of paper documents and electronic formats. In many cases, this duplication caused companies to spend more time managing the documents, which undoubtedly had an impact on corporate profits. In addition, the contents that are being stored are in constant and exponential growth.
Evidently, large firms were the first to implement technologies that best solved their document management problems. They reached the conclusion that the key to “knowledge management” is found in document solutions that identify the information, capture, and storage, to be able to retrieve, distribute and exchange the data afterwards.
Once the organizations were aware that it was necessary to sort and store their documents in a logical and structured order, both for daily use and for their subsequent recovery, it became clear that there was a need to implement a Corporate Document Management System. The purpose of incorporating this system was to provide a management model and a software tool that would ensure access and availability of information in order to improve their productivity, intellectual capital, and knowledge.
The main benefits for a large company to implement a Corporate Document Management System can be summarized as: company information can be shared efficiently and safely, be it located in one or several locations; the overall knowledge of the organization is preserved, because the data flows efficiently and fluidly; and uncertainty about the available data when managing various versions of documents is resolved.
When implementing a document management project, both material and immaterial aspects must be taken into account. Among the first ones are the tangible resources available to the company, such as the computers. Among the latter, consider the available human resources, document training and digital skills. Furthermore, the software and extra hardware that will be needed must be included within the cost of implementing a Document Management System. Finally, external professional services need to be accounted for, not to mention the hours of dedication internal users and project managers will consume.
Document management is a relatively new “specialty” in the field of documentation, and for that reason, organizations do not usually have specific teams dedicated to these tasks. In some cases, these functions are assigned to existing departments; in others, a new department is created and the organization and budget are adapted accordingly.
A practical measure to ensure the most favorable implementation of corporate document management software is the creation of a department that is responsible exclusively of this demanding task. This new division must define a new model of document management and determine the different tools that will meet the functional and technical requirements, and those needed for an optimal integration of the new software. Planning is also very important. An “action plan” must be created, and within this plan, the project will become a pilot, using it as a starting point for future expansion to the rest of the organization.
The company management, its computer equipment, employees responsible for documentation, consultants and end-users are the protagonists in the implementation of this complex project, the opinion of each is necessary and important. The company’s customers are also very important because, as they are consumers of information, their profile can be a mix of active and passive. By interacting from the very beginning with the documents, they create, receive, manage and require increasing amounts.
Coordination and collaboration is essential among all stakeholders for the correct development of the project. From the very beginning, it is important to define and assign responsibilities and permissions whilst constantly reporting to the parties involved.
The implementation of a Corporate Document Management System in large organizations is more complex than it might seem at first. We have to take into account hundreds or thousands of employees, dozens of departments, different venues and objectives, and different working methods.
Implementing an enterprise solution that gives an adequate and comprehensive response can be very difficult at first. For this reason, we must begin with a pilot project, as the successful management of any initiative is that it reaches its target in the pre-set time, within the budget, and according to agreed quality standards.
As a first phase, it is recommended to address the pilot project in a narrow field, where they can perform all the tasks arising from an implementation of these features and analyze the good and bad practices for the future. On the one hand, this ensures that the documentation is the optimal model selecting the appropriate software tool. On the other hand it ensures that the change management strategies are carried out correctly, this is fundamental to overcome the threat of rejection to the technological challenge and help curb the anxiety provoked by the changes.
The methodology for the implementation of a Corporate Document Management System, usually based on traditional project management, should be geared to satisfying the organization and users that comprise it, whose role must conform to a more active status.
Maybe the transformation process implies a resistance to change, which hinders the redesign of documentation because it involves new ways of working, new management styles and new skills. For this reason, it is important that management informs their staff of the different stages of implementing the document management system, as well as the advantages that are to be achieved.