Document Management System: Short Intro
Document Management System is software used for storing, tracking, editing, and distributing documents and data in a digital format. The main purpose of document management development is to organize the storage and use of electronic documents (in particular, searching both by attributes and by content). The DMS should automatically track document changes, movement, and control all versions and subversion.
With the pervasiveness of business digitalization, the question of how to create a document management system gradually arose. It was mostly asked by people who work in non-tech industries and aren’t involved in software development.
In this article, we will delve into document management development and cover everything from benefits and challenges to practical steps on how to build your own DMS. Here at ProCoders, we’ve been working on software development for no less than a decade and know exactly what to do in this situation.
Why Do You Need Custom Document Management Software?
There is a prevailing misconception that document management software benefits only large enterprises with hundreds of documents being worked on daily. And while it’s true that DMS makes things infinitely easier for corporations and big companies, it is just as true for SMEs.
Given today’s circumstances and general insecurity regarding workplace location, more than 77 percent of businesses, regardless of size, would like to be able to remotely access all documents by using DMS from home.
So, what advantages of electronic documents make businessmen invest in document management solution development?
DMS Offers Ultimate Team Collaboration Opportunities
Building a document management system means allowing your employees to collaborate on a document wherever they are and whenever they want. As per 2014, approximately 92 percent of knowledge workers in the United States and the United Kingdom work together on documents via email, thus wasting productivity and time on searching, checking the version of the document, or even manually merging the changes. This method of teamwork is not only inefficient but also dangerous because e-mails can be hacked.
With DMS, team collaboration has never been easier. The software serves as a centralized storage location for all necessary data, as well as a document editing tool similar to Google Docs, allowing multiple people to work on the same version of a document and track changes.
DMS Saves a Ton of Money
Investing in a document management system today is more than just looking after productivity. Think about paper costs, filing cabinets costs, space costs, labor costs… A clinical transcription service M*Modal for instance was able to save $68,820 by adopting a DMS software.
On average it costs $20 for a document to be filed and stored, and an additional $120 to find or replace an item if it was lost. And as stated by Laserfiche, implementing a DMS can save up to 40% document-related costs in general.
DMS Enhance Efficiency
People weren’t lying when they said time is money. Today to be competitive on the market you need to react as fast as you can and building a document management system may help you with that. First and foremost, because documents are stored in a digital centralized database, a DMS saves time on searching and editing them.
Secondly, by using this kind of software, you can reduce errors by up to 30%, all thanks to versioning and tracking document changes. In the end, if you have a mountain of paper documents, want to optimize business processes in the company, and are looking for a tool to increase employee efficiency – document management systems are the way to go.
How to Choose the Right DMS Solution?
Document management systems nowadays vary in scope and size, offer various features, and have specific benefits and pitfalls, which complicates choosing the right solution for your business. You must understand that a well-developed DMS is the backbone of an enterprise because it is used daily by all employees, so you must take your time and conduct thorough research.
We suggest using these criteria as substantive guidelines:
1. The Type of The DMS
When thinking about building a document management system you need to first determine the type of the DMS itself: will it be server-based, cloud-based, web-based, or database system. This choice depends entirely on your needs and capabilities, for example, if you need a customizable solution that can be used without the Internet, server-based DMS is your choice.
Building a web-based document management system might fit someone with a small workflow without any sensitive data. If scalability and real-time collaboration are important to you, a cloud-based DMS may be the best option.
2. Budget Restrictions
Another important aspect to think of is pricing. This slightly correlates with the previous paragraph, since the price directly depends on the deployment architecture, but here we urge you to align the type of the DMS and your financial capabilities.
Typically, cloud-based systems cost less simply because of the different subscription plans they offer (per month, per user, per storage unit, etc.), but if you want more control and budget isn’t an issue, you may look at the server-based or database systems.
3. Usability and Handling
Switching from paper to EDMS isn’t the easiest transfer in a short-term perspective, even switching from one DMS to another may require some time to get used to. Setting up the system, migrating, retraining the employees – just the tip of the iceberg.
At ProCoders we believe that time and resources are the most valuable assets of the company, that’s why implementing an easy-to-use DMS with a provider’s support is pivotal. A seamless intuitive solution will ensure that employees will actually use it and do it correctly, so take care of it in the early stages of DMS development.
Challenges You May Face With Document Management System Implementation
Developing a document management system is not an easy task and presents many challenges, especially in enterprises that have never worked with a DMS before. Knowing about these shortcomings, you can easily understand how to create your own document management system that is suitable for your particular business needs and at the same time is as efficient as possible, even if you are a novice in this area.
1. Providing Data Security
By data security, we mean the inaccessibility of the documents to the third party, be it a natural or legal person. Because businesses deal with private documents daily, the issue of data theft is extremely serious and poses a genuine threat to the company’s integrity. With the average cost of a data breach to companies all around the world being $3.86 million, not to mention the nonfinancial damage, it is critical to provide a foolproof system for document management.
To avoid this problem during the early stages choose the most reliable and reputable service provider, who had worked with DMS before. Even more so, if security is a top priority to you, you may build document management software that is server-based. That way you can minimize the risks and ensure data security in the company.
2. Ensuring Document Authentication
With all documents transferred into electronic form, arises the question of confirming their authenticity. Even when operating within the same organization and having a standard login-password binding to enter and work in a centralized document management system, it is necessary to have a second level of document identification.
The ideal solution to this problem is the implementation of an electronic (digital) signature as a part of the DMS. Besides, according to Forbes, companies gain 70-80% more productivity after adopting e-signature.
The trick here is either to find an out-of-the-box DMS solution that already has an e-signature, or, if you want to build your own document management system, to find contractors that have experience working with this feature. Having already worked with electronic signatures, at ProCoders we know that this tool should not be underestimated and overlooked.
3. Constant Support & Updates
Software continuity is one of the biggest issues for non-technical companies when they want to develop a document management system. Building a DMS is a challenge in and of itself, but it doesn’t stop there, and you need to make continual improvements.
Typically service providers offer 24/7 customer support, however, you should check that before leaning in favor of a particular developer.
How to Build Your Own Document Management System in 7 Steps
Step 1. Evaluate the Current Workflow in the Company
The main objective of this stage of DMS implementation is to determine what patterns of working with documents are typical for the company, what documents prevail in the workflow, what gaps and shortcomings in communication between employees need to be eliminated.
If you want to succeed, you need to know how to create online document management system that responds directly to your company’s needs and solves the pain points of your business operations. Try to answer these questions:
- How many people work in your company?
- What is their main method of communication?
- How many documents are in a daily turnaround?
- What kind of identification methods for the documents do you have?
- How quickly do the documents accumulate?
Step 2. Dеfine the Requirements
Before jumping straight to document management system software development you need to draw up a list of requirements for the software itself. This requires the analysis of the general functions you want your DMS to perform, general industry regulations, the results generated in data transactions.
Any DMS should take care of storage, security, retrieval, retention period, and disposition of the documents. Based on your thorough analysis of the current workflow, determine the objectives for each one of these points. What is the bare minimum of functions and features you want your DMS to have and what are the optimal ones?
If that seems too difficult or you want to get a third-party consult, you can try scheduling a discovery phase with a contractor. A discovery phase is an initial phase of development aimed at clarifying project goals, objectives, possible risks. It might be necessary if this is the first electronic DMS in the company and there is no previous experience whatsoever.
At ProCoders we can start a discovery phase for your enterprise and on short notice, you will be aware of possible scenarios of implementing a document management software.
Step 3. Find the Solution/Contractor
Choosing the right software vendor is probably the most important step in this list, as it will determine the quality and efficiency of your DMS. While all DMS solutions offer pretty much the same range of features, some are better at offering certain services than others. Your job is to compare them to one another and decide what features fit your business best.
Having a reliable service provider is a guarantee of better opportunities and overall a brighter future. Those who opted for customized server-based software should generally be more attentive to the search of the partner, than those who decided to stick with a ready-made system.
Having worked with many clients from different industries, we can vouch for the expertise of ProCoders’ developers. If you are looking for a dependable partner to build a DMS with, we can offer our services as a staff augmentation company with years worth of experience in software development.
Step 4. Sеt up a Schеdule and Stick to It
Developing a document management system is incredibly time-consuming. Starting with accessing and finding a contractor and down to transferring all of the paper documents to the system, which usually means scanning till you drop dead. It is as rewarding, as it is tedious, that’s why setting up a schedule and following the deadlines is a must.
Step 5. Come Up With a Consistent Strategy
Remember weaknesses and pain points identified in Step 1? Time to find out how to get rid of them using your new DMS.
When you create a document management system it’s not only about technical stuff but also about making an effort and prioritizing efficient policies, practices, and standards, which equals coming up with a consistent strategy.
Step 6. Organize Your Current Documents
One of the primary functions of a DMS is document organization, so it is only fair that at some point you’ll have to organize and declutter your current documents, now that you have a basic framework of your management plan.
In order to organize digital storage companies usually use tags – succinct and short words that explain what a document contains. It can be a type of document, name of the client or partner, status (active/expired), or any other description. The goal of this is to set up a database where it is easy to find any document using tags and metadata.
This is also where you purge redundant data and get rid of old documents that have no use in them.
Step 7. Upskilling and Training
When the DMS is all set up it’s time to teach the employees to work with it. If a company just migrates from one DMS to another, it will take less time for employees to master the technology, as they already have experience, however complete newcomers to digital document management can have a hard time getting used to it.
Some Tips on Creating a Document Management System Architecture
An important ability of any document management system is the ability to integrate it into the company’s existing software. The smoother the system can integrate into the software, the easier it will ultimately be to use.
This is where the DMS architecture comes into play. The architecture is basically a visual representation of the app, with all patterns and techniques used to build it. Knowing about architecture is irrelevant for those companies that choose ready-made solutions (be it cloud or web-based DMS), however, for those, who want to create a custom document management system it is important to know how well the system is going to behave with custom software.
For example, this is how the architecture of the famous open-source system Alfresco looks like.
This architecture allows you to see how storage, retrieval, and modeling of the content, as well as access control and versioning, are carried out in the program. Because of the level of control Alfresco provides over individual content, the content repository is more than just a database application.
The main characteristics that should be reflected in the architecture are flexibility, scalability, the ability to create backups and ensure secure storage, and workflow engine support.
In companies that build document management software, architecture-related issues are treated as a separate developmental stage and are coordinated with the customer requests to ensure seamless integration.
Non-technical Advice for DMS Implementation
In the difficult process of transitioning to a new content organization system, it is not only the technological nuances that are important. When you are dealing with document management software development, there are some so-called “soft” aspects to watch out for.
For example, the willingness of the team to jump to the completely new organizational structure. Your efforts to digitize the business process may be in vain if employees continue to use outdated communication methods, which means that special attention should be paid to training and supporting those employees who find it difficult to make the change.
It is also a great idea to have someone controlling the process from the very beginning, the designated driver if you will. It can be one person or a whole team of representatives from every department of your company (accounting, administration, sales, etc.) who oversee the correct transition from paper to digital data.
Our general tips for non-tech companies who want to know how to build document management system would be:
- have a designated team of employees to oversee the DMS implementation;
- come up with a reward system for those who actively use all new opportunities offered by the DMS;
- if you have any difficulties with selecting a contractor or adapting a DMS overall, hire an independent tech consultant;
- don’t hesitate to use the customer support service provided by your contractor (if there is one).
How Can ProCoders Team Help to Create Document Management System?
Having worked with software development for the last 10+ years, at ProCoders we surely know a lot about how to develop a document management system. At our disposal, we have more than 50 software experts in all things Java, PHP, and Ruby, who have all the skills to help you build a robust DMS.
We’ve already mentioned how important are certain tools like e-signature, which acts like a digital binding mechanism, simplifying and accelerating document processing. Well, the difference between e-signature and traditional one (pen & paper) according to LunarPen is something like 37 minutes vs. 5 days, so there is no doubt this may significantly impact the quality of business operations.
In fact, we helped our clients at RLM Jobs implement e-signature to their platform, attracting more than 50 companies to the site. Now it’s a prominent player on the logistics market with a stellar digital presence. We were able to assemble a team within a few days and set the project up and running in merely six weeks. So if you are wondering how to build a document management system, ProCoders might be able to help you.
Building a document management system requires a careful and extensive analysis of the already existing workflow in your company. The most important step, however, is finding a suitable DMS solution based on the requirements you establish by studying your content management.
It depends largely on the number of documents you already have at your disposal, and how many people from your team are working on transferring and organizing them in the system.
Generally speaking, out-of-the-box solutions take a minimum time to install and set up (1 to 2 working weeks), but if you opt for custom software it can take up to 4 months just to build a database backbone.
With many companies working with sensitive information, one of the most intricate problems is content security. This rings true for those types of DMS that are launched only when connected to the Internet – web-based or cloud-based systems.
Another major challenge is ensuring document authenticity, but at the same time, there are certain tools that can solve this problem when applied correctly (like e-signature).
Are you in need of a good well-structured document management system? Surely, it can benefit your business by increasing productivity, saving a ton of money on paper-related costs, and improving teamwork, but it can also be a very tedious and obscure task to do.
DMS vary in types, scopes, functionality, price. Choosing the right software may influence the performance of your company drastically, as it is the backbone of each and every operation in the company. Hopefully, our thorough guide helps you implement a killer document management software, but what if you are still unsure what DMS you need or want to avoid any possible risks of switching the way your business operates?
Thankfully, we can assist you in developing the document management system of your dreams by assembling a team of craft professionals to work under your command. Whether you are implementing a DMS for the first time or want to migrate to a more efficient solution, at ProCoders we are ready to help.
We can walk you through every step of this process from the discovery phase to support, help you find a unique and personalized solution focused on solving your specific needs. Give us a call if you want to improve your business!