Articles & Editorials

Deploying a Document Management System: An eFileCabinet Guidebook

So you've decided that your brand will benefit from having a document management system. That's almost certainly a wise decision.

But adopting a DMS takes more than just installing it or signing up for it. A deployment process needs to take place – an efficient one.

To help you out, here's a guidebook that covers the essentials of deploying any document management system effectively, and with minimal disruption.

Necessary Questions to Answer Before Document Management System Deployment

If an organization has already gone paperless prior to purchasing DMS, data migration services and structural frame-working of content are enough to deploy a document management system.

However, for organizations that have not already gone paperless, the process becomes lengthier, and it all begins with digitizing all the documents through scanning. Sometimes decision makers within an organization will buy scanners designed to digitize a high volume of documents.

However, the preexisting multi-functional printers that many organizations already possess can also be used if they have the throughput capacity needed to make the scanning process pain-free and quick, but this usually isn’t the case.

Be sure to discuss with prospective DMS vendors what scanning technology best supports their DMS model, as some DMS vendors will usually sell scanners for lower prices than the scanner manufacturer’s MSRP. The increasing number of scanning companies that partner with DMS vendors and other enterprise technology vendors justifies these lower scanner prices.

Furthermore, sometimes scanned images will need de-spotting and other touch-ups before and after uploading them to a document management system. Although these issues typically do not interfere with OCR (optical character recognition) and document search-ability, they may be worth resolving if an organization plans to share this content with clients and customers.

In respect to user accounts, some DMS vendors sell their software under concurrent licensing—which means, for example, that up to 50 users can log in to the system at a given time, but an unlimited number of employees working within the organization may have access to it.

Perhaps the biggest user difficulties that DMS presents are user related, rather than software related. Avoiding these difficulties becomes especially important prior to the stage of DMS deployment.

Is the content structured or unstructured? Where is it stored? What are each document’s retention requirements? Who should have access to this document once uploaded to the document management system? Zonal Optical Character Recognition answers several of these questions at the deployment stage.

Choosing the Right Model for Deployment

Once an organization has chosen a document management system that works best for its benefit and usage priorities, deployment models must be considered, and these deployment models hinge, at least partially, on the preexisting state of the organization’s content and timeline.

If minimal downtime is preferred at implementation, the phased implementation model is preferable, whereas the all-at-once deployment model is preferable for organizations seeking immediate returns on investment.

Phased vs. All-at-Once Deployment

Phased deployment is often a smart alternative, and involves implementing the various aspects of the document management system and the files you want to contain within it at different stages, even if buying the entire document management system all at once.

A phased document management system deployment cycle is requisite to any industry using DMS (particularly higher education) that has thicker communication silos often co-occurring with dispersed departments of information (different colleges and departments within a university, for instance).

A phased deployment may also focus on implementing certain aspects of the software in protracted groups, or organizations may implement the entire suite of software features all at once, but separately by department, branch, or office location. However, the latter of these two options can create interdepartmental communication silos within the organization, and these should be accounted for prior to selecting a deployment model.

Although not always necessary, the phased approach is recommended for fast-growing, small to mid-sized organizations and large organizations.

Localized vs. Dispersed Deployment

In addition to all-at-once vs. phased deployment options, localized vs. dispersed deployment models must also be taken into consideration. Essentially, whether documents will be scanned and imaged from one location or from multiple locations is an important consideration.

Given the enormity of the document management system market and the fast pace of large organizations’ adoption of the technology, it is much more likely that larger organizations will have offices in numerous areas, and must adopt an organization-wide plan across departments and multiple branches to coordinate the deployment process: Doing so would constitute following a dispersed implementation model.

A localized model would entail scanning everything from one central location, and although small companies with only one office have no other option but localized implementation, large companies must decide between localized and dispersed models, for the larger companies can do either one, but there are benefits and drawbacks to each.

Another prospect for deployment concerns metadata: Organizations must choose whether they will develop their own metadata structure or follow authorities’ suggested metadata structures such as MODS (Metadata Object Description Schema).

The longer a metadata model exists within an organization, the more familiar end users will become with it, which will further improve its usability. Therefore, it is important to look at recommended metadata standards like MODS and the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI).

Predicating an implementation model for sustainable and simple metadata structures is important, and this process begins by choosing which verbal identifiers should be assigned to each individual piece of content comprising all of the data and information in an organization—but in a way that makes this information retrievable, memorable, and usable.

Mike is the founder and editor of CMS Critic. He consults with vendors and the public to help them find the right products for their websites and businesses. When he's not working here, he's off mixing cocktails for his wife's website, The Kitchen Magpie. You can check out some of his great cocktail shots over on Instagram.