In addition to revealing which document management system features simplify compliance, this guide will be helpful in revealing which features make DMS users more efficient while at work.
A template is a document management system’s means of emulating what one has created for either a digital cabinet or folder within a document management platform, and further applying it across other webs of information, reducing the need to manually re-create an existing file structure.
The more intuitive and simple the template, the better its capacity to summon information valuable to employees, and the more readily these employees will be able to find and collaborate through the workflows templates create.
Essentially, templates take the concept of a shared drive, as one would see it on a Windows Desktop, and regenerate it to yield the benefit of automated but user-specified information structuring, resulting in fewer clicks to information structuring.
Document management system vendors should have “erase template” features as well, which erase the template created in a specific area. Templates’ functionality will vary from DMS vendor to DMS vendor, but these functionalities are frequently overlooked, for many DMS users are satisfied with the product despite not having used templates or the benefits they can bring to an organization.
When it comes to retrieving information, responses to searches should be limited to match users’ preferred server settings. When perused by the software, default search settings will rest between 1,000 and 1,250 unless specified otherwise by document management system users.
Searching algorithm options should include quasi Boolean specifiers with search functions containing “begin with,” “end with,” and “equal to.” Sophisticated search features should also include having simple search and more advanced search options.
Zonal Optical Character Recognition and Metadata Taxonomy
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and metadata are highly interrelated components of all document management system products. In defining their interrelatedness, the following tidbits are useful:
OCR is a scanner’s encoding of handwritten or typed text, and an enterprise-grade document management system should have what is sometimes referred to as “zonal” OCR; this form of Optical Character Recognition allows users to scan, view and digitize specific portions of documents, lending two benefits to users:
- More storage space for documents and
- faster search times for document retrieval, particularly due to how a document management system can simplify and utilize metadata. Based on the OCR of a scanner integrating with a DMS solution, OCR retrieves metadata from scanned documents, helping DMS users store and classify documents as specified by users.
Metadata also describes information about digital files, making these digital files easier to retrieve, manage, and audit. Common types of metadata in digital files include but are not limited to specifiers such as author, date created, date modified, users who partake in transactional documents, and file size.
Metadata also opens searches to Boolean search terms like “And” and “Or.” This separates certain documents from others by whether they abide by classification terms. This allows users to find documents they may not otherwise remember the names of.
The benefit of metadata, as it pertains to organization, is keeping employees from storing information in a scattered, inconsistent, and manual fashion. Most information is stored, named, and retrieved through arbitrary means in most organizations not relying on a document management system.
Although zonal OCR enables full-text searches to users’ advantage, whole-text searches are slower, on average, if not used in moderation. For example, to find preselected words in the documents employees are looking for, it not only takes longer to find information, but the information surmised within the DMS solution is more likely to be irrelevant, arbitrary, or impertinent to the searcher’s intentions.
This is because when software scans more text, it increases the probability for confounding phrases and words, even under Boolean search guidelines. For instance, if an employee is searching for a client with the first name “April,” full-text searches may summon calendar events in the month of April instead.
Although metadata is a seemingly complex term, those unfamiliar with it are usually well versed in creating it; for instance, any time one saves a document, he or she is creating or reinforcing metadata, for metadata is simply data describing information about digital files, or “data about data,” making these digital files easier to retrieve, manage, and audit. A DMS solution’s ability to index metadata allows DMS users to specify file components independent of an operating system’s binary, modal, and computerized logic.
Drag and Drop Functionality
Arguably the most intuitive way to overthrow the inefficiency of manual processes without sacrificing the intuitiveness of said processes is the drag and drop feature. This feature, although functionally different across document management system products, is common to the internal workings of most DMS. The best document management system vendors will have an instant access icon that readily facilitates this efficiency.
Workflow is among the most underutilized features of DMS. In fact, many DMS users who are satisfied with the product are often unaware of the benefits automated workflow offers.
Through DMS workflow, managers can specify who collaborates on what documents and projects, automating a desirable process to project and document completion; essentially, workflow visualizes, diagrams, and specifies the order of tasks in a project, making employee accountability, deadlines, and optimal workflow processes easier to gauge, manage, and actualize. The best DMS vendors for small to mid-sized organizations also have email notification features tied to workflow, alerting project members and leaders to when actions or analysis are needed on their end, or when a workflow process has been completed.
Furthermore, a document management system can streamline, diagram, and automate the most complex workflow processes, allowing information cycles to go through multiple rounds between two, three, and even four workers before summoning action from the person responsible in the next phase of the workflow cycle. In other words, workflow is not limited to linear task management, and can accommodate the workflow design standards of any user.
Additionally, one of the most important components of managing workflow within a DMS system are profile-routing features, which allow administrators to predetermine the workflow for each document based on a matching set of values.
When fully implemented and actualized within an organization, the features of workflow can automate in-house processes, an extremely valuable function for knowledge workers in any industry.
Electronic and Digital Signatures
For any organization in need of means to send advanced security files, as displayed above with the client-sharing portal feature, an electronic or digital file signature process is also often required, especially with contractual agreements, and use of a digital signature software prevents the need to fax documents back and forth to get signatures.
In general, it should be noted that an electronic signature is the idea of a legally binding signature as upheld by precepts of law, whereas a digital signature is the actual copy of document signed electronically. Please reference the ESIGN Act to learn more about the differences between electronic and digital signatures.
Structured Query Language (SQL)
The best document management system vendors will meet SQL standards put forth by the American National Standards Institute. Essentially, a structured query language is used in DMS to communicate with a database. A DMS with a sufficient SQL function will help organizations of all sizes (not just small to mid-sized organizations) better manage very large amounts of files, folders, content, or users, as well as superior performance improvements in searching, template and permission applications, drawer imports from CSV formats, and workflow processing features of DMS solutions.
Many up-to-date document management system vendors have revamped the SQL functions of their solutions in the past two years to create better communication with computer databases, and depending on how much an organization wants to manage its systems, irrespective of its size, selecting the DMS option with the most recent SQL upgrade is beneficial. The optimal grade SQL option for organizations can improve the speed of software functions up to 1,000x—putting the efficiency advantage of enterprise-grade SQLs in perspective.