Small and mid-sized companies around the world are evaluating the costs and benefits of “going paperless”. Document management is currently one of the top 5 IT initiatives under consideration and in-process with mid-sized companies. This guide provided by Sage 100 ERP can help you through the vendor selection processes and ensure that you are making the best decision for your company.
1. Is the document management solution fully integrated?
Document management systems integrated with your ERP application generally provide the greatest productivity gains and strongest ROI. However, not all integrations are created equally. The most common areas of integration are the ability to automatically index documents with data from the accounting application, the ability to view documents from within the accounting application, and the ability to keep the document management system and the accounting application synchronized. Synchronization means that each time the transaction or record in the accounting system is modified or deleted, the corresponding documents in the document management system are also located and updated. The aforementioned integration points allow for seamless functionality and prevent the creation of a separate document
Beware of some integrations that require manual indexing after the documents have been processed and scanned. With these solutions, you miss out on the opportunity to streamline your process because you still need to manually process the documents first. Furthermore, since you don’t reap the benefit of digitizing your documents up front, you are not afforded the visibility of your documents until after the process has been completed.
To really streamline your business processes and increase efficiencies, you want integrations that actually automate the entire data entry process. Look for solutions that automatically launch the workflow functionality, moving the document to the next workflow status when the transaction is saved in the accounting application. During software evaluations, be sure that the vendor can actually demonstrate the depth and completeness of the integration. Ask to review documentation that clearly explains how the integration works. Does it actually streamline your process, or does it just file your documents after the process is complete? Does it automatically index documents for future retrieval? Does it allow you quick and easy access to your documents from within your accounting application, or do you have to open up the document management application separately?
2. Does the document management solution respect the integrity of the accounting application?
A document management solution should never try to replace or modify the actual functionality of the accounting application. The role of the document management solution is to streamline the process and provide easy access to digital documents. If the document management system circumvents the rules in the accounting application, that should be a big red flag. Ask the vendor how the integration works. Make sure you understand if the integration is writing
directly to the accounting application. If this is the case, is it circumventing the rules of the accounting application? If so, ask yourself if this integration will help you achieve your goals.
3. How extensible and scalable is the document management solution?
Typically when companies incorporate a document management solution, they introduce it in one department before expanding the solution throughout their organization. Oftentimes, they do so in steps or phases so that their personnel can become familiar with utilizing it at a basic level before expanding it to other processes. A document management solution should have the ability to grow with the needs of your company.
There are four main areas of consideration when it comes to extensibility and scalability:
- Architecture—Many companies today prefer non-proprietary systems. In document management, this means that the system should store your documents in their original formats and run on a range of hardware.
- Configurability—Because their function is so central to your everyday operations, the system you choose should be configurable to match your business processes. The supplier should be able to integrate the system into the applications you use today, making the use of the system almost transparent.
- Scalability—The system needs to be able to grow with you, both in terms of how many users it supports and how many documents it can handle.
- Modularity—In the best-case scenario, you should be able to buy only the functionality you need at first and add more as you expand your use of the system.
Key considerations/questions to be asked include:
- Can the document management solution integrate with other systems (besides your accounting application)?
- Can you use the document management system for other types of documents? If so, how easy is it to set up new documents in the system?
- How are the documents stored? Make sure the documents are not stored in a proprietary format. Scanned and ERM-captured documents should be stored as Group IV TIFs, which is an industry standard.
- Are documents stored in the SQL database or in the file system?
- What happens when you need to add more storage? Is it transparent to the user?
- What kind of volumes can the document management system support?
4. How tight is the security?
If you’re not taking data security seriously, you should be. Threats from outside (competition, identity thieves) and inside (disgruntled employees, employee theft) threaten the integrity and value of your most important information. Document management systems can provide several layers of security:
- Multiple levels of password-protected access for groups and individuals, sometimes down to a property level
- Audit trails showing who and when documents have been accessed, and what has been updated
Important questions to ask include:
- What’s the security like?
- How granular does that security get?
- Can you limit the documents a user can access?
- Can you give your business partners (customers/suppliers) access to their documents—a self-service portal?
- Is there an audit trail? Can you audit all of the actions a user takes against a document?
5. Are reference calls and site visits offered?
Take advantage of the opportunity to talk with other users and, if possible, attend a site visit. If the document management vendor has few sites running and is hesitant to arrange a site visit, it’s important to understand why. Reference calls and site visits can be immensely beneficial and insightful into a vendor’s performance and commitment to a market space.
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Check back next week to find Consideration 6-10