If you’re looking to add or upgrade a document management system, knowing and documenting your current system can not only help you make good decisions down the road but also help everyone else involved in the process. Even if you’ve already started researching, consider implementing these three tips.

  1. Build a List of Document Types. Jot down the name and function of each type of document in the process. For example, if you’re looking to streamline order processing and fulfillment, your list might include the sales order, bill of lading, and packing slip just to name a few. Once you know the types of documents in the mix, it’s easier to communicate your needs to consultants and engineers.
  2. Build a List of Index Fields. Index fields, or metadata, give each document an identity. Each document type may have anywhere from 2 to 7 fields, sometimes more (although not recommended). Make sure to include the primary fields used to store your documents today. These might include a name or number. Additionally, there’s usually one index field that is common across all the document types in a single process. This might be, for example, an order number or invoice number. Knowing these common fields (or key fields) will help engineers find ways to simplify your configuration.
  3. Build a Workflow Map. Talk to those directly involved in each process you’d like to improve. Start from the beginning of the chain and work your way to the end. Make notes along the process detailing the names of the people involved at any given stage, and clearly identify their role with the document(s) they handle. For example, in an order-processing and fulfillment workflow, there may be three to five customer service representatives who take orders from multiple sources. For this stage in the workflow you would document the name of each CSR, the sources of orders (mail, fax, Web), and what they do with the orders once received, such as entering them into a database.

Remember, your new document-management system will be only as good as its design. The more thorough you can be in your research and planning, the better off your entire organization will be when it comes to documents and information.

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