Automating Document Management
As in every other area, computers and software have also impacted document management practices.
- Instead of paper documents, you store information in a digital form in computer ‘files’.
- Instead of unwieldy paperboard folders, you have digital folders on the computer disk in which the digital files can be stored.
- Instead of heavy filing cabinets occupying valuable floor space, you have compact computer disks the size of a book or less on which incomparably greater numbers of digital folders can be stored.
- Instead of locking up sensitive documents in safes, you can just restrict access to sensitive digital data by means of passwords.
Document management has indeed come a long way. Younger staff members might not even have come across rolodexes, segmented folders and such archaic document management solutions.
Computerized Document Management: Pros and Cons
The discussion in the previous section might have painted too rosy a picture of digitized document management software. Actually, this option brings its own dangers.
Data Corruption: Digital data can become corrupted and unreadable more easily than paper documents. System crashes, application malfunctions, erroneous operations, and malicious viruses are common causes for data corruption. Recovering corrupted data is a time consuming, unreliable, and costly process. You try to guard against this danger by backing up all data in a different location.
Virus Attacks: Even before the spread of the Internet, standalone systems were open to virus attacks through removable media such as floppy disks. With Internet connectivity, the danger has become manifold. Computer viruses can be harmless irritations at best or extremely dangerous entities capable of destroying all your data. You guard against viruses by using anti virus software
Spy Ware: Whereas viruses seek to damage your data, spy ware seeks to steal it. They try to collect such sensitive data as your credit card & bank account numbers, passwords and confidential business information. A number of spy ware detection and removal programs have come into the market to protect you against these attacks.
Hacker Attacks: Even without knowing your passwords, expert computer professionals can ‘hack’ into your sensitive data and either steal or damage your data. Firewalls and other kinds of software seek to block such intruders into your system.
Spam: If you use e-mail, you know what spam is. It’s become such a widespread menace that practically every Internet user is aware of it. Spam wastes your time, while anti-spam software can block even legitimate, friendly mail. As of yet, there is no real solution that prevents spam while letting in all legitimate mail.
You might have begun to wonder why, with all the above threats, anyone would choose a computer-based document management system.
The answer is rather simple. Despite all its drawbacks—which can be mitigated with proper policies and procedures in place—automated document management systems offer overwhelming benefits. Few are willing to forego these benefits and go back to the days of paper documents filed in paperboard folders stored in bulky filing cabinets.
Computerized Document Management Systems
In the beginning, these systems consisted of independent software tools like word processors, spreadsheets and, presentation aids, including computer operating systems like Windows or even DOS.
With the help of these tools, you created digital documents and arranged them in meaningful categories using the facilities for creating folders, subfolders and sub subfolders.
Often, these tools came in ‘suites’ that allowed interoperability.
Networked systems brought a new dimension to collaborative document management. These networks also improved security using password-protected access to documents and different levels of ‘permissions’ for working with documents.
With the spread of the Internet and Web protocols, it became possible to put the Document Management task on the Web, and access it from anywhere. For example, you can now go out into the field and access the documents that are stored at your headquarters, using a laptop or public computer.
What Do Modern Document Management Systems Do?
Modern Document Management Systems make all document-related tasks far easier. They also attend to the issues of authorized access and data security. The information below identifies the essential tasks that the DMS manages.
Capture, Maintain and Retrieve:
In a modern DMS, even data on paper documents can be captured through scanning and OCR (Optical Character Recognition). The image then becomes a digital document that can then be edited, searched by its content, and more. Documents created using your word processors, spreadsheets and other applications become part of the DMS document repository, facilitating retrieval, review, and editing.
Speedy Access and Secure Storage:
These Document Management Systems allow far speedier access to any document you want, from a single interface that can access the entire corporate information store. And they protect the corporate database from unauthorized access and malicious intrusions.
Remote Access From the Field:
These days, Document Management Systems tend to be Web-browser based. That means you can access your company data from across the globe during a business trip, provided you enable Internet access.
Search, Not Browse:
Instead of browsing through all the directories and folders, you can simply search for documents by the unique words they contain, or by such key fields as name, invoice number, document type, or date range.
Work With the Documents:
Print, e-mail, add, or change the documents, all from somewhere far from your office.
Collaborative work on the same document is facilitated by Document Management Systems, which also protect data integrity by such features as Check Out and Check In. This means that if more than one person accesses the same document at the same time, only one of them can change the document. Until that person is finished, the others can only read the document. Otherwise, the changes made by one person can be lost when another person simultaneously makes other changes.
Modern Document Management Systems do indeed transform your work environment.