Finding the right tool for the job. How to select the right document management system (DMS)
Imagine this: as the sun rises on a brand-new Monday morning, you decide that you need a new smart-phone. Perhaps one just like your co-worker in the next office over has. Or perhaps the new model that your competitor’s boss has… You don’t want to spend too much time in your decision, so you decide to make your mind up at the store, which has many different models to choose from. Were you paralysed by choice the moment you walked in the door? No problem – a sales consultant will be with you momentarily. In his hands he has the shiny new model with a 5.5-inch screen. Should you buy it or not? Should you go home and give it another thought? Should you call your secretary for advice?
I once found myself in a similar situation, except that I wasn’t selecting a phone or computer – I was selecting a document management system (DMS). I still remember the feeling when I entered ‘document and process management system’ into Google and got almost half a million different answers. To be honest, a mild panic overcame me. What should I do? How do I keep from getting lost in a sea of information?
The solution was simple: I turned the computer off and returned to the manufacturing company I represented. It’s best to start your choice with what you know best. In this case, that would be the specific needs of each individual manufacturing company. They will show you the direction you should take in the search for a DMS.
What kinds of needs?
How many times have you heard that the need for a DMS must arise from within a company? I’ve heard this too many times to count. As soon as I began my search, I understood just how important this rule is and how much must be considered to identify a company’s needs. In the end, the Triple D Bending pipe-bending company’s primary need was to control chaotic processes. Only then can a DMS be used to automate and optimise those processes.
There was another thing I couldn’t forget: external needs. In a manufacturing company, these are no less important than internal needs. After all, you don’t want to lose the opportunity to participate in tenders due to a lack of certificates or measures that would help your documents meet their standards.
When analysing the company’s internal and external needs, I began to think about how much the company would be able to invest in DMS technologies. What sort of benefits and results did I want to achieve? This helped narrow down the scope of the search and remove options that were too expensive.
Who will select the system and who will use it?
Though my colleagues did help me identify the company’s needs, they made the selection process much harder. There was a simple rule: the more opinions there are, the harder things get. I noticed that it is best to have a single person (or to become that person) who can see the company’s needs, understand DMS operating principles, and the opportunities for applying them in a company. They should see the big picture: the entire business’ vision and the direction in which the company’s market and technologies are developing. Of course, you could always invite a DMS company representative over, also known as an evangelist, but you will still need somebody for them to talk to.
If your company doesn’t have such a person, a professional consultant would help. This is especially important for manufacturing companies, which need unique solutions.
When selecting a DMS, I planned several steps ahead, because changing the DMS for a company is much more expensive than hiring a consultant to perform a market analysis and install a DMS that fits your needs.
Therefore, I returned to Google and performed an analysis of DMS functionality. Perhaps a manufacturing company could make do with a cloud-supported solution – or would I like to create my own solutions? In the end, after analysing the available information, I decided that our company’s needs would best be met by an option that allowed for process automation (which would be needed when adapting the DMS to the company’s specific needs). The DMS itself had to be flexible and simple so that it could be controlled a moderately skilled user. This knowledge made the selection process much easier and reduced the number of options by half.
Why is feedback necessary?
Every website presenting a DMS is like a separate world. How can you keep from getting lost? First, I paid attention to things like information available about the DMS, what solutions the company had implemented, and what system characteristics were emphasised. In my opinion, client stories and feedback about a product are especially important. I didn’t just look for feedback on the official page – I searched social networks as well. What was the general impression? What was the ratio between positive and negative feedback? Are there any success stories published in the media or online? For example, I learned about the DocLogix document and process management system when I read about how they had won the European IT Excellence award.
What can a DMS do?
By now, I had selected 5 document management systems. What’s next? I started to read the information on their websites more carefully. I carefully reviewed their demonstration videos and read experts’ suggestions and comments. I also looked for specific examples of how this DMS had been applied. This let me make conclusions about the system’s flexibility and the applicability and originality of its solutions. In this stage, the number of systems that fit my needs grew even smaller.
Time to meet the DMS’ makers
When I discovered something that truly interested me, I invited the company’s consultants for an individual presentation. Now, all I had to do was speak with the company’s representatives and listen attentively to what they said – while keeping their motivations in mind. I gave them specific questions and requested real-world examples of solutions and implemented promises. I also met DMS creators who simply presented the best option they had without asking anything. I did not select them, instead continuing my search among the other better options.
How do you rate success?
Eventually, I found the best DMS that met my manufacturing company’s needs and requirements. I closed the store’s doors and started to study how to make the DMS work to my benefit. After a year of work with the DocLogix DMS, we have unique solutions that have met Triple D Bending’s needs (from efficient assembly management to equipment technical maintenance that meets our standards).
Based on my experience, I can tell you that selecting a document and process management system will open a wide array of new opportunities for your company. Take advantage of them!
How did I make the DocLogix DMS meet the Triple D Bending pipe-bending company’s needs? Read about it here