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How To Evaluate Document Management Solution (DMS): 5 Considerations

May 31, 2022
Author
Inkit Team

Document management solutions (DMS) are tools you can use in your business to organize, track, store, and retrieve digital documents. 

These solutions are useful to reduce your organization's administrative costs and increase productivity amongst your team members.

However, different organizations require different types of document management systems, based on their requirements.

Therefore, it is essential to carefully outline your specific company needs thoroughly to ensure that the document management solution you settle for fits the bill.

And that’s exactly what we’ll be covering below.

If choosing and evaluating a document management solution sounds like a complicated and overwhelming endeavor, you’ve come to the right place.

This blog post will guide you through the considerations you should make before settling for a document management solution for your company.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What Should You Look For In A Document Management Solution? (DMS Overview)
  • 5 Important Considerations To Make When Evaluating A Document Management Platform

What Should You Look For In A Document Management Solution? (DMS Overview)

For many companies, adding a document management solution into their operational workflow isn’t exactly the biggest priority.

That’s because a document management system might be confusing. So, to set things clear, document management is a set of practices that define how an organization manages, stores, and tracks its documents.

This includes:

  • Document storage.
  • Annotations.
  • Documents check-in and check-out.
  • Version control.
  • Audit trails.
  • Security and access control.
  • And more.

Typically, this follows the document lifecycle process.

graphic that represents the lifecycle of a document

Before you begin your search for a DMS, it is crucial to have in your mind a clear picture of the exact documentation needs you have as a company.

There are different types of document management systems, each requiring different kinds of investment on your part to meet your ideal document management needs. 

Depending on your company's needs, you can choose between a cloud-based document management solution and a premise-based one.

Both cloud-based DMS and premise-based DMS offer you different document management features, with the main difference between them being accessibility and functionality.

A good document management solution meets your documentation needs without breaking the bank. It should also be easy for you and your team members to work with.

Before you decide on a document management solution, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the document management offer accessible and sufficient storage for my documents?
  • How safe are my documents?
  • Does the DMS allow internal and external sharing of documents?
  • Is the document management system compatible with existing systems in my company?

Now, let’s take a look at each point in detail.

Does the document management offer accessible and sufficient storage for my documents?

As part of your evaluation, you should first make a comprehensive list of documents you intend to store within the DMS. This list may include emails and contracts, spreadsheets, and digital files such as photos, videos, and presentations. All of these require different storage functionalities.

You can consider investing in a document management system that offers you optical character recognition (OCR) for your documents. OCR helps you easily store and extract scanned images or text on electrical documents like PDFs.

Document organization is an essential feature of a document management solution. 

When assessing how the DMS organizes your files, you should ask yourself:

  • Are they accessible when you need them? 
  • How does it index files for easy retrieval when you need them? 
  • Can you retrieve previous versions of a document from the system?

How safe are my documents?

One of the most critical needs for any company is the privacy and security of documents. 

It would be best to consider your company's needs for data protection and how the system will handle sensitive business information. Check if the document management solution offers you sufficient data loss prevention features and if it allows you to input your desired user-access control measures.

If your company has strict security requirements, especially in regard to working remotely, then a DMS with remote secure document management and delivery will be even more important for you.

Does the DMS allow internal and external sharing of documents?

Collaboration is an essential aspect of any documentation process. 

Check if the document management solution you intend to buy allows your team members to work simultaneously on particular documents.

It is also vital that the document management solution allows you to share documents internally and externally without the risk of sensitive information running into the wrong hands.

This is something as simple as extending who has access to your documents or something more advanced like setting up user roles so that only specific people can access certain documents.

Is the document management system compatible with existing systems in my company?

Consider how well the document management systems integrate with other systems you use in your organization to allow for seamless continuity of work while learning how to use the DMS.

You could also ask if the document management system is compatible with different devices.

A good DMS allows you to access its feature on mobile devices, catering to when you or your team members work outside the office setting. 

Does the document management solution require you to use other third-party tools for efficiency in certain functions? 

Then ensure that it has the requisite certifications for third-party application use, it's up-to-date with current standards, and is secure from cyber-attacks.

A good document management system should be able to integrate with your pre-built or current software.

Though, before making the final decision, be sure to read on for other important considerations to make when choosing a DMS.

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5 Important Considerations To Make When Evaluating A Document Management Platform

Now that you have an idea of what features to look for in a DMS, it’s important to consider the benefits that’ll make the document system a breeze to work with.

The DMS considerations are as follows:

  • Ease of use
  • The features and functionality of the DMS
  • Cost implications
  • Vendor variety and flexibility
  • Consider what other companies use

Ease of use

A sound document management system should have an easy-to-use interface

The user interface determines how easy it is to navigate the system when in use.

This will also help in how fast your team will be able to switch to the new DMS and waste no time in learning how it works.

Some of the things you should consider looking at to evaluate the ease of use of a DMS include:

  • How long does it take to learn how to use the system?
  • What do you need to get started using the system?
  • What type of training is offered beyond basic installation?
  • Is there an active community or support website for questions and answers?

The features and functionality of the DMS

Before buying a document management system, make sure you understand the software's features in detail. 

The different software options available can vary widely in terms of their capabilities and the amount of time they save you. 

Understanding how different features in a DMS align with your specific needs is also essential. 

For example, if you need to manage customer data, ensure the document management solution you buy has a feature that allows easy access to your customer data.

Software features include things like storage, retrieval, and sharing capabilities. Storage capabilities typically involve the number of files that you can store in one location and the size of those files. Retrieval capabilities are made up of functions such as search and auto-save settings

Sharing capabilities are determined by what type of file format your system supports, how easy it is to share documents with others, and any additional business benefits your DMS provides. 

If you consider a DMS with subscriptions or fees attached, make sure you understand how those fees work. 

As part of your evaluation process, make sure to consider the cost of the software and the cost of any subscription plans or fees.

To thoroughly review the features and functionality of a particular DMS, check out its developer's website or contact them directly to get more information about what they have to offer.

Cost implications

The cost of a DMS system depends heavily on its features, functionality, storage size, and the number of users in your company. Review the specifications of each DMS before you make your decision because they vary widely.

Because, it can be easy for DMS software to get expensive, if they’re tailored for enterprise and larger companies.

If you are a start-up or a small to medium-sized company, you can get away with using an open-source document management system to store and manage your documents. 

You need to spend more money on an enterprise-level solution if you run a large company. Enterprise-level solutions allow for features like integration with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software.

An excellent way to save money is to evaluate each feature and decide how much of a deal-breaker it is for your company. For example, you can assess how much storage you will need upfront and then purchase your DMS based on that information. 

Another consideration is the “build vs buy” question.

However, building a document management system from scratch for your own company can also be expensive.

So, for more information on that, see our full guide on if you should build document generation software from scratch or buy an API. The guide is tailored for the healthcare industry, but most points will apply to other industries too.

Vendor variety and flexibility

You could consider vendor variety when evaluating a DMS. 

Just because one vendor may offer great features does not mean that the other vendors providing similar features are not good. 

Some of the features provided by your second choice DMS may likely be more well-suited for your company than those you initially chose.

Look for vendor flexibility in terms of the following areas:

  • Document types.
  • File types.
  • Storage options.
  • Output options (e.g., PDFs).
  • Integration with other systems (e.g., accounting software or CRM).
  • Customization options (e.g., uploading your logo).
  • Training and customer support.

You should look into whether the specific DMS has been tailored to your industry.

Consider what other companies use

Suppose you are not familiar with the available features for a particular DMS. 

In that case, it may be worth looking into reviews from other companies similar to yours that have used the DMS before deciding which one to purchase. User reviews give you a better idea of how it works for current customers and their needs compared to your company's specific needs.

From there, look into reviews that mention DMS users’ industry to find if it's relevant to you.

Conclusion

Finally before you invest your money in a DMS, make sure to ask for a live demonstration or a product demo call of how it works. 

Often companies will give away free demos, so this is one of the best ways to get familiar with what each system offers. You can also ask to watch a live training session to determine if the features are comprehensive enough for your company's needs.

From there on, you should get a better idea if the DMS sounds like what you’re looking for or if you should continue your search.

Also, consider asking for access to the support team. The support team can help answer any questions or concerns about using the software and provide troubleshooting tips based on your specific needs.

Now, finally, if you’re looking for more information on how document generation works on autopilot, or what are some document templates you can automate, you might want to read:

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The easiest way to automatically generate and manage paperless documents at scale.
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