A Guide to Choosing an Enterprise Document Management Solution:
Digital file management at the enterprise level can be a challenge. A document management system provides a digital way to organize and secure documents across an enterprise, but there’s more to it than that. Most document management systems are cloud-based and also include features for tagging and approving tasks, as well as collaboration.
As many offices work to be completely paperless, document management systems become more relevant. Having a document management system in place can also be important if you’re going to be engaging in transactions with external parties—for example, when you’re in the midst of a cap raise, you may need one of these solutions to share documents with relevant stakeholders without compromising security.
The following is an overview of document management systems and how to select one for your enterprise-level organization.
The Basics of Document Management Systems:
A document management system is, in simplest terms, an electronic file cabinet, although features do tend to go well beyond that.
You can upload copies of printed documents into a system, and you can add tags and metatags for easy organization.
It’s important that a document management system offers a high level of security for sharing information. A secure document management system is also known as a virtual data room.
With a document management system, you can upload all of your documents and then invite users. You can then set specialized controls as far as who can access what documents and what they can do with them.
Then, anyone who has access can securely access shared documents from any device.
Some people wonder how a document management system or virtual data room is different from something like Dropbox or another generic cloud platform. Most generic platforms including Dropbox are for general use. On an individual or even small-business level, they may be fine, but for larger and enterprise-level organizations, they’re probably not going to have the needed features and security.
Specific reasons to use a secure data room or document management system include:
- You’re sharing confidential information such as financial or legal files. Along with sending these documents when you’re raising funding, you might also need to share them if you’re working on something like a merger or acquisition or you’re in the midst of litigation.
- There are documents you have to keep for a certain period of time, such as tax documents, but you don’t want them winding up somewhere they shouldn’t.
- You have large files that require ample storage space.
- You want to maintain control over file sharing also know who’s accessing files and what they’re doing with them.
A cloud-based document management system differs from on-premises solutions in quite a few ways. If you went with something on-premises instead of off-premises, you would have to take on all the responsibilities related to maintenance and technical support. You would have to do your own updates and keep up with changing cybersecurity issues.
An on-premises document management solution requires a large IT department and also a large initial investment. You also have to have a backup system.
With a cloud-based solution, you don’t need your IT team to do any of the work, and you pay for what you need rather than having to make a significant upfront investment.
What Features Should You Look For?
The specific features you need from a document management system or a virtual data room depend on your organization, but useful features include:
- Security: It continues to be mentioned, but that’s because when looking for enterprise document storage solutions, security is usually a top priority if not the number one priority. You want to choose a platform with updated and evolving data protection methods that keep up with the changing cybersecurity landscape.
- Collaboration: Sharing documents and information is essential for both internal and external collaboration, so a good platform should facilitate this.
- Control: You need the utmost control over the documents managed in your system, particularly if a relationship comes to an end. For example, if a deal falls through, you need to be able to manage access and rights quickly and easily. You should also look for a platform that makes it easy to view who has access to what and when things are being accessed. Some platforms will let you locate earlier file versions in case a mistake was made when it was edited, and you may be able to create reports from the activity tracking features of the platform.
- Third-party integration: Choose a flexible document management solution that integrates with a wide variety of programs and applications to simplify its use and its implementation.
- User-friendly: while a document management system can play a critical role in a business, you don’t want it to be overly complex. You don’t have the time to dedicate too many resources to training employees on how to use a system, so it should be fairly intuitive. As you compare platforms, think about things such as how the dashboard and workspaces are set up.
- Support: If someone on your team has a question or needs help, you need constant support.
Questions to Ask a Vendor:
When you’re comparing vendors, they may offer similar features so you can start thinking about their business itself.
Ask them how long they’ve been offering virtual data rooms or document management solutions and how many new organizations they’ve started working in the past few years. You might also ask about the financial strength of the company because you need an option that has staying power and can show longevity.
Finally, not all document management systems are designed for enterprise use. A solution for small business isn’t likely to work for an enterprise organization. This is an important distinction to make during the selection process.
With an enterprise plan, you’ll have access to customized employee training, and you’ll have a dedicated point person to help your team along the way. You might also look for a platform that offers data migration and set up as part of their service, and make sure you go over the guaranteed uptime and the Service Level Agreements before making a decision.