Good documentation is essential for any compliance program, but all that documentation is pointless if you cannot find anything when needed. That’s where document management comes in: keeping crucial files organized and accessible.

What Is Document Management?

Document management is the process of storing, organizing, retrieving, and distributing any significant documents across your organization. You can manage documents on a shared server, in a folder on your desktop, or even in paper form in a file cabinet. A document management system (DMS) is a software solution designed specifically for document filing and retrieval.

Document Management Best Practices

When considering how to establish digital document management in your business (or how to improve your current system), success depends on identifying your goals and building a strong foundation for document management. We recommend the following three strategies. 

Set Clear Expectations From Day One

Like any other business process, document management requires employee support and comprehension; setting up a cutting-edge DMS is useless if nobody understands how to use it. Make clear what your DMS is intended to capture. For example, is the system for document production or just filing? Do you exchange papers with clients, or solely within your own organization?

Equally important, configure an organizational system for your files and assure that everyone understands how to follow it. If required, assign someone to keep the DMS clean and organized continuously — and that chore is much easier if it’s defined before the DMS becomes clogged with arbitrarily filed papers.

Move on From Paper

Reliance on printed papers, regardless of your business, is becoming an increasingly costly exercise. First, it costs money and the risks of losing a piece of paper are always present. Second, paper doesn’t help any company that has a significant number of hybrid or remote employees; they need digital document management.

For example, in 2020, 97 percent of businesses with few or no digital document processes reported that transitioning to remote work — something every company had to do thanks to the covid-19 pandemic — considerably hindered productivity. People couldn’t complete their tasks because they didn’t have convenient access to paper-based documents from home.

Remember, when you digitize your file system, don’t simply copy your old print-based methods; go beyond that. For example, if approvals are essential to your workflow, assure that your DMS enables digital signatures to eliminate the print-sign-scan cycle.

You Don’t Have to Keep Everything

Once you’ve moved on from keeping printed papers, saving everything is tempting because electronic storage doesn’t take up office space. Fight this impulse. Efficient document management is as much about which documents you choose to discard as it is about which ones you retain.

Obviously some documents will need to be retained for, say, legal purposes. Many other documents, you can live perfectly fine without them. Remember, the more documents you retain, the harder it will be to locate the most relevant (or current) information you need. So think hard about which documents you need, and establishe processes to review and discard the ones you don’t.

Automate Common Processes

Automation is one method for reducing document sprawl in your DMS. Some platforms allow you to sort and save files automatically according to tags, department of origin, or other metadata. This maintains uniformity and makes files easy to locate.

Repetitive document generation tasks can be automated. For example, using predefined document templates to create an order form or invoice for a customer directly in your DMS saves time and money.

Enforce Proper Version Control

A vital benefit of a DMS is the ability to trace earlier document versions. Some DMS solutions allow you to know who viewed a file, when, and what modifications they made. This is critical for data privacy and security, particularly in areas with rigid regulations such as banking or healthcare.

Nor are version control and revision history sensible for legal compliance. They’re also ideal for hybrid work or asynchronous collaboration, since users can make modifications and provide feedback on a document without removing another person’s work, allowing everyone to offer input.

What Is a Document Repository?

A document repository is a shared digital storage location that only authorized personnel can access. It is administered by users who have special privileges and controls. 

An organized document repository is essential to creating a DMS that works successfully for your business. These repositories are often arranged to meet the needs of team members, allowing them to search for documents by title or keyword, group documents by team, or store documents effectively using a folder system.

Document Management & Automation

Workflow-enabled document management software may drastically reduce manual activities and process completion times.

Consider this example. Say that a company’s training department generates materials distributed to all staff. Before a work may be published, it must undergo the following procedure:

  • Subject matter experts outline the content.
  • A staff member from the training department develops a draft based on the outline.
  • Someone else reviews the manuscript for flow and correctness.
  • A line editor is responsible for editing the draft
  • The final draft is forwarded to the creative department to add some design flare and finish the papers before publication.

Content may go up or down the chain at any stage throughout this process; for example, the accuracy review may discover that the content is insufficient and should be returned to the writer for extra work; or the training team may use email or another manual method to distribute papers back and forth. 

This results in lost information, missed deadlines, and potential miscommunications. A workflow embedded within the document management system allows users to transfer papers to the appropriate persons or teams with a single click, so that everyone knows what they need to work on at a glance.

These concepts apply to any document-based workflow, including customer orders and bills.

ZenGRC Has a Document and Evidence Collection Solution

Document management is critical for corporate compliance, because the documents you have are often the evidence you need to present to demonstrate compliance with a security framework.

ZenGRC, one of the world’s most trusted GRC systems, provides a single, automated platform to support your document management needs. Itconnects with your existing business apps and procedures, and collects audit trail documentation from all the business apps you use to provide proof to auditors and regulators — so you don’t  have to.

ZenGRC combines all your business systems for continuous risk and compliance monitoring, allowing you to access your saved documents automatically via our “Single Source of Truth” repository. No more seeking and sifting for proof to demonstrate your compliance efforts!

Schedule a demo today to see how ZenGRC can help establish your company’s compliance program.