EDMS Evolution: Automated Document Management as a Differentiator

Companies are now 
document management than any other quality process. 
How advanced is your DMS technology?

 Thirty years ago, only the most elite, cutting-edge manufacturers had electronic document management systems. But 30 years ago we also had cassette players in our cars, memberships to Blockbuster video, and spare change for payphones. Over the past three decades, electronic document management systems (EDMS) have had the same “creative disruption” effect on manufacturers that streaming television services, online booksellers, tax software, and travel websites have had on the rest of the economic landscape.
In fact, companies in industries in which paper-based document management systems have historically proliferated are now spending more money on automating document control than on any other quality management process. A multi-year survey by LNS Research shows that 48 percent of survey responders now have an EDMS. What’s more, EDMS was the leading vote-getter of all the quality management processes that companies are starting to automate.[1] That 48 percent response rate represents more than twice as many manufacturers than have purchased software to automate audit management (25 percent) and compliance management (20 percent) processes combined, according to the same study.

Once a “nice to have” accessory for streamlining business processes, EDMS is now a differentiator that gives companies a leg up on less advanced competitors. As manufacturing continues to trend toward more quality automation, it wouldn’t be surprising if companies without an automated document control system have now moved to the minority since the LNS Research study was completed. An even more startling trend is that many of the companies who have maintained a reliance on paper document management systems are losing business or going extinct as markets continue to become more competitive and EDMS technology grows more sophisticated.
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Expanding EDMS Functionality

Once merely a means of containing documentation in a single, accessible repository, most specialty EDMS software solutions now feature robust functionalities that seamlessly connect quality processes and help executives make better business decisions faster. Electronic systems provide a wide variety of beneficial capabilities that paper-based systems can’t come close to matching, such as:

  •      Current status of document approvals
  •      Document collaboration workspaces
  •      Personalized and/or group document libraries
  •      Metadata
  •      Associations and contingencies with other documents and processes
  •      Hierarchies that function according to organizational structure
  •      Links to training courses or other types of qualifications
       DMS Economics: Needs vs. Budget
All but the hardest of die-hards recognize that EDMS solutions aren’t the wave of the future—they’re required tools businesses must have to keep pace with the competition. You know that you need a best-in-class solution to get your documents under control. And if you’re doing business in a regulatory environment, you know you also require a system that will make it easier to attain and maintain compliance. If you know what you need, then, the real question becomes “How do I afford it?”
Enter a new wave of preconfigured EDMS solutions geared toward smaller organizations that have the same regulatory requirements as huge global corporations but only have a fraction of the budget compared to what those “big boys” are spending on document management. A variety of preconfigured EDMS solutions have recently been made available by reputable providers and they are putting the Davids of the business world on more equal footing with the Goliaths at a fraction of the cost. The advantages of these preconfigured systems (at least those that come from providers with a good track record in the EDMS field) are numerous for companies that need better document control on a limited budget. If your organization fits into this category, here are a few key elements you should look for when shopping for a preconfigured EDMS:

  •      A scalable system designed to grow as your business grows
  •      A return on investment that shows measurable time savings and reduction of “busywork”
  •      Full validation (for companies in regulatory environments)
  •      Timely and straightforward implementation so you can get up and running as soon as possible and without hassle
  •      A vendor track record that adds value to your business if you ever decide to sell
  •      Automatic upgrades and updates
  •      Resource-light management and little to no reliance on dedicated IT personnel
  •      Online user training and education materials
       There may be many other factors particular to your business that you need to take into consideration and there’s no substitute for thoroughly researching all the available vendors’ products. Different vendors have different strengths and weaknesses that may make them more or less appealing in light of your organizational or industry requirements.
The Bottom Line
Your organization may be a multinational corporation that must manage thousands of documents across multiple sites using a very complex system with specialty modules and customized forms. Or it might be a tiny startup with few resources but a desperate need for regulatory compliance. Wherever you fall along that spectrum of document management needs, there are EDMS software solutions designed for organizations just like yours. When you’re shopping for an EDMS solution there are two simple rules to live by: 1) know your options and 2) get the most value for your investment. As more and more companies make the shift toward full automation and robust EDMS solutions, the most important thing for any organization is to get the system that fulfills its business needs at an affordable price.

James Jardine is a marketing communications specialist for MasterControl Inc. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Utah and is based in MasterControl’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.

[1] Harrison, Rob, “3 Things End Users Want Executives to Know About Doc Management in EQMS,” LNS Research. (http://blog.lnsresearch.com/3-things-end-users-want-executives-to-know-about-doc-management-in-eqms) Accessed August 17, 2015.