This article is written by Reynold Leming of Mint Business Solutions to provide advice on specifying the requirements for a document management system prior to issuing an RFI, RFP or ITT.
You might wish to work with an independent consultant, who can undertake the business analysis, make observations and recommendations, and thence work with you to manage the process of vendor selection. This consultant should help you with specifying both the required features/functionality and in assessing the impact on your business procedures from the forthcoming change.
We suggest that you firstly detail how your current filing systems support your operational functions and business processes. How are they organised in terms of cabinets, drawers, files and contents? Replicating your current systems and practices is a good starting point; following a gap analysis, this can then be enhanced to improve the retrieval and utilisation of documents.
Areas of analysis could include:
- Based upon likely query patterns, how will you wish to index different document types?
- What will be the discrete libraries or cabinets within the new system to which different indexing rules might be applied?
- For each decision, transaction or process, what are the documents that need to be retained to form an evidential audit trail?
- What are the volumes, sources and formats of this information?
- At what stage in the process would information be captured?
- What are the current rules for document routing and approval?
- Is there the need to "backfile convert" your historic paper files?
- What are the security requirements for permitting or prohibiting access to documents by different users?
- Even if a user is allowed access, what are the view, edit, delete permissions you may wish to apply to different users?
- Will any documents be subject to formal version control?
- Do you need to manage compound documents and/or complex document relationships?
- How will you approach the retention and disposition of electronic records?
Specific functional considerations could include:
- The provision of production scanning capabilities to process documents in batches, automating the indexing process and using for example barcode sheets to separate individual documents.
- The ability to establish a workflow if required for the separate activities of document scanning, quality control, indexing and action.
- The provision of image 'quality control' tools, allowing suitable authorised users to rotate, deskew, despeckle, trim etc, scanned images.
- Integration with office productivity, email and electronic fax applications.
- The provision of forms recognition and processing technology to automatically extract data from questionnaires, timesheets and other forms.
- The ability to OCR image documents and search them via FTR (full text retrieval).
- The provision of a COLD or ERM (Computer Output to Laser Disk or Enterprise Report Management) component to capture and index print files from business software systems.
- The provision of conditional routing workflow capabilities to manage the process of collaborative document creation, review and approval.
- The ability to provide web capture features for pages or links.
Software for document management and contact management is often provided by a systems integrator (or reseller). Hopefully, they will be able to offer consultancy and specialist technical services, the latter potentially including networking and hardware skills. They may even specialise in your 'vertical' market. Sometimes the software manufacturer will offer such professional services directly to customers. Ideally you should seek a "one stop shop" for all software and specialist hardware components.
For hardware (scanners and storage devices), there are dedicated distributors who can offer independent advice. Two leading distributors in the UK are DICOM Group plc and Headway Technology Group Ltd. Their sites provide useful descriptions of scanning and volume storage technologies.
Please also see the Reducing Paper section of our online consultant.
Please also see our complementary information resource, The Document Site
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