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Your guide: The ultimate document management features

Can you imagine a whole day where you quickly find the information you need, you collaborate effectively with your colleagues both in the office and remotely, you are certain that only the right eyes are on that sensitive information you shared with HR, and you leave the office knowing that the contract you didn’t quite finish will be accessible when you work remotely? Now imagine everyone in your company has a similar sort of day - every day.

With the right document management system features, it's possible.

A system that manages information at work, from email to audio or video recordings, is (inventively) known as a document management system (DMS). It can be anything along the spectrum from the humble filing cabinet to the most sophisticated and secure online software. 

A DMS should, ideally, provide an effective way to store, index and retrieve the information you need, wherever and whenever you need it. In today’s fiercely competitive environment that demands digital acuity, effective document management is not just a nice-to-have. Without it, work is filled with frustrating obstacles: inability to find information quickly, duplicated work and data entry, poor version control, difficulty in sharing for collaboration and dubious security. 

Luckily, an in-flow workforce is made so much more possible with the right systems. So what are the features to look out for when investing in a document management system - both for business users as well as IT. Today, we’ll look at some of the most valuable features document management systems have today, and review some pros and cons of cloud-based versus on-premise versions. 

Key document management system features for business users

As it touches all areas of a business and everyone benefits from a good solution, a good system will be easy for IT to implement and easy for business users to employ. These features are must-haves. 

1. Fast and easy retrieval of accurate, recent information  

Your documents should be available in a single, centralised platform for easy retrieval, storage, and sharing. Centralising files ensures relevant information is instantly accessible when required.

2. PDF document editor 

Making PDF file modifications can be a god-send. This feature enables you to edit text, makes notes or comments and get rid of typos without having to run down the original 'editable' version of the document. Possibly most important of all, all document versions are still available in an easy to check audit trail.

3. Mobile apps to simplify document capture and uploads

With mobile apps, your documents can be at your fingertips whether you're at the office, working remotely or in transit. Mobile apps also make it simple to photograph and capture documents for on-the-move staff. 

4. Gain and retain appropriate version controls for accurate and up to date work 

Keep control of your document versions without the hassle of manual and error-prone maintenance. Keep all team members working on the most up-to-date version or easily view or return to any previous versions of the document. 

5. Quickly and confidently identify and delete duplicates or obsolete documents to keep the system clean and fast 

Cleaning and verification of files is simple when you're able to clearly and assuredly identify where copies, redundant documents and out-of-date versions exist. 

6. See easy and logical ways to organise information with metadata and taxonomies 

Easily organise your information by applying predefined taxonomies and using metadata like tags related to project, date, status or other criteria.

7. Easily archive content that is not needed for daily operations yet needs to be findable if audited or required down the line 

Meet regulatory responsibilities by linking required documents with retention schedules and suitable archival arrangements. Use a keyword or keyphrase to search for a particular file instead of heading to the physical archives (which may even be offsite) and manually looking. 

Key document management system features for IT

While a great document management system is desirable for all business users, there are some specific features the IT department will find particularly valuable. 

1. Identify the company's most engaging document formats 

By recognising the business's most popular and common document storage formats, it becomes simple to identify obsolete formats and earmark them for conversion. 

2. Security and access controls to protect sensitive information 

Avoid unauthorised access by implementing individual or role-based permissions, ensuring only the right people can open, view, and modify documents.

3. Automation enables indexing, classification and organising files on mass 

Automation features like auto-indexing and organising minimise manual data entry and speed up the process. Automatic indexing or analysis can run shallow (format, size, date, etc.) or deep (people, place organisation) to extract data on scanning. 

4. A single, centralised repository

Rather than managing multiple systems which potentially don’t ‘talk to each other’, a document management system provides the IT department with a single system to maintain.

5. Bulk upload

Uploading documents one by one is time-consuming, repetitive and often falls into IT's remit. With document management software, you can bulk upload, saving time and effort.

Cloud-based vs self-hosted document management

The key to choosing the software solution that suits your business is understanding your requirements, then you can match those against the key features of each type of system to see the best fit.

In a self-hosted setup, your document management system 'lives' on your organisation's servers or in a private cloud. The amount of storage space available to you on your servers or private cloud may limit your system and you may have a perpetual or annual license fee that depends on installed features and number of users. Your software provider will also charge an initial software and implementation fee to put the system onto your servers. You may also have the option to sign up for ongoing support at a monthly or annual fee. Costs on top of this include your server storage, maintenance and security fees. If your company values being in total control, a self-hosted solution may be the right fit.

The alternative is a cloud-based setup, hosted by your SaaS provider. Payment is usually based on the amount of storage, number of users, and included features, and is generally charged on a monthly or annual basis. As a part of the service, your provider will take care of security, maintenance, software updates and troubleshooting, leaving you to get on with business as usual. A cloud-based document management system is an excellent choice if your business requires scalability, flexibility and values a 'plug and play' solution. 

Our Ultimate Guide to Office Productivity Hacks for SMBs will teach you how to create a productivity-generating environment, boost office morale and use technology to foster efficiency. Download it now and start streamlining your workplace.