3 Key Considerations for Any Document Management Solution to Turn Away From the 30 Year Old Tools Commonly Used Today
Throughout my career, I have been exposed to dozens of tools positioned to manage documentation, communication, collaboration, information sharing, referencing and archiving. I’m not going to name those tools here; most are recognizable and well promoted. But despite their popularity and presence in the marketplace, these same tools have repeatedly failed to deliver under certain condition, circumstance and environment. I know I am not the only one. How often were you not able to access a particular document within an application? Or how often was your employee not able to find a document within a library or repository although he swears it was saved there? And how often was your team subject to misunderstanding because others were not able to view the same records within that same system or tool?
I’ve lived, witnessed and observed these common pain points. When faced with them, companies and individuals immediately turn to one of the document sharing and communication tools that have been around for 30 years plus. These tools include email for communication and collaboration, network folder structures for storage and archiving, and FTP for document transfer. Even though time has changed, these legacy systems can still deliver on the immediacy of demands better than the latest counterpart systems.
What happens when it is the 11th hour, you need to get your creative brief out, but the recipient does not have the sufficient download rights? You learn that it’s going to take the IT team at least 24 hours to add her to the system and verify the access permissions. And who knows if that’s going to work or not? So what do you do? You ask for an email address, draft a message, attach the creative brief and send it on its way even though you know that may break some corporate security protocols. But at the same time, you saved the day.
An ideal document management solution should have an organized structure and must cover all angles of the lifecycle of a document
And let us consider FTP, which is relied on heavily when large design files and images need to be shared but their size is over and above what the company’s system supports. So you set up a FTP account on the side, upload the files via a free client application, and provide the user login info to the recipients to pick up those hefty files from their end. Now what’s the value of the real-time collaboration and sharing functions of our pricy application if it doesn’t take into consideration this very issue we have today and fails during on demand back-and-forth exchanges? These limitations push the day-to-day users of polished document management tools to bypass standard operating procedures and start finding relief in dated but functioning tools in their raw format.
Another example is the use of network folders. Those intranet folders which are mapped with designated letters still house and serve as the sole interface for saving, archiving and accessing documents for many organizations today despite the flashy document repositories and libraries developed by trusted vendors in the market. So, why are those old tools still a valuable and popular option? Why haven’t they become obsolete, at least in their native format and interface, just like everything else in technology? Have we not been able to identify that masterful solution that can truly deliver on expectations?
The answer is no from my point of view. But the solution is in reach and starts by focusing on the following key considerations which I think should be perfected in order to get us closer to that ideal application:
An ideal document management solution should have an organized structure and must cover all angles of the lifecycle of a document including creation, collaboration, finalization, approval, versioning, storing, archiving and retrieval. But despite its complexity, it even sounds complicated, it cannot be reflected through interface, visualization or accessibility if the tool is truly intended to be internalized and used by working-level teams. While it has to be complete, the users should not feel overwhelmed and find themselves having to untangle tedious steps and clicks in order to do a simple task, which makes the majority of what they need from these tools.
Without a doubt, the appropriate document management solution must be equipped with the latest digital security measures and support compliance to privacy terms and conditions. At the same time, those elements should be implemented in a way that doesn’t imprison everything that is created and constrain the progress of a majority of the activities. Smart security expects the system to be witty when selecting how and when to apply security, while also providing alternatives to those activities and documents that don’t require high level of privacy.
Accessibility at its widest range goes without saying. Today’s business world is interconnected and limitless. We are all global or at the verge of being so. Working with overseas partners, vendors, suppliers and clients is part of our everyday interactions. The proper document management solution must be geography-independent, platform-independent and organization-independent. It should work or be able to expand to allow collaboration outside the regional boundaries with little or no additional configuration or setup efforts.
The absence of the above three criteria at some level or the inability to marry them and balance their effects has been the reason for not having that one or few new trends in document management. The minute we start seeing these capabilities and functionalities implemented is the minute we start deprioritizing those dated tools like FTP and raw folder structures as the go-to solutions for our common document sharing and storing needs. It will be interesting to see how far those technologies of the 1980’s and before will be able to carry us.