How to Choose the Right Document Management System
One of the most difficult decisions that I can make is selecting the proper software for my company. No matter how much due diligence you seem to put into the decision, you never know for certain that the software you selected is right for you until you begin to use it. Let’s face it, software manufacturers are not going to tell you what doesn’t work in their software, and resellers are only going to focus on what they want you to know. So, if you are in the market for a document management system, how do you pick a solution that is right for you?
Begin with a Budget
If you are buying a new car you have a price range in mind. If you have a $30,000 budget you most likely will not visit a Mercedes dealership. Not because you don’t like their cars, but because you know you cannot afford them. The same holds true for document management software. Before wasting time exploring software that you ultimately cannot afford, decide on your budget and limit your choices to software that fits within it.
Determine Your Needs
Begin by creating a list of your needs. Is there a particular problem or issue that you are trying to solve? Be specific and detailed in your requirements. Is this a departmental solution or will it be used for the entire enterprise? What users will be interfacing with the system. Are they all local or are some remote? Will the deployment include users who need to access the system using smart phones and/or tablets? Is there workflow involved, and if so have you defined what that workflow looks like?
We have had clients purchase software for a variety of reasons. Here are a few of them. Reduce outside paper storage costs. Gain control of their AP approval process. Minimise the number of people it takes to enter invoices into the ERP system. Eliminate paper in preparing for an office move. Provide a single source of information for all locations. Meet compliance initiatives and requirements. Grow their company without adding additional staff.
What is Your Primary Goal for Deploying a Document Management Solution?
In addition to determining your need you also need to identify goals. What are your objectives and priorities for the system? Are your goals based on a financial justification? Is there a recent event that is driving your decision? Do your goals align with the long-term vision of the organization?
Understand Your Platform
In today’s market, the number of new document management system is split fairly evenly between cloud and premise based solutions. If you have a preference for one, over the other, make that a qualifier up front. Individual systems excel in one platform or the other. Validate upfront that the software you are evaluating works correctly, without exceptions, on your preferred platform.
Will You be Integrating with Your Other Line-of-Business Applications?
If you are looking to integrate your new software solution into existing software in your organization, it is important to understand how that integration will work. First ask yourself, how do I want or expect the integration to work? Are you passing data from one system to the other or do you need two-way communication? Do you want to image enable your existing software to retrieve images directly from that software? Does the software that you are considering already have a direct connection that is in use and certified with your existing software? If you need to create a custom integration will your current software manufacturer assist in the integration?
Are You Comfortable with both the Reseller and Manufacturer?
Most, but not all, manufacturers use a reseller channel to sell their products. That means that you not only need to evaluate the software, but the reseller as well. The reseller will be your point of contact for deploying the system, supporting you when you have a problem and becoming a trusted advisor as your organization evolves. Choose wisely and look for someone you can partner with for many years to come.
Look into the Future
We cannot predict the future but we should have an idea of where we look to be. Most organizations have one, three and five-year plans and objectives. Consider these when selecting a system.
Do You Want to Take Ownership of Your System?
Many organizations want to have long term control over the system. If you fit this model verify that you have this option. Does the system have an open architecture and published APIs? Is there an online community of users that you can communicate with? Is there comprehensive training available for your internal staff so that they can learn the software and become self-sufficient in growing the platform.
A lot to think about and consider. But organizing yourself and doing the proper amount of due diligence will pay dividend down the road.
Jack Arnston is a Principal at The Priton Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.