Conduct market research
Document management software is a crowded field, so choosing a vendor can be difficult. The most basic software serves as digitization software and centralized document storage, while more complex systems allow for built-in collaboration and task management among team members. Research the market and read through customer reviews to identify market leaders.
Assess your needs
When choosing a document management system, it’s important to know what you need. Are you looking for a digital archive that can be periodically updated, or do you require software that enables daily creation and editing of new documents? Do you prefer a locally hosted, on-premises solution, or do you prefer a cloud-based solution managed by your vendor partner or a third party?
Many businesses operating in regulated industries are required by law to track, maintain and audit business documents.
Among the document management solutions we reviewed, many comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Sarbanes-Oxley, Good Manufacturing Practices required by the Food and Drug Administration, or ISO 9000/9001 regulatory compliance requirements.
This is a critical capability that many businesses cannot afford to do without. If your business is required to comply with federal regulations, it is critical to know which applications offer regulatory compliance support.
If your business utilizes a top CRM application or an ERP database, limit your search to document management software that integrates seamlessly with the programs you use daily. While you can use software that doesn’t integrate with your CRM or ERP program, choosing compatible software allows you to access, edit, back up and monitor digital files and documents created within your CRM or ERP program, further increasing the efficiency of your office.
FYI: Most document control systems integrate with popular email clients, such as Microsoft Outlook, as well as business software suites like Microsoft Office.
Vet your options
Pinpointing what you’re looking for is half the battle, and asking the right questions will help you determine which system is right for your business.
Some questions to ask software providers include the following:
- What operating systems support this software?
- Is document imaging and digitization included?
- Are there any collaboration tools, workflow automation options or project management tools?
- How many file types does the software support?
- Is there a versioning feature for tracking changes to documents?
- How many users can access a document at once?
- What third-party software does the system integrate with?
- What level of technical support can I expect to receive?
Put everything in writing
As always, closely read any legal documents, including contracts, before signing. The vendor should put everything you’ve discussed in writing and specify which features you are getting for your money.
Always have an exit strategy in writing as well in case things don’t go as expected. If the service you’re considering won’t allow you to cut ties without paying cancellation fees, consider it a red flag.