How to Fold Space: Document Management for Remote Workerson 12 April 2018
When you have the right documents to hand, it makes the difference between a smoothly running organisation and a series of ‘rabbit-in-the-headlight’ moments.
Once upon a time, all of your documents were sitting in a filing cabinet just outside your office, ready for you to take out and read as needed. Today, with many of your team no longer present in the same office, there are many filing cabinets. Some, perhaps most, will be virtual cabinets, each potentially containing slightly different versions of the same documents. With no physical space restrictions, it is easy to duplicate electronic documents, isn’t it.
In an ideal world, all your documents would be in one place, either physically or virtually. Now they can be. With a good document-sharing tool, they are virtually folded together across the real physical space between them.
Here are some tips to make this work effectively.
1. Plan ahead
In the same way that a physical filing cabinet needs a filing system, electronic document sharing systems do too. If you do this as soon as possible, preferably before you start storing documents electronically, you will save time and space later. Once you have started storing your documents electronically, it can be difficult (although not impossible) to impose things like access, version control etc. later.
The first step in any effective document management system is deciding what, when and how you plan to store those documents. The decisions you take now, will make the difference between being able to access the documents when you need them, and losing a crucial document in the future.
Considering using SharePoint or Dropbox for your file sharing solution? Here's how the two compare.
2. Accurate Access
Think about who needs to have access to your documents. Consider whether you might need to offer levels of permissions to access content and decide whether you need users to edit or only view content. Unlike a physical filing cabinet, electronic storage of documents will give you complete control over who can access what, at a document level. It’s rather like each document has its own tiny key.
Having spent time and energy setting up a comprehensive document sharing system, you will want to have an effective and easy to use way to find the right document at the right time. A good document-sharing tool will have a search tool that is easy to use and effective in finding the right document exactly when it is needed most.
Better online document sharing systems like Glasscubes have additional features to make it easier to find your documents e.g. the ability to track content automatically as you add it, so everyone will know what the latest content is, without having to search through lots of different documents.
When everyone uses the same document-sharing tool, the knowledge that makes your organization successful and unique is where it should be: accessible to exactly the right person.
3. Avoiding document storage creep
We’ve all had the experience of spending hours working on a document only to find that it wasn’t the latest version. Or, at a time when you need to make decisions quickly, finding you have lots and lots of documents, but you don’t actually know which copy of which document is the latest. It is frustrating and time wasting.
Having certainty about which is the latest document will save a lot of scratched heads, abortive work (on an old document), and stress.
In the past, teams have been able to contain the proliferation of documents by storing them within their office systems. With information now crossing back and forth across office and geographical boundaries, it becomes increasingly difficult to do this without duplicating documents or incurring the risk of information becoming available prematurely or to the wrong person.
Version control enables you to keep control over multiple versions of each document. A good electronic system does this for you automatically. Trying to do this manually as an alternative, usually results in version mismatches etc. Having the wrong version of a document can take time to resolve at best. At worst, it could result in you making the wrong decision.
Even if you are not required to have an audit trail for compliance purposes, it is good practice. A good audit trail is important both for internal management confidence in your quality system and for any compliance requirements. A good online solution should, if well implemented, automatically create an audit trail.
Whether or not you need to implement a full-blown Quality Management System (QMS), you will need a system that allows easy access to everyone who needs to know about new or updated documents in any particular area. You will also need an automated check to see if they have read it, and the means to collect a response that indicates more specifically whether they understood the document has, or whether someone needs to make further changes to improve clarity. A good document sharing system will have this as an integrated option.
GDPR means you now need to have relevant and explicit governance in place. If you already follow good practice, then you probably already largely comply with the new regulations. It also means that these are not just good practice now, but are also a legal requirement in certain circumstances.
However, GDPR is not the only compliance you should be thinking about. There may be other internal as well as external requirements in terms of what you can and can’t hold concerning a document.
These days, most organisations find themselves having to manage their organisation in compliance with rules about finance, IT, information etc. Compliance usually relies on creating, keeping and managing effective records in a structured way. One of the more frequent problems is overlooking the importance of records management, and not giving it enough visibility.
Wondering what electronic document management is, and if it can help your company? Read this article for answers to six frequently asked questions around EDMS.
Glasscubes is a cost effective, easy to use, and secure set of document management tools for any organisation. Find out more about how it could help create a member portal for you, call +44 (0)20 3274 2310.
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