At the heart of any document management system or enterprise content system is something known as a document repository. A document repository is simply a shared storage space for documents. A repository can be an actual physical space, but these days the term usually refers to an electronic storage system, which may be on-premise, in the cloud, or both.
While many document management solutions offer a number of bells and whistles to provide value to users, at the end of the day, the document repository is the workhorse underlying the solution. If the repository is best-in-class, chances are good that the solution as a whole will be worthwhile. Likewise, if a repository lacks certain features, your user will still have to rely on workarounds and inefficient manual processes.
Signs that Your Organization Needs a (Better) Document Repository
Most companies have dealt with a document repository of some form or another already. Online cloud file storage applications, like Dropbox or Google Drive, often act as document repositories, as does Microsoft’s SharePoint. Some companies have their own on-premise document repositories as well, housed on their own servers.
There are some clear signs that, whatever technology your company is using for document storage, it might be time for an upgrade:
Your teams are still sharing documents by email.
The issue with sharing documents by email is that it basically circumvents any central document repository, thereby making the benefits of such a repository null and void. For example, email invites versioning problems as well as cybersecurity issues. And as any manager will tell you, it is also inefficient: A survey completed by the Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM) discovered that 31% of participants found their organization’s management of email to be “chaotic,” and this number rose to 35% for email attachments.
It is taking an increasingly long time to find appropriate documents.
In a landmark report by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), researchers found that 19% of an employee’s time was spent simply searching for and gathering the right information. Not only is this inefficient, it is frustrating. There are many reasons why so much time gets wasted in this way; poor file and folder organization, misplaced documents, non-standardized naming conventions, and a lack of meta-data are the most common. Many of these issues stem from not having a well-organized central document repository in the first place.
Back-up is a hassle.
If your organization is using an on-premise system, chances are good that someone still has to schedule and run weekly or nightly back-up. Back-up and retrieval procedures that were necessary a decade or so ago are now antiquated and unreliable compared to today’s cloud-based and hybrid repository systems. This doesn’t mean that back-up is a bad idea—in fact, it is just as crucial as ever. What it does mean is that backing up files should run seamlessly in the background, without a heavy time investment from your IT department.
Features and Benefits of the Best Document Repository Solutions
Not all document repositories are the same. Some are physical, while others are electronic. Some have limited collaboration tools, while others are built expressly for this purpose. And while some are heavily automated, others require constant intervention from skilled users to maintain and use.
Ideally, having an electronic document repository should allow users to search documents efficiently (by filename, author, date, keywords, etc.), access them, modify them (if allowed), and organize them sensibly. Most importantly, the best document repositories allow for efficiency and collaboration within and across teams. For example, a claims form filled out by a customer rep in St. Louis can be instantly added to the repository, where it can be accessed and further inspected by a claims agent in Austin, a manager in Kansas City, and a salesperson in Los Angeles.
As mentioned before, most organizations have some sort of document repository already; it simply might not do all of the above very well. So it is worth asking the question: Is it actually worthwhile upgrading to a best-in-class document repository solution?
The answer, of course, depends on your individual organization’s needs. Speaking generally, we have found that our clients have realized the following benefits when implementing document management solutions with a centralized repository:
- Faster collaboration. When employees are not spending their time hunting for documents or reconciling different versions of documents, they are able to collaborate more quickly and get work done more efficiently.
- Reduced storage space needed. Having multiple versions of documents takes up less space, and the number of redundant copies of documents is reduced dramatically.
- Better security. Documents are held in a single, secure location with access controlled carefully. This cuts down on data leaks and unsecured information.
- Better compliance. Having a single, secure location for documents also makes it that much easier to meet compliance standards, such as HIPAA or SOX.
- Decreased time spent searching for information. Tagging documents properly with meta-data and indexing those documents cuts down search time.
- Simplified back-up and file recovery. When all documents exist in a single virtual space, it is relatively easy to automate back-up and retrieval procedures.
- The ability to scale. One of the major benefits of document management software is its ability to scale up and down to meet the organization’s changing needs. Having a single repository is a key part of this ability, centralizing storage and making it more efficient and scalable.
What to Look for in Document Repository Software
Again, not all document repositories are built the same. They are designed with different uses and goals in mind. Those that are designed explicitly as part of an enterprise content management system or document management solution have the greatest chance of providing the benefits listed above.
Here are some key things to look for as you consider the various document management solutions on the market today:
- Ability to handle paper and electronic documents. Surprisingly, few document management systems can handle both hardcopy and electronic documents at the same time. Yet there are many industries—aerospace, insurance, real estate, government services—where hardcopy paper documents are still necessary. A good document management solution should recognize that repositories can be physical, too.
- Modern tagging and indexing. The ability to add tags (both manually and automatically) according to defined taxonomies will help keep documents organized and decrease search time. Modern indexing techniques will help strike the right balance between search speed and storage/processing requirements.
- Sharing and permissions. The repository should give people access only to the documents they need access to, using a tiered permissions schema. For example, someone in sales might have access to their personal notes plus all the documents available to the sales team but should not have access to everything in accounting.
- Monitoring tools. This goes hand-in-hand with revision history and permissions. Administrators of a document repository should have the ability to see who accessed which documents, and when, in case there is ever a question about versioning or information access.
- Document edit history (and reversion). A good document storage solution should track when each revision is made, and who made it. It should also allow you to revert back to previous versions, if that is ever deemed necessary—for example, if someone accidentally erases a crucial section, or the team decides to revert back to older language in a document.
- A solid team behind the technology. A repository, no matter how good, will not achieve your desired aims if it is not implemented correctly. Having a good technical team behind the product not only ensures the best technology, but also proper implementation and user training—not to mention a source you can return to when there is a problem or question.
Do you have further questions about document repositories, or document management software? Our team can help, contact us.