Managing digital documents is commonplace in today’s world. In fact, the very premise of the “Information Age” is that we will process most, if not all, of our information in digital form.
The question for businesses that are transitioning away from managing documents in paper form is simple: what are the best tools and processes for managing digital information? And every business has certain kinds of information that it tends to process more, and also certain methods that have been developed to process the common information that the business deals with regularly.
What problems does a DMS solve?
Small firms who use services like Dropbox, or even those who simply use nested folders, regularly encounter problems. Since cost of a DMS is no longer an issue (at least with cloud-based services) these recurring problems are what will drive users to use services such as NetDocuments or Worldox in place of Dropbox or Google Drive.
What sorts of common document management problems does a DMS solve? Problems like these:
- Misfiled documents (which equals “lost” in most cases)
- Inadvertently deleted documents
- Inability to monitor who is accessing documents, and to restrict access by user, or category of user
- Inability to easily notify users of the arrival of a new document, if it’s relevant to a matter they’re working on.
- Inability to easily manage email related to a client-matter
- Difficulty managing different version of documents (“version control”)
- Inability (or difficulty) to access documents remotely
Any user would want to have the ability to do these kinds of things. And for a long time corporations were the only ones who did have that ability because only they could afford it.
Now small firms are able to afford DMS systems as well. And the cost will continue to go down. So, it’s not hard to see that soon every professional service firm will be using a DMS.
Functions of DMS
Now it’s time to delve a little deeper into the functions of a DMS, and how such systems work in general.
The first thing that a DMS should do is take over the save function of every software application that users use to for their work. Ideally, the DMS would integrate at a root level with every type of software application, especially those that are used to create or edit documents.
Microsoft Office applications, for example, will always integrate with a DMS. And once a DMS is installed, a lawyer or secretary in a law firm who is trying to save a document will be forced to save it through the DMS.
Gone are the days of navigating through a series of nested folders on the “H drive,” or whatever the shared network drive might be called. The DMS decides where to store the documents. The only choices that the users make (and these are important choices that they’ll need to be trained to make well) are: what will the document be named, and what kind of document is it (i.e. correspondence, pleading, legal research).
The user will also have to fill in a field with the client number, and matter number, as well as the client’s full name. Once those fields have been set up initially, it’s easy to automate the process of profiling documents without a lot of typing.
A good DMS makes it easy for users to quickly and properly save documents with the proper tags.
And DMS systems will allow users to easily add emails that are related to a client-matter, usually by simply dragging it into the DMS. In fact, it’s the ability of modern DMS systems to manage email that make them indispensable for today’s modern law firm.
While a Microsoft Exchange server allows users to set up shared folders, it’s not robust enough to be used as a reliable way of notifying users working on a common matters that a new email has been added to the DMS, and that they should review it.
So, the proliferation of email means that lawyers today, more than ever, need to transition to a DMS. The ease of setup and use, and the affordability, mean that lawyers in any size firm need to start using DMS systems. And you can be sure that they will.
DMS systems are the only sensible, and reliable, way to manage digital documents. Professionals will continue to embrace such systems because they’re increasingly affordable, and increasingly necessary. Lawyers need to be able to find key information quickly, reliably, and remotely. A modern DMS system allows for that, and more. At Optiable we have been installing Document Management Software for Law and Financial Service firms since 2002. We have concluded that NetDocuments and Worldox are the best document management software out there. If you are interested in learning more, please click below to schedule a demo.