Why implement an electronic document management system

By Roger Poole posted 07-07-2010 22:01


Time for the "old" debate - why implement an electronic document management system (edms) what is wrong with paper after all??

So, is your organisation considering investing in an electronic document management system? If so what is driving this, any of the following?

-Space constraints
-Demands for improved efficiency (how has the proposed solution be proved to be more efficient than the existing methodology and/or infrastructure ?)
-Belief that "it is the right thing to do"
-Imitating a competitor (would anyone ever admit this - but how many times has a Chief Exec suggested this?

Let's take these in turn and discuss the, high level, pros and cons. I am assuming here, that the organisation is run on a commercial basis and any projects must demonstrate absolute cost savings over a fixed period of time before being given the go-ahead.

Space Constraints

Space, especially office floorspace is an expensive and valuable resource. Freeing up floorspace for re-use is a great way to build a positive cost benefit analysis. Remember to take into account the savings on not purchasing new filing cabinets if moving from one facility to a smaller facility.  

Demands for improved efficiency

Improved efficiency is a key deliverable when implementing an edms. Take care to involve the business and IT to fully understand all the process points/steps in your existing set up. You should not simply replicate this process in an electronic fashion. Challenge all of the fixed points of the current processes and determine areas/tasks which can be removed/simplified. You will probably discover that many process points have been in place "forever" with no apparent value. Removing these gives you scope to make e process more efficient. This will, inevitably reduce costs. Automating steps in the process will also improve efficiency and reduce the requirement for manual intervention. You could also manage to improve controls by increasing automation. Ensure direct feeds (where possible) are taken from other systems to improve controls and provide regular validation.

Belief that "it is the right thing to do"

Question this to find out why the person making this assertion thinks it is true. Take care not to suggest to a vendor that you need an edms. Advise the vendor of your requirements and see what they suggest. Try this approach with a few vendors and compare their suggestions/costs.

Imitating a competitor

Sometimes this may appear to be a reasonable approach - especially if the competitor is well respected and, importantly, profitable! you need to understand exactly what your competitor has implemented, the reasons why, and the benefits such implementation has derived. It is highly unlikely that you both have similar processes and technical infrastructures - so also unlikely that the same solution will be appropriate. Careful analysis is required so obtain as much information as you are able, respecting their privacy! Why not indulge in some benchmarking within your industry? It may be that the process being automated does not involve a manufacturing/sales process. As a consequence peer firms may be prepared to work with you on an informal basis.

The above is just some thoughts to take into account. However, here are some golden rules:

1. Never tell a vendor what systems you need - tell them your issues and ask them to suggest a solution. They will have much more experience with a wider range of industry solutions than you.
2. Always involve the business users and technology
3. You must have a structured approach to Project Management with Senior Management sponsorship and a clear goal/s or endgame
4. Involve everyone and provide regular clear feedback/progress reports
5. Be prepared to deliver bad news if warranted whilst providing a clear plan of action to remediate
6. Do not underestimate the cost of retiring legacy systems. They will probably have been in use for many years and probably provide more functionality than anyone thought

Good luck!

What are your thoughts and/or experiences? Do you have any feedback which can help others...

Kind regards
Roger Poole

#documentmanagement #ElectronicRecordsManagement #EDMS
1 comment


08-06-2013 02:14

Thanks for the post. This is all about why we need document management system.