When computer programs first began to be used as a business tool, documents were mostly managed using the built-in software application, like Windows Explorer. Over the years, software developers have designed document management applications that meet the precise needs of businesses. And in these last few years, there has been increasing awareness among small business owners on the benefits of using specialized applications to help in managing documents, rather than plain file management software like Windows Explorer. In this article, we will look at some characteristics of electronic document management (EDM) applications, which will help small business owners make the right choice while investing in one.
The best way to look at the characteristics of document management applications is to match them to your needs and expectations from it; i.e. what it will do for you – or what tasks will it help you perform in a more efficient way.
Range of scanning features
Switching from paper based documents to managing documents electronically calls for scanning them. Once scanned, they must be indexed and saved in digital formats. The best way to do so is using a document management application which gives you the option to scan documents individually or in batches; and also allows you to configure scan settings and save frequently used settings as Scan Profiles, for future use. This saves you a lot of time. Some small business document management applications also allow you to specify what type of document is being scanned and where the document should be saved (e.g. the folder and sub-folder) and configure and save these settings for future use.
Multiple ways to organize files
Once the files have been digitized, they must be organized in a way that makes them easy to find. The hallmark of a good document management application is when it has multiple ways to organize documents; e.g. the ability to import as well as drag-and-drop your entire folder tree, creating folders and sub-folders, assigning tags, the ability to link documents, the option to retain the document in its original location while dragging it into the application etc.
Better, faster search
One of the main reasons small and large businesses alike invest in specialized software for managing documents electronically is to find documents quickly. To make the entire text content of documents like PDF files, TIFF files etc. searchable, the software extracts text using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). You further have the option to add indexing information manually or automatically; e.g. File Name, Created By, Document Type etc. Once text has been extracted and indexing is complete, your documents are searchable. Smartly designed document management applications offer you multiple search options like Quick Search, Advanced Search and Saved Search. Quick search works just like an internet search engine. Advanced search allows you to use multiple criteria to search a document. When you save a frequently used set of advanced search criteria, it is called Saved search. The next time you want to look for documents matching that set of criteria, you need not search all over again. Simply select the saved search in the application’s sidebar and you get the updated list of documents you were looking for!
Easy sharing, assigning of documents
As a small business owner or manager, you may not have hundreds of employees working for you. But even small teams need the ability to share documents with their members for smooth communication. Small business document management applications normally allow you to share your private documents with other users by making them public. This means you simply need to copy or move the document to the Public Folder. When you are done working on a document and ready to transfer its ownership to another user, you can assign the document to them. This passes the document on to them for further action. It is a very effective method of working, especially with confidential documents that need to be shared but must not be accessible to all users.
Small businesses are fast becoming savvy in managing documents electronically and are becoming discerning buyers and users of solutions that help them do so. Sohodox is a document management application for small businesses and professional firms that bears all of the above benefit-driven characteristics yet is easy to set up and simple to use. Hardly any training is needed in order to get started – your team can get productive in a matter of hours!