Document management best practices play a pivotal role in ensuring the seamless organization, accessibility, and security of information within any organization. As businesses, especially small enterprises, struggle with the escalating volume of digital and physical documents, implementing an effective document management system for small business becomes imperative.
From optimizing workflows to enhancing collaboration, the adoption of robust document management practices can significantly streamline operations, overcome related obstacles, and empower businesses to thrive in today’s fast-paced and information-intensive landscape.
The document management best practices are:
#1. Setup a Clear Strategy
As the use of documents has grown, so have the opportunities for document management. When you create a document or file, it is not just sent to one person anymore; it may go across multiple people and departments. This means that it is useful to understand how documents are created, who creates them, and when they are created.
An effective document management strategy specifies how business documents should be created or received, organized, maintained, approved or rejected, stored, distributed, and destroyed in both electronic and paper formats. It should precisely describe these activities and be widely used in all departments.
#2. Manage Documents in a Centralized Repository
Organizations can enhance efficiency and accessibility by storing all digital documents in one centralized repository and location. This consolidation enables every team member to quickly locate and retrieve the information.
This has a significant impact on reducing the like hood of having multiple document silos where documents will be scattered between different locations which will negatively impact the ability to easily locate documents as employees will need to search in multiple locations to find their needed documents.
Also with a centralized repository, teams can collaborate seamlessly, as everyone works with the most up-to-date versions of documents, reducing the risk of conflicting or outdated information.
#3. Keep a Record of Documents
Keeping track of your documents is a practice in effectively managing your documents for good reasons. First and foremost, maintaining a record of your documents gives you a well-organized history of your organization’s activities, decisions and transactions. This historical information is extremely valuable for compliance, audits and legal purposes as it ensures that you can easily meet requirements and address inquiries.
It also helps with audit trail and tracking changes overtime to ensure transparency and accountability at any given time. This is extremely important because it prevents confusion and human mistakes by having a way to track all operations happen on a document.
#4. Keep Only the Documents you Need
Not all documents are created equally. There are documents that need to exist for specific time or period depending on industry rules and regulations and others should be only kept for a temporary period.
As experts in the field of documentation, we need first to identify the types of documents and clearly state the retention period for each type. That will help us destroy any document that is not needed for the business anymore.
#5. Use a Logical Document Folder Structure
Utilizing a logical folder structure within organizations, especially in the absence of a dedicated file management system, is crucial for effective document management and organization. A well-organized folder structure offers a systematic way to categorize, store, and access documents, making it easier for employees to locate the information they need easily.
This will help provide a consistent, organized, and uniformed way for all employees throughout all departments to store and name the documents which will reduce the risk of document duplication. In addition, it helps promote collaboration between team members as they will be better positioned in the future to navigate this repository.
Another important factor for creating a logical document folder structure is the ability to enhance document access with a more robust user access control and permissions.
#6- Consistent Naming of Documents
It is surprisingly easy for documents to get mislabeled when they are just stored in a folder on your computer or on a shared drive. This can lead to all kinds of issues, from an unreadable file that’s been renamed ‘honey’ to missing content that has been renamed ‘document1’. When you use the proper name for your files and folders, it’s easier to find what you need.
Part of the strategy is to agree on an effective and consistent document naming conventions in order to simply manage and find these documents in the future and to prevent documents from being overwritten.
This naming convention provides several benefits:
- Files are sorted chronologically by default when sorted by name.
- Files related to the same project are grouped together, making it easy to find them.
- You can quickly identify the type of document and its version.
- If multiple people are involved, you can see who created or last modified the file.
- It’s human-readable and provides context about the file’s content.
#7- Define Access Control
Document access control is the process of verifying who has the right to see, modify, or delete a document in an organization. It is very important to clearly define a visual representation of which group can see which document types.
I usually propose creating a sheet with document types as columns and groups as rows and filling this sheet in order to constantly maintain control over the security of your documents.
As documents grow in volume, it becomes very easy to compromise security, putting critical information in danger of falling into the wrong hands.
#8- Take Advantage of the Cloud
One of the foremost document management best practices that organizations, including small businesses, should prioritize is Taking Advantage of the Cloud.
Embracing cloud-based document management systems offers a myriad of benefits that can revolutionize how businesses handle their information. The cloud provides a centralized and secure repository for documents, enabling seamless access from any location with an internet connection.
#9- Master DOCUMENT VERSION CONTROL
As the complexity of document filing and organization grows, so does the need for document versioning. Automatic document tracking is handy to enable collaboration, decision-making, and enterprise-wide changes.
For example, a company may have guidelines for how to apply for visas that are regularly updated. In this case, it would be useful to use automatic document tracking to create an audit trail of who is responsible for them and when they were updated.
In addition to tracking changes in documents, automated document tracking can also track the movement of documents within a company.
#10- Invest in a Document Management System
Among the top documentation management best practices are adopting a DMS that will help your organization to manage and control all types of documents.
It is a collection of software that manages, tracks, and provides access to documents in a company or organization. They allow employees to collaborate with colleagues, share information and provide an overview of all the documents related to a certain project. This can be tremendously helpful for the organizational structure at work.
I strongly recommend reading the below article to take a look at a list of the top available open-source systems
#11- Follow the Latest Trends
Following the latest trends in document management should be part of any plan your organization should implement. This will allow you to adapt to latest technologies that will help make this process more efficient.