Selecting a Document Management System: 7 Must-Have Features

MHC Team     January 4th, 2021 

Document Management System Illustration

No matter what size your business is, you know by now that having a way to organize the countless files that are the lifeblood of operations is non-negotiable. But if you’re just wading into the waters of document management systems, or are maybe looking to replace the system you already have, it can be tough to know exactly what to look for. Thankfully, we’ve put together this helpful guide. Read on for a walk-through of the essential features of a document management system.

What is Document Management?

Just to cover some quick basics, document management is the system by which a company digitally organizes all of its documents (both electronic and paper) including contracts, invoices, receipts, agreements, and more. The system generally involves an architecture for organizing files, such as folders, categories and tags, to make it easy to store and find documents—all in one place.

What Features Should a Document Management System Have?

Every document management system is different, and some might be tailored to address the idiosyncrasies of specific industries. However, there are some features that should be standard. Here are some of the elements that every document management system should have.

1. Robust Search Function

Since businesses have to juggle a multitude of critical records at any given time, it’s important to be able to find what you’re looking for, and to find it quickly. However, a recent Nintex analysis surveyed 1,000 employees across industries and found that 49 percent of workers struggled to find documents. That’s why search functions are so crucial to a good document management system.

A system should be able to use relevant metadata, like invoice number, vendor name, date, etc., to easily retrieve whatever document you’re looking for. Some systems also have a tagging capability so you can organize and label documents by category, such as “invoice” and “contract.” This helps you easily see all the documents of a particular type or topic for easy reference.

2. Tiered or Permissioned Access

As helpful as it is to have all of your files in one spot for easy access, you don’t want those files falling into the wrong hands. Some documents contain sensitive information that needs to be kept secure. For example, healthcare providers must keep medical records private not only to maintain doctor and patient confidentiality but to abide by HIPPA regulations. Alternatively, you may not want some employees to access records that should only be privy to a select few, like managers or board members.

As such, document management software should provide a way to organize and secure files so that only the people who have the right permissions on their accounts can access them. At a basic level, software should provide blanket access rights, i.e., everyone at the company can see the files, but no one else. Even better, though, is tiered access that ensures only people categorized into certain groups, like managers or HR personnel, can view documents.


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3. Edit History

As the old adage goes, the only constant in life is change. For a business, keeping track of those changes—particularly to documents—is a necessary challenge. Indeed, according to the Nintex survey, 33 percent of employees struggle with version control. A document management system is a critical tool for overcoming that hurdle.

Be on the lookout for software that provides a detailed edit history: what the change was, who made it, and when. This data is crucial to maintaining version control and ensuring team members are only working off of the most up-to-date version of a document.

4. Mobile Access

Depending on your needs, mobile access is another feature to look for in a document management software. Though many people might prefer to handle the bulk of their work on a desktop, mobile access can be great for quick tasks like one-off invoice or contract approvals.

5. Integration with Legacy Platforms

What business wouldn’t love to have the latest-and-greatest tech to help them get stuff done? The truth of the matter is that older software tends to be the backbone of operations—and replacing it would be a massive undertaking. Augmenting that legacy software with apps and tools to handle niche functions can help, but workers can lose more than 30 minutes each day just switching between apps.

Any document management software worth its weight in salt can prevent these headaches by integrating with these legacy systems. The goal isn’t to go against the grain and make your other systems irrelevant, but to work with what you have, providing the best, most cost-effective solution.

6. Workflow Automation

There’s never enough time in the day, so anything that helps save this precious resource is a boon for businesses. When it comes to document management software, that means workflow automation features are a must.

Things like tiered approvals or automated invoice processing can save a lot of time and money. In fact, according to a 2019 report, accounts payable departments that implemented automation processed roughly twice as many invoices per full-time employee than organizations that had less automation. And another 2019 report found that companies that had highly automated accounts payable processes spent just $2.36 per invoice; companies with little automation spent $15 per invoice.

Those numbers underscore just how powerful efficient workflows can be, and why automation is such an important function in a document management system.

7. Cloud-based

One of the difficult things about managing documents is making sure people can access them when they need them. Some files might still be physical and stored in a cabinet, others might be digital but saved on an on-site server that employees can’t access remotely with ease. And with so many companies and industries transitioning to remote work, it’s more important than ever that all of your documents are in one place and accessible from anywhere.

A cloud-based document management software allows you to more seamlessly work with and communicate with global teams and remote employees, saving you time and money. Indeed, one recent report found that accounting personnel could save up to 15 hours a week by utilizing the cloud.

Benefits of Document Management

Now that we know some of the must-have components of a document management system, let’s recap some of the benefits that come along with those features:

Saves time

Whether you’re taking advantage of a cloud-based central repository, making the most of automation, or using a quality search function, a document management system can save any single person hours a day. And that time adds up. Even saving an hour each day (assuming a standard 40-hour workweek) comes out to 260 hours saved per person, per year—that’s over 32 days each year!

More secure

A recent report found that in Q1 2020, 4 billion records were left exposed to security breaches—a 273 percent increase since 2019. With permissions settings and tiered access, though, document management systems provide a vital layer of security for sensitive documents.

Scales with your business

As your business grows, you’ll take on even more documents and records than you’re juggling now. Thankfully, the digital architecture created by a document management software is easy to scale up. That’s especially true if you decide on a cloud-based tool— it’ll run on off-site servers and won’t require dedicated in-house IT team members to handle it.

More efficient workflow

Document management software allows you to automate all sorts of processes, whether it’s processing invoices, document approvals, providing vendors access to documents critical to their account via a self-serve portal, or more. Regardless of industry, you’ll be able to streamline workflows, freeing up staff to work on the projects that really matter.

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Take the Next Step: Find the Document Management System for You

By now, it’s obvious that a document management software can come out of the box with functions that offer a wealth of benefits. Yet knowing which tool is the best fit for your organization can be tricky.

MHC Software offers state-of-the-art document management solutions that can help you harness all of these benefits, including ERP integration, automated approvals, and more. Want to learn more about how MHC Software can help your business? Explore our document management solutions today.

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Team MHC consists of a multitude of roles, functions, and expertise within MHC. With extensive combined experience in accounts payable and customer communication management, Team MHC has a unique insight into how to empower people using solutions that streamline processes while enhancing customer communication. Working alongside field experts in various industries and company sizes, Team MHC has garnered impressive thought leadership knowledge that we are excited to share with our readers. Including Aragon’s 2022 Women in Tech winner Gina Armada, CTO Dan Ward, VPs of Finance and Customer Service, and other talent that runs the spectrum of technology ability, Team MHC offers a mastery of skills to benefit our customers and prospects alike.


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