What to Know About Enterprise Document Management Systems

Tired of hunting through your company’s current mess of documents for files that could be anywhere—employees’ computers, tucked in a filing cabinet, or lost in the ether of a company server? It’s time to seriously consider adapting an enterprise document management system (EDMS) to bring order to the chaos.

Not all enterprise document management systems are created equal, though, so we’ll walk you through what features to look for. Plus, we’ll explain the benefits of enterprise document management systems, how these systems work, and our picks for the top tools out there.

What is an Enterprise Document Management System (EDMS)?

An enterprise document management system is a type of software that allows users to create, store, share, organize, and manage a wide variety of documents. It’s a way to dramatically reduce paper use and increase efficiency by digitizing and organizing documents and automating common processes related to those documents.

Enterprise document management systems are especially common in healthcare and public sectors, but they’re gaining broad traction as other industries realize their use for organizing employee payroll, tax documents, AP invoices, and more. Employers are realizing the unnecessary costs of physical document storage. Paper files can take up as much as 15 percent of your office space—a huge financial burden when office space averages $285 per square foot in the U.S. So it makes sense that companies are increasingly turning to EDMSs to help tamp down on these risks.

Features of a Good Enterprise Document Management System

If you’re thinking about setting up an enterprise document management system to maintain files, there are a few key features you’ll want to look for before investing in a new system. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are the basics that will get you started.

Easy Integration

A good enterprise document management system can integrate easily with any existing systems you have. As of 2020, the average company was using 137 different apps, with the average employee using more like eight apps in their day-to-day work. Updating these other systems just for compatibility with your new EDMS can add unwanted costs —particularly if you’re looking at large legacy systems that are critical to operations, like an ERP. These will be non-issues with an EDMS that integrates easily with your current software systems.

Categorization Features

Different enterprise document management systems can have different categorization features that allow you to organize your documents. You’ll want to find a system that makes the most sense for your workflow. Many use indexing tags and metadata to optimize organization.

Strong Search Function

One of the most basic, but most useful, features of an enterprise document management system is search capabilities. Being able to find what you’re looking for quickly and easily is a must, but it can be a surprising challenge for many companies. A recent survey by Nintex revealed that 49 percent of employees struggled to find documents. So ensure that whatever system you choose not only has a search function but has features, like being able to add metadata to files, that help support that search capability.

Change History

A good enterprise document management system should also keep track of the history of documents, to let you see who made what changes and when. This is especially helpful for maintaining version control. That same survey by Nintex also found 33 percent of employees had problems with document versioning.

Easy Sharing Capabilities

Another feature to look for is the ability to share documents instantly with anyone inside of your organization. You should be able to easily find and send documents within and between departments as necessary. Perhaps more importantly, the right enterprise document management system improves your ability to share files with external customers—or patients. A 2019 survey by Citizen Corporation reported that over 50 percent of healthcare providers aren’t complying with HIPAA right of access. Specifically, providers fail to send a patient’s medical records in the format requested. A good EDMS allows you to share these files securely, making sure your organization is compliant with HIPAA or any other industry-specific regulations.

Security Features

A 2018 report by Varonis found that 41 percent of companies have files containing sensitive information open to every employee—a major security threat when we’re talking health records, credit card information, and the like. And data breaches are only getting more common. In 2019, the number of reported data breaches increased 54 percent from the previous year. In 2020, the number of breaches dropped, but there were still 8.4 billion records left vulnerable. So be sure to choose an enterprise document management system that has built-in permissions functions that let you add security to any document.

Workflow Automation

One critical feature to be on the lookout for is automation, particularly invoice automation. A 2019 report from the Institute of Finance and Management found that automating accounts payable roughly doubled efficiency, allowing companies to process twice as many invoices in the same time period. These are big gains when you consider that most organizations take an average of about 12 days to process an invoice. So look for an enterprise document management system that can automate key document-related processes that you repeat regularly. The software should be able to take over tasks like invoice processing and approval routing, electronic payments, generation of payroll or tax documents, or any procure-to-pay tasks.

Benefits of Using an Enterprise Document Management System

Now that you know what features to look for, it’s helpful to know how these features translate into benefits. With improved efficiency and cost savings of an EDMS, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start using one sooner. Just a few of the benefits of using an enterprise document management system include:

1. Staying Organized

According to Dynamic Signal’s 2019 state of employee communication and engagement study, 58 percent of employees were stressed out by ineffective and incorrect use of communication tools; 36 percent reported they didn’t know where to find the information they need to do their work.

An enterprise document management system solves this issue. Knowing where to find the documents and resources you need is critical for maintaining efficient day-to-day operations. Plus, having everything organized and at-the-ready can also make future audits as painless as possible.

2. Facilitating Better Collaboration

Harvard Business Review reported in 2015 that 75 percent of cross-functional teams were dysfunctional—failing to stay on budget, on schedule, and in line with expectations—often due to a lack of systemic organization. Being able to quickly and efficiently find and share documents within an integrated, company-wide system makes it easier for employees to collaborate within and across departments. Plus, remote access to documents is increasingly important as more and more employees work from home.

3. Keeping Critical Documents Secure

The built-in security features of an enterprise document management system will keep your files secure—something that’s especially critical for groups maintaining industry compliance. A 2019 survey by the National Small Business Association found that the number one concern small businesses had was navigating new technologies and keeping their information secure.

4. Saving Time

The automation, sharing, and search features of an enterprise document management system can save significant time for everyone at your business. According to a 2012 survey by the International Data Corporation, information workers spent an average of 4.5 hours per week searching for documents and another 3.5 hours filing and organizing documents. If your group hasn’t upgraded their workflow systems since 2012, you could be losing a day each week to organization that could be streamlined by an EDMS.

5. Saving Money

The time savings, together with all the other benefits of an EDMS, compound to help you save money. And automated tasks also help eliminate instances of human error, which can be costly.

How Does an Enterprise Document Management System Work?

An enterprise document management system works by providing a software interface where employees across a company can create, distribute, edit, and store documents. Roughly speaking, the processes built around an EDMS looks like this:

1. Capture or create a document: Whether you need to create a new text document or want to scan in a paper file, your system should have built-in optical character recognition (OCR) that can help digitize any document and make it machine-readable—a must for working with AP invoices.

2. Store the document: Often, a document is created right into its proper home, no extra filing step required. It’s easy to decide who can access the document and layer on security as needed.

3. Distribute the document: Once your document is in the system, the EDMS should either automatically route it where it needs to go, or you should be able to share it as needed with whomever has the right permissions.

4. Edit the document: Create living documents that can be edited directly within the enterprise document management system. Allow multiple people to work within a document at once, or use built-in version control features, like edit history, to keep track of iterations.

5. Approve the document: EDMS can help automate approval processes—clunky document approvals can become as simple as checking a box.

Our Top 3 Enterprise Document Management Tools

Once you’re ready to introduce an enterprise document management system into your workplace, you’ll need to find one that’s right for you. Here are our picks for the top three enterprise document management systems on the market.

1. MHC Software

  • Pros: MHC Software is easy to use, its OCR is best-in-class, and its customer support is exceptional. It automates tasks like invoice processing and approval routing, employee HR document creation, vendor payments via automated clearing house (ACH) transfers, and more. Plus, it integrates with major ERPs from systems like Oracle, Infor, and Microsoft.
  • Cons: This software was designed with enterprise businesses in mind and may not be suited for small or mid-sized companies.

2. Ascend SmartTouch

  • Pros: Ascend SmartTouch is easy to use and fast to implement. And users can make updates to supply chain contracts with just one click.
  • Cons: It requires Design Studio and doesn’t have as many customer references as some other EDMSs. It also has fewer partnerships with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, which can make integration a hassle.

3. SAP Concur

  • Pros: SAP Concur is strong on ease of access and can be great for users dealing with a lot of travel and expense reports.
  • Cons: It’s not the easiest tool to implement and customer support may not be as robust as that of other enterprise document management systems. Also, the user interface (UI) might feel antiquated and challenging to use, and it may not partner well with Infor ERP.

What’s Next? Pick the Right Enterprise Document Management System

Enterprise document management systems are a great way to get organized and maximize efficiency at your company. No more searching for documents lost on the computer or worse, in a filing cabinet or a stack on someone’s desk. A quality EDMS saves paper, cuts costs, and reduces headaches in any department. Finally, your employees will get more time back to spend on the work that matters.

Now that you know all of the perks and ins and outs of enterprise document management systems, the next step is to find one that works best for your business. With features like automated invoice approvals, tiered permissions, automatic document and payroll generation and more, MHC Software promises to reduce and streamline your document-based workflows.

To find out how an MHC enterprise document management system can help your company save time, money, and energy, visit our website today.

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