12 important features required in a DMS
Each organisation’s expectation from a Document Management System can differ based on the business that the organisation is in. We can still go ahead and define the most important features that define a good DMS based on generic requirements. You can go through the list below and categorize the features into one of the following:
- Important: Features that are absolutely necessary for your organisation
- Good to have: Features that are good to have and will add value to the organisation
- Unimportant: Features that are not important to your organisation.
Since this is a generic list, you can also add to the list of features based on the specific requirements for your organisation.
- Ease of Use:
Ease of using any application is very important because that drives adoption within the organisation. If the DMS is very difficult to use and does not have an intuitive user interface, then training efforts and costs will be high. The time spent by the users in doing simple tasks will be higher, having an adverse effect on your organisation’s productivity.
How the documents can be organised in the DMS is very important and you should be able to define the organisation as per your requirement. Structures such as folders, cabinets or drawers, that help in the organisation of documents should be easy to create and use. The hierarchy of the folders should be easy to define and replicate.
- Document Upload:
The DMS should allow easy upload of documents using various methods. The DMS should provide a scanning application using which documents can be scanned and uploaded. The DMS should provide plug-ins so that upload through various applications is possible e.g. Microsoft office plug-ins using which documents can be directly uploaded to the DMS from MS Word, MS Excel or Outlook.
- Support for various formats:
The DMS should be able to support all the major file formats. All the features provided in the DMS should be supported for the formats. It could also have format specific features e.g. comparison feature for CAD drawings where differences between two versions of a drawing are highlighted.
The DMS should have advanced security features that ensure you have full control on who accesses what type of documents. Role based security module to restrict the access to the various features of the DMS is a must. The security module should also allow the administrator to restrict access to folders and document categories. Some DMS also allow page level access control within a document.
The DMS should allow various versions of the same document to be maintained. Check-in/check-out feature should be available to prevent accidental over-write by users when a new version is being created. You should be able to define the version numbering schema as per your organisation’s and/or department-wise requirement.
- Advanced Search:
Users should be able to search and quickly find the documents they want. Search results should be made available promptly to the users. Users should be able to write search queries and save them for repetitive use. Search queries should support structures such as – and/or, greater than/lesser than, contains & between clauses. Full-text search should be available for formats that support it.
The DMS should allow you to define the indexing requirements as per the document type. For example, an Invoice will have a different index structure as compared to Contract document. You should be able to define the formatting (validations) for the indexes so that data entry mistakes are avoided while entering the index information. For example, an Employee document may have Employee Code as one of its index fields; the organisation has a ten-character employee code with first four characters are alphabets and the remaining six characters are numeric. You should be able to define this validation for the employee code index field.
Users should be able to share the documents for a limited period of time with others – be it other users of the DMS or as an email link with people who are not users of the DMS application. Access to the shared documents should be disabled after the limited period defined.
The DMS should have the feature that allows users to link documents that are logically related to each other. For example, Invoices and the related Purchase Order can be linked to each other so that users can see the PO for which the invoices have been raised.
Collaboration tools allow users to interact and record their interactions at a single place. Users should be able give comments on documents and ask for responses from other users. Simple and easy-to-use collaboration features facilitate quick decision making and faster responses to situations.
Annotations allow users to highlight certain sections or lines of texts in the document and give their comment or add notes to the highlighted items. Various annotation features are available in many DMS applications. Annotations make it easier for users to communicate with other users, by highlighting the exact objects within the document to which they want to draw attention.
The above list defines the most important features of any DMS application. Identify the features that your organisation needs by communicating with all the stakeholders and prepare your own list. Categorize each item in the list into three categories I mentioned at the start of the blog and evaluate the DMS applications, using this list.
A right document management system accrues significant benefits to the organisation. Hence it is imperative to choose the correct DMS that fits your organisation’s objectives.