Why having document management software is essential?
Starting from the ideation stage to incorporation and thereafter the journey, Documents are the building blocks of businesses. More the businesses create documents, the more critical it is to establish systems to organize, and accordingly have a seamless document management. The need for document management has been furthermore amplified with the new normal of #WFA [work from anywhere].
Specifically in legal practice, the majority of work performed is document focused. Pleadings, contracts, leases, deposition transcripts; all client/matter work in progress must be readily accessible.
Consider this - A firm’s litigation team is handling a trademarks prosecution case. Various in-house lawyers collaborate with the legal teams of the opposing parties, and corroborate documents with the Trademark registrar office. This requires the need for exhaustive communication and document sharing.
The compiled research documents, minutes of communication with the registrar’s office and application drafts have to be stored, and be made accessible to every individual working on the case. As the case progresses, the case file gets bulkier. Organization of information, draft petitions and minutes of the meetings becomes crucial. Undertaking these tasks through email, canresult in missing out on information and further spending hours looking for information in various email threads across email boxes. Productive hours are hence lost in simply looking for information and making it accessible to stakeholders. However, an efficient legal document management system can make storing of information, retrieval, sharing, maintaining versions and approvals seem like a cake-walk.
What is document management?
In simple terms Document Managementis digitizing, indexing, organizingand securing, business documents and subsequently making it easy to access, share, edit and manage those documents.
A shift from traditional paper filing to a document management system saves time, money and space., furthereliminating the need to use multiple programs and applications to handle the workflow.
Document management systems makes work easier and efficient. It saves the employee’s hours of repetitive tasks and aggravation resulting from the failure of locating the required documents. Following are some of the other benefits of document management systems:
- Secure collaboration Document management systems have in-built security and access controls, allowingusers to track the activities in a given document.Hence,constant calling and e-mailing are off the table; access controls safeguards sensitive information. In an event of disasters like fire or floods, the documents lie safe in the cloud, away from the cupboards.
- Document Sorting and categorization made easy: A manualpaper document management system costs hours of laborious work, leaving little time for more pressing matters of practice. With the rise in cross- jurisdictional and collaborative legal practices, it becomes challenging to manually streamline documents being prepared in different parts of the world.
- Documents can be linked to matters: Since document management software is flexible compared to a manual filing system, indexing of information is possible. Making it easy to consolidateinformation and documents in a systematic format for every case thus, eliminating the hassles of maintaining bulky paper case files.
- Versioning and audit trails: Along with the new additions or changes in a document, the previous version, along with time and user data is automatically archived, building a document repository of information. A complete history of activities performed on a document like editing, modification, copying, deleting, moving etc are recorded. The users can easily view the audit log to identify each step undertaken.
Enhanced collaboration: Document management systems allow easy access and sharing of documents from multiple locations on a single platform.
Some of the key features to be considered when looking for an ideal Document Management System:
- Version control: It should allow the user to track all the edits made in a document in the system, with the old versions being archived and saved for future reference.
- Integration: Should Sync with e-mail applications like google and outlook, so that all communication stays in one location,securely.
- Security and disaster recovery: Since a data breach can wreak havoc on business operations, a good document management system should prioritize storage security.
- Usability: Since a data management system is going to be used on regularbasis by every employee, it is pertinent to pick a software which is not too complex otherwise it would have an opposite effect on the work productivity.
- Collaboration: Tools such as live editing, sharing, plugins and access restrictions are some of the features to look out for as they make collaboration easy, especially in remote working set-up.
- Scanning: A document management system should be able to scan and save any paper files. It should be able to save and convert a file in any format eg. DOC, Jpeg, PDF etc.
- Archiving: Look for a software that archives files after a set time period.
- Scalability: Opt for a software that can adapt or change as per the changing requirements of the user and the business.
An inefficient system of information storing, accessing and sharingmakes it almost impossible to put in productive work hours. At offices employees spend precious business hours combing through file cabinets looking for documents, while in #WFH set-up the business operations comes to a halt as files become impossible to track!
Document management systems are a ray hope in a pile of papers. They offer quick, efficient and collaborative solutions irrespective of where you are working from.
It would not be wrong to say that an efficient document management system, allows a legal department to work like a well-oiled machine, whereas a department without it constantly stalls and breaks down.