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Document Management Best Practices (2024)

June 21, 2024


Businesses today operate in a fast-paced digital world. With large amounts of documents ranging from contracts to reports, efficiently managing paperwork is crucial. Effective document management not only keeps files organized, it also improves operational efficiency and ensures compliance with regulations — regardless of company size. In short? A well-executed document management strategy can move your business forward. 


This document management best practices guide explores what document management is, the role and benefits of document management systems (DMS), and tips on how to choose the right one for your business. 



What is document management?


Document management is the process of handling documents in such a way that information can be created, shared, organized, and stored efficiently and appropriately. It typically involves the use of software to capture, track, and store electronic documents and images of paper documents.


Proper document management is the basis of operational efficiency. A document management system (DMS) is an effective and necessary tool for getting document management right. Let’s explore what a DMS is, its key components, and how businesses can benefit from its use. 



What is a document management system (DMS)? 


A DMS is a software solution that streamlines the creation, storage, retrieval, and distribution of documents within an organization. Projected to reach a market value of $24.91 billion by 2032, DMS’ leverage digital innovation to centralize document storage so users can easily access and collaborate on files.



Key components of a DMS


Businesses need the right infrastructure to efficiently manage, organize, and retrieve critical documents. When using a DMS, key features allow you to:


  • Easily capture documents. A DMS digitizes physical documents into searchable and editable digital files. 
  • Organize and store files. A DMS organizes and stores digital documents in a central location with categories based on information such as date, document type, and author.
  • Maintain access control. Administrators can set specific user roles and permissions so sensitive information can only be accessed by approved users.
  • Manage version control. Document versioning capabilities record changes, revisions, and comments to preserve document integrity and keep a clear trail of edits. It can also be needed for industries that are subject to auditing. 
  • Search for and retrieve documents. Users can quickly search for and find documents using keywords, metadata, or full-text searches.  
  • Access tools for collaboration. A DMS facilitates real-time document sharing and co-authoring, maintaining data integrity with check-in/check-out features. 
  • Ensure security and regulatory compliance. Encryption, access controls, and audit trails safeguard sensitive data from unauthorized access or breaches. 


Benefits of using a DMS for document management

Effective document management with a DMS can bring big benefits to your business. It not only optimizes internal processes but also contributes to business growth, agility, and competitiveness. 


Top benefits include:


  • Improved organization: Minimizes the time spent looking for documents, making it easy for employees to quickly locate documents and information. This benefits productivity in handling documents and makes them more secure. 
  • Enhanced collaboration: Gives users centralized access to documents and real-time editing capabilities so teams can work on documents regardless of location. Features like version control and real-time editing, plus the ability for users to work in the same document at the same time make collaboration easy. 
  • Increased productivity: Employees can spend less time on manual tasks when document workflows are streamlined, boosting their overall productivity. When manual tasks are automated, people can contribute more to higher value work and better catch mistakes in documents. 
  • Reduced paper dependency: Minimizes environmental impact and saves costs associated with printing, storage, and document disposal. It also provides digital backups to paper documents in the event those documents are damaged or lost. 
  • Heightened security: Keeps sensitive information safe and mitigates the risk of breaches with encryption and access-control features. User permissions help eliminate unauthorized access as well as tampering with or loss of documents. 
  • Better regulatory compliance: Avoids fines, penalties, and any legal issues related to compliance violations through document retention policies, audit trails, and compliance reporting. Document retention ensures the integrity of a document and the audit trails make it easy to run compliance audits. 
  • Faster decision making: Achieves better business outcomes and maintains the competitive advantage with real-time, accurate data for informed decision making. Streamlined collaboration, efficient document retrieval, and improved workflows all contribute to better decision making.    
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity: Reduces the risk of data loss from natural disasters, theft, hardware failures, and other unforeseen disruptions. Especially in the case of a cloud-based or off-site DMS, backing up and protecting information is easier. 
  • Improved customer service: Employees can respond promptly to customer requests with quick access to customer-related documents, leading to more satisfaction and loyalty. Service that is both quicker and accurate gives customers assurance their information is well handled. 
  • Efficient scalability and faster growth: Accommodates growing document volumes and user needs as your business expands. Whether you are a small startup or sizable enterprise, a scalable DMS can adapt to your growth needs without compromising any functionality.  



Related read: What is poor document management costing you?



8 document management best practices


To get the best results when you organize documents online with a DMS, follow these best practices.


  • Set a clear document management strategy that outlines specific approaches, policies, and procedures your business needs to effectively manage documents. 
  • Create a Single Source of Truth (SSoT) to house all documents, giving users one location for reliable and consistent information. 
  • Implement consistent file-naming conventions to avoid confusion and make sure specific document types are clear and easily recognizable. 
  • Ensure proper access controls are in place to guarantee both document security and productivity amongst team members. 
  • Set specific practices for your team to adhere to around editing documents and maintaining version control. 
  • Integrate the DMS with your existing tech stack and automate any processes that will support users on the platform. 
  • Use digital signature technology to provide a secure and legally-binding method for signing electronic documents.
  • Maintain your digital archive to preserve information, ensure data integrity and accuracy, remain compliant, manage risks, optimize storage, enhance search efficiency, and improve the user experience. 


Related read: Case study: secure and simple document workflows in healthcare law 



Implementing document control procedure best practices


In addition to the overall best practices above, the following document control best practices can help make the difference between a business that is secure and compliant, and one that is vulnerable and inefficient. 


  • Establish a document control policy that outlines guidelines for creating and storing documents and sets standards for organizing, accessing, and sharing files. 
  • Streamline processes for review and approval to keep workflows moving. 
  • Establish standards for storing and organizing your documents to improve access and document retrieval. 
  • Use a document management control system and metadata to more effectively locate and access files. 
  • Keep track of change logs and audit trails to cut down time needed to find information about each document. 
  • Provide comprehensive training so users understand specific document control policies and what is expected of them. 
  • Define metrics and key performance indicators that can measure the efficiency of your document control procedures and practices. 



Confidently collaborate and manage projects with ease 


Mastering document management is vital for success. By implementing the document management best practices and tips in this article, you can harness the power of document management to improve efficiency, mitigate risk, and drive business growth. 


With the right strategies and tools, you can overcome document chaos and keep collaboration in sync. From standardizing document formats to enforcing access controls, every step you take toward mastering document management will bring your business closer to reaching its goals.