By Roger Pegler
Every organisation should have a document management strategy, even if that strategy is to say “We’re not going to manage documents”. Whatever you choose to do, it should be the result of a conscious, considered decision. And before you create a document management strategy you need to decide why you want one and what you are hoping to achieve.
Usually corporate goals dictate the reason. For some companies it’s all about creating a framework for better decision-making. They want to be able to access and refer to the content of documents, regardless of whether that document is a Word file or a scanned image. For others, it’s the desire to turn data into knowledge (i.e. knowledge management). Then there are the organisations that require document (or perhaps records) management for compliance reasons. They need to be able to keep and audit the paperwork.
But even for those driven by regulatory obligations, not every document in the organisation needs to be managed. Invoices, purchase orders and other financial documents – yes. Social club notices and emails arranging lunch dates – no. If you’ve been exchanging emails with other staff members regarding a particular project, it’s the last email in that trail – not the first email and definitely not all the ones in between- that needs to be saved. Because the last one contains all the previous responses, ideas and suggestions. All the emails leading up to this should be capable of being deleted. Similarly, in some instances drafts of documents may be needed to track the decision-making process. In other circumstances, you may only require the final version.
The big trick is to recognise what you need to manage and to avoid the costs of managing fluff. Will you be looking to manage unstructured as well as structured data? When it comes to structured data you’ll probably want documents from Office applications managed via SharePoint, but what about emails, images, blogs, tweets, web pages and PDF files?
Document management must also address the whole data life cycle. If you’re designing the strategy, you have to work out what restrictions or stipulations you want to place on documents from creation and editing through to archiving and deletion.
Too many people focus solely on creation and saving of documents. Yes, you need to know from the time a document or email is begun that it is tagged and stored correctly. But you also need to know how you are going to find the document again and, at the bare minimum, when it should be deleted.