Document Management Systems are basically an electronic repository for all of your documents that used to be kept in paper form. There are many benefits to an electronic document management system; some include:
- The space required for storage of paper copies
- Decreased administrative burden to manually file documents
- Faster document retrieval and manual electronic searches
- The ability to more readily and easily protect documents
- The ability to restrict access or set role level permissions
- Improved data retention
- The ability to back up documents
- Access to documents from multiple locations simultaneously
- The ability to have an audit trail of documents accessed
- The ability to cross-reference documents and query data
- Document damage and loss reduction capabilities
- Greater ability to provide data security
SEE: Data backup request form (Tech Pro Research)
Gaps in document management practices
Along with the benefits come some challenges like compliance issues. Here are just some of the signs that your company might have significant gaps in your document management practices.
1. Your documents are stored on an on-premise standalone computer
Unsecured document storage is still a common issue with small to mid-size companies, usually due to limited funds, a lack of understanding of the associated risks, staff shortages that make it hard to dedicate time to developing appropriate systems, or even simply not knowing which best practices are available. This can create confusion as to who accessed records when records were accessed, and the potential for altered or lost data, especially as there may not be an offsite back-up system in place.
2. Everyone uses the same login or access to all records
Setting the appropriate levels of access to electronic documents is key to maintaining the necessary internal controls. It’s essential that sensitive files are not accessible by everyone throughout your organization. Depending on the department and roles of employees, document access should be carefully assessed and limited on a need basis. If your document management system is an open book, this could spell trouble when it comes to confidentiality.
3. No audit trail
Audit trails allow organizations and their customers to have assurances around access to data. It helps everyone sleep better at night when they know that there is a log of who accessed, modified, moved, or deleted records. Audit trails help safeguard the integrity of the information and the processes around data access.
4. Few people know or understand your organization’s document management policies
If your employees don’t know or recognize your organization’s policies or procedures, odds are you don’t really have any, or it has not been sufficiently inforced. This could spell trouble since it leaves access to data fairly open, creating loopholes whereby anyone could get a hold of sensitive documents and leak information that might be damaging to your organization or its customers. Further, it could open your company up to legal issues without any repercussion for the person accessing the document as there were no formal policies in place prohibiting the employee from doing so.
SEE: Data classification policy (Tech Pro Research)
Although this isn’t an exhaustive list of the potential document management compliance issues your company might encounter, having documents stored on a single in-house computer, open access to many or all employees, no audit trail, and fuzzy or no internal document policies can cause a great deal of trouble. Make sure to address these potential pitfalls before they create more pressing reasons for concern.