The Windows folder structure: a good, logical structure, but one that is used differently by different people depending on their personal preferences.
Email inboxes: again with personalized folder structure, often different from that in Windows.
Physical filing cabinets: these can be personal, or specifically structured for the department or the whole company; although even then, their structure often differs based on the employees or departments using them.
USB sticks: which we might use to keep personal back-ups, or transfer documents to different storage locations.
Often all four of these may be in play, each holding a portion of the information - which may or may not be up to date. The result is a very insecure situation leaving your documents prone to loss, unauthorised access, theft and destruction.
The problem has two main sources:
- The hierarchical tree structure. Although it is a clear and logical way of saving documents, every hierarchy is different because people have different jobs and different ways of thinking. When systems get big, and contain information from more than one person this becomes a big problem.
- People duplicating documents in order to have a copy in every storage structure, be it their e-mail, local drive, network drive or USB stick; it is then difficult to keep track of which version is the latest.
The solution is to drop the hierarchical tree structure and instead we ask just two questions:
- What kind of document is it?
- What labels would you like to tag onto your document in order to identify it?
For example, if you want to store a contract, you can tag it directly from the display of a Multi-Functional Device before storing it into the Therefore document management system. Similarly, document tagging can be done from virtually any desktop application.
The labels effectively replace the need for any type of hierarchical structure and since everyone with access rights can retrieve the document from a central storage location, there is no further need for duplication. You now have only one place to store, search, distribute and secure documents.
This in essence is the beauty of a Document Management System, but it is also just the beginning of what’s possible. It also offers:
- Document workflows
- Document security
- Automatically capturing document output from information systems
- Disaster storage on secure media