Moving From Paper-Based to Digital Document Management

Moving from paper-based to digital document management can be a life-saver for any organization. Making the switch doesn’t have to be difficult.

Mnet 195501 Digital Cloud Storage
Jen BarnumJen Barnum

Moving from paper-based to digital document management can be a life-saver for any organization. Making the switch doesn’t have to be difficult. Think of it this way. If you’re searching for records in the file cabinet, work-spaces, offsite and everywhere in between, you might as well be putting in extra time at work. A document management system, on the other hand, lets you consolidate core business information into a central location and make it available whenever and wherever you are. Time is on your side. Customer service improves, and employees achieve more. I’ve talked about this before. When information is all in one place, you can do more with it. Not only can you store it in one location for fast and easy recall, but you can also automate workflows. As an expert in workplace management experiences, we’ve helped hundreds of organizations make the transition. I’ll explain how you can prepare for digital document management; keep reading for some must-know tips!

Step One: Where is Your Data

Most everyone agrees keeping track of paper documents is not only a hassle but a waste of time and resources. At the same time, many don’t know how to go about making changes. That’s where we come in. The first thing you’ll want to do is assess your practices. Where is all your paper hiding and how can you convert it to electronic data? Once you find it, you’ll want to sort it by necessity, versions, and compliance. Add to that, paper receipts, customer notes, one-off invoices. Well, you get the idea. Information is floating everywhere, and you want to know where and how to find it. Before you go digital though, there is still more work to do.

Next, you’ll want to evaluate your electronic data. You’re probably familiar with how your company uses different software systems to conduct business. Accounting may use one platform while human resources uses another. No two systems seem to be alike. What’s more, is they don’t speak to each other. Now is a great time to decide what electronic information is the most important to your day-to-day business practices. I recommend starting with the most critical departments. This way you are prepared to talk with vendors about building an interface to route data to the central repository.

Step Two: Time to Talk Process Improvement

Once you know how to capture your data, I urge you to identify out of control business practices that are dragging you down. No need to get overwhelmed at this stage. Instead, ask which processes are holding your organization back? Where are the inefficiencies? In addition to manual-based processes that require human intervention to move things through a process, you likely have multiple programs and systems such as email, office documents, applications, Microsoft SharePoint, and electronic file shares to consider as well. The goal here is to put you in control. Take this step now and you will be prepared to address workflow automation when the time comes.

Step Three: Digitize the Paper

At this point you have choices! You know where your paper documents reside, and you have an idea of critical business processes. When it comes to paper content, you can scan your documents, or outsource. The advantages of outsourcing are plenty. The most significant being you get a cost-effective document imaging option without having to undergo a complete back file conversion.

Step Four: Determine Access

You’ll want to identify who will be accessing content and from where. You can personalize interfaces to go with a user’s security credentials and workflow queues so there is no switching between applications. Will you have mobile and offline users? What about a need for a customer portal? A great way to improve customer service is to offer form submissions, status tracking, and online document access.

Step Four: Integrate and Report

Hands-down, your document management system should be able to integrate with ALL critical applications – no exceptions. This should be easy and without additional programming. It’s not enough to store your data. You want a reasonable way to access and measure it too. Decide on what information is needed to make on the spot decisions with real-time data. This way you can tag data for easy search and recall. Will you search by name and account number for example? Knowing the answer can also help link documents together. If you are dealing with a court case, for example, you can make it, so John Doe’s entire record appears instead of having to search for extraneous information on the fly. The same goes for reporting. What information do managers need to do their jobs more effectively? Are there certain day-to-day reporting metrics that would be invaluable, such as productivity by employee per day. Whatever system you choose to go with, it should be able to provide a deep analysis and insight into your data.


As I said earlier, taking your paper processes to an enterprise content management (ECM) system doesn’t have to be hard. Hopefully, these tips have helped you understand where to start.

Jen Barnum is a marketer and customer experience professional at Naviant.