The buzz about cloud-based document management systems and why it is likely to become mainstream

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In 2001, IDC reported that workers creating, managing or editing documents were spending up to 2.5 hours a day on average searching for what they needed. By 2012, IDC’s Information Worker Survey reported that workers were spending just about five hours per week searching for documents. The reduction in the time to find information can be attributed to technology solutions in the area of document management. Despite all the technological advances, documents continue to be stored and managed in an unstructured way, electronically, making accessibility and security a key challenge. A more recent survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) shows that employees spend 25 percent of their time searching for information to do their jobs.

Traditional document management is obsolete

Most documents continue to remain disconnected across organisations of all sizes. The information is often spread across emails, chats, documents, spreadsheets, slides, each of which may reside with different users and in silos, making data gathering extremely challenging.

“Documents and data are the core IP for business. And, this data is often required to be shared between teams for seamless day-to-day operations. But, without a document management system in place, this process of accessing and sharing of documents becomes inefficient and time-consuming,” shares Venkatesh Sundar, Founder and CMO, Indusface, a growing SaaS security startup.

In addition, with many users wanting to have easy accessibility, the documents are copied, often multiple times, leading to a growing volume. Industry studies point out that 30 percent of document accesses are often unsuccessful because of the document being misfiled or disappearing or challenges in access controls. And, all of this translates into considerable costs, sometimes directly or in the form of loss of employees’ work time. This is where a digital document management solution (DMS) becomes relevant.

Advantages of cloud-based document management systems

A digital DMS can address key challenges that manual document management falls short, explains K Bhaskhar, Senior Vice President, Canon India, BIS Division. With a cloud-based document management system, there is almost 100 percent uptime so that documents can be accessed from anytime, anywhere. The system is secure because there is a constant upgradation of the firewall and the overall security software. Most importantly, it is a cost-effective proposition for any organisation as it works on a shared services model, thereby contributing to an organisation becoming more collaborative, agile and efficient.

“When documents are managed manually, it might be difficult to access correct information due to a people-dependent workflow processing. In addition, most solutions can’t track or provide visibility of changes in the documents, making it easy to manipulate data,” says Bhaskhar.

And sometimes because the work processes are not transparent enough, it might be extremely difficult to find a particular document that is needed or who is in charge of that document. Not just that, with employees managing too many documents, it is quite possible for them to lose track of the documents, resulting in overshooting deadlines. In a cloud-based DMS, there is version control and changes made to any document can be easily tracked.

In contrast, DMS, especially cloud-based DMS, not only addresses these challenges but also ensures process efficiency, secure and confidential access to data and is cost effective. Today, cloud-based DMS with its high-performance servers and automatic text recognition, make it possible to store, manage and access large volumes of documents easily. A user can get to the desired document almost instantly without having to search for hours in file servers or folders for a single piece of information they need.

Venkatesh agrees, saying cloud-based DMS is better than having a dedicated internal SPOC to manage the access and management of official documents. However, he says that the clear advantages to the success of cloud-based DMS depend on two critical factors. One, the cloud-based DMS should integrate with existing systems to make the experience and scale seamless as opposed to providing another set of siloed tools for document management. Any technology solution, no matter how impactful it is, will not get used unless it weaves into the existing way of working, be it integrating with e-mails, social collaboration tools, identity management tools, access control systems, among others. Second, a critical element is ensuring that there is a push for adoption.

Translating into impact

And, when adoption of document management is successful, “benefits are more appreciated if we look at the intangibles in terms of ease at which teams can now get access to information they need,” says Venkatesh. Sharing an example, he says, “With a DMS in place, a sales SPOC can now get access to authorised information and playbooks of other customers that can be shared at any given point of conversation to drive home the point for a potential customer. The DMS with its in-built security features ensures that only relevant content is shared without compromising on security.” He explains that this immediate access to relevant information can be critical in driving the ‘customer delight’ factor in a sales conversation. “With DMS, there is no dependency on people for access to information they need to do their job which would otherwise take anywhere between a few hours to days,” he adds.

Agami — a network organisation — which was dependent on a paper-based document management system prior to the pandemic, today has made the shift to digital solutions.

Varun Hemachandran, Curator, Communications at Agami, explains, “Our work involves working and managing relationships with hundreds of other organisations. We also have a lot of vendor relationships that entail lots of paperwork. Managing the huge volumes of paperwork by a 12-member strong organisation was a huge overhead. Plus, all the documents needed dedicated space for storage which added to the cost.”

Shifting to digital DMS not only eliminated the need for a dedicated office space for managing the paperwork but also brought about efficiency in the workflow. “For instance, the immediacy of being able to get access to a document and get it signed digitally translates into a huge advantage,” he says.

Rise of DMS deployments

Today, amidst the pandemic, cloud-based DMS adoption has seen an accelerated rise, as has the case been across technology solutions addressing different use cases in digitisation. “The world today has become fast, from fast food to fast disbursal of cash through ATMs. So why shouldn’t access to documents be fast? While adoption has seen an upward curve over the last few years, the curve has been steeper since 2019. And the adoption of DMS increased significantly since the onset of the pandemic and shift to a hybrid work environment,” says Bhaskhar. He adds that the adoption has been primarily driven to meet the needs of Finance, HR, and IT functions in particular.

And, with organisations shifting to a hybrid workplace structure for the long-term, Bhaskhar opines that DMS will become a mainstay technology for companies. Here, he shares that it is a best practice for organisations, especially startups, to start with the digital management of their documents as early as possible. “This will create structure and transparency of information at all levels of the company. It will be easier to manage the flow of information when the startups start achieving economies of scale,” he says.

Today, DMS is witnessing interesting innovations. “The innovations with respect to digital right management, context-aware access, user provisioning and deprovisioning will further enhance the impact of DMS solutions,” says Venkatesh. Bhaskar points out Canon's DMS Therefore™ to further illustrate.

“The new Smart Capture feature of Therefore has AI built in for data extraction from unstructured documents like vendor invoice. This will increase efficiency of invoice processing and similar workflows. Canon will continue to add more utility to our DMS offerings based on market feedback.” he says.

The increasing shift to a hybrid workplace, work becoming more collaborative and complex and innovations in DMS are likely to further make the case stronger for businesses of all sizes across sectors to adopt DMS.

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