What is Electronic Document Management?
Stated simply, electronic document management is the management of "paperwork" electronically rather than with paper.
It includes all forms, reports, and actions one associates with paper documents:
• Transaction documentation (invoices, checks, purchase orders, etc.)
• Daily, monthly, and annual audit trail accounting reports
• Departmental distribution of documents
• Workflow processes (approval processes)
• Filing and storing papers
• Delivering documents to outside recipients
• Delivery receipts
• Compliance documentation
• Retrieving stored documents
Technology has now made it not just possible, but entirely feasible in most cases, to manage these documents electronically and do away with the paper all together.
In a complete document management system, the key steps in electronic document management center around the following:
Step 1: Electronic Document Capture
Many documents start electronically - for example, something that is printed from a computer, e.g. letters, spreadsheets, invoices, checks, financial reports, and many others. These documents may often be captured before they ever get printed.
Many documents are received via email as PDF files, spreadsheets, word processing documents, emails or other electronic file formats. They can usually be captured into the Document Management System in their existing formats.
Paper documents can be scanned into PDF file formats. Many times these documents can automatically be linked to the appropriate electronic document or index through the use of bar codes or OCR technology.
Step 2: Electronic Document Delivery
Rather than mail a paper document in an envelope, email a PDF (or some other electronic) copy of the document.
Or post the document to a web site in order for the desired recipient(s) to access it.
See Electronic Document Delivery for more information.
Step 3: Electronic Document Storage
Don't put a paper document into a file cabinet! Instead, file it in an electronic folder.
Just like stapling supporting documents to their primary document in a file cabinet, link supporting documents electronically to their primary document in the electronic folder. They stay together electronically just as they do in paper form. See Electronic Document Storage for more details.
Step 4: Electronic Document Retrieval
When papers are stored in file cabinets, it is not uncommon for several copies to be stored, so the information on the document can be found from multiple search angles. For example, invoices are typically stored by invoice number (date), with a second copy filed by customer.
With electronic document storage, a document can be "tagged" with multiple indexes, such that a single filed copy can be located in several different ways. For example, a customer invoice could be indexed by Customer Name, Customer ID Number, Date (month/year), Invoice Number, Serial Number (of the item(s) the customer bought), Salesperson, City, State, Territory, or whatever is important in the situation. Then the document may be retrieved by any of those indexes, depending on the need of the person retrieving the document and the information in hand.
In each step electronic document management can provide benefits not just to the originator of the document, but to everyone involved in the document's life. Some of these benefits involve significant cost savings - some involve savings of expensive space, expensive labor, your customer's time, and so on. See Electronic Document Security and Electronic Document Compliance for more details.