7 Tips on Building a Document Management Strategy for Businesses

Imagine you’re living the dream as a small business owner. You started working in your bedroom and now have an office.

But you have created a lot of documents over the years but no organization system. If you want to take control of that, you’ll need a document management strategy.

Keep reading to learn how to create and implement one that works for your business.

1. Figure Out What Documents You Have

You should go through as many documents as you can. As you review them, see what types of documents you have, like standard operating procedures or client contacts.

Later, you can use those document types as categories for the new system. If you have a ton of clients and contacts for each, that can make a good category.

You should also make a place for organizing procedural documents, contracts, and other legal processes. Start with a few categories you know you’ll use.

As you get more into your document management strategy, you can adjust your categories. You may find you need a new category, or maybe you won’t use one that you thought you would.

2. Review the Current System

While you look through your current documents, see what system you currently have, if any. Perhaps you already organize all of your company contracts in one folder.

Or maybe you have a Rolodex or some other tool to catalog client contact information. Whatever it is, make note of the things that work well. That way, you can keep that as part of your new strategy.

You can also determine what needs to change. Perhaps only a few employees have access to documents that more people need.

In that case, you can make sure to give more people access to your new document management strategy. Make a list of what works and what doesn’t so that you can streamline the reorganization process.

3. Determine a Strategy

Now it’s time to take your findings and turn them into a document management strategy. You can create the strategy yourself or use a document management team for help.

No two companies will need the same strategy since it can depend on your business. If you don’t work with clients, you won’t need a client contact system.

And if you don’t sell physical products, you won’t need to organize package designs. So think about the stuff you do need to organize and what tools you can use.

Google Drive is an excellent option for storing files in the cloud. And if you often need to convert video to audio and deal with large files, you may prefer an external hard drive.

4. Get Rid of Old Documents

As you organize and plan out your strategy, you should get rid of old documents. The odds are there are contracts or procedures that you no longer use or need.

You should get rid of both physical and digital documents. Digital documents are easy to toss thanks to the delete feature on computers and in cloud storage systems.

But with physical documents, you need to be more careful. You should shred documents like contracts and anything with confidential information.

That way, you don’t have to worry about the wrong people finding those documents. You can keep yourself and any client or customer information safe. Then, recycle any documents that aren’t as essential.

5. Start With One Department

If you have a large company, you should test your new document management strategy with one department. You can start with a back office team, like accounting or HR so that the test doesn’t directly affect your clients or customers.

As you make the switch, note the process and steps. When you’re ready to switch other teams over, you can use those steps to help everything go smoothly.

Give the team time to make the switch and use the new system. Ask for feedback from that department on how easy it is to find stuff and if it saves or wastes time.

Take that feedback seriously and use it to adjust. You may get lucky and have the perfect document management strategy on your first try. But you may run into problems, and it’s better to find them now.

6. Evaluate the Results

You and your document management team should check in on the test run. Every few days, go into the new system and act as if you’re an employee in that department.

That could mean finding income reports for the accounting department. Or perhaps you test finding your employee profile if you test the system with HR.

You should also talk to the department using the new system all day. See what works well and what needs improvement.

Make any changes you want with the department before you use the strategy for the entire company. Evaluate those new changes a few weeks after you make them. Then, you’ll have time to see if the changes are better.

Continue testing things until you find a document management strategy that works. Not everyone has to love it, but it does need to be efficient and easy to use.

7. Implement the System

Finally, you can implement your new document management strategy in every department. It will probably take time to make the switch.

You may want to migrate everything after hours or on a weekend so that you don’t disrupt the workday. Or you can implement the new system one department at a time during a week.

As you make the switch, be sure to train your employees on how to use it. You can either have a meeting to discuss the changes or provide written materials.

A written guide or list of steps can be helpful as employees learn the new system. They can refer to the guide whenever they have a question, and that can keep you from having to answer everyone individually.

The Best Document Management Strategy

The best document management strategy should make it easy to find documents quickly. But it can take a lot of trial and error to find a system that works for your entire company.

By evaluating your current system and keeping what works, you can create a new strategy that’s even better. Then, it will be easier to implement company-wide when you’re ready.

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