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Important Document Management Policies | 2018

You need policies to guide actions. Without the guidance of clearly spelt out policies, each member of staff can do things in his or her own way, leading to absolute chaos. It is clear policies, and detailed procedures to implement those policies, that create an orderly environment.

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To cite a simple example, let us take the case of filing copies of sales invoices. One person might decide to file these by customer names, with files being opened for each customer. If that person goes on leave, and another person has to do the work, that person might decide that it is better to file the invoices by product lines. This might seem a highly improbably scenario because we have become accustomed to orderly procedures in most offices.

Document management involves development and implementation of clear policies about several aspects. We look at some important policy areas in the following sections.

Do We Move Towards a Paperless Office?

While a completely paperless office is something that is impracticable, it is possible to minimize the quantity of paper documents to be managed. You can create documents originally in a digital form using computerized databases and applications. Paper documents can be scanned into a digital form and converted into full electronic documents using OCR software.

It is also possible to capture data electronically from operational areas. Barcode readers can be used to read the barcodes on packages coming into and going out of the warehouse, and transmit the readings to the central server. Embedded electronic devices on production equipment and conveyor belts can do the same process automatically.

The policy decision here is how far to go in this direction. Can you make the investment needed to implement extensive digitization of document creation?
Do you have the staff who can handle the complexities involved? Is it a feasible proposition considering typical resistance to change? On the other hand, can you retain the old ways when competitors are adopting these cost-cutting measures?

Document Storage Policies

There are several issues that need to be considered including:

  • How much paper documents will we be storing and how will these be stored? If you have implemented systems and practices that can authenticate the genuineness of digital documents, much of the paper documents can be shredded once these have been transferred to the electronic workflow
  • How and where will the digital documents be stored? You can store them in local computers, with third party document storage companies or Web servers that you hire. Which option will you choose?
  • Backing up documents can ensure that in case of destruction of original documents, they can be restored from the backups. How will you arrange the backups? How much time and money are you willing to improve the reliability of backup procedures?

Other Document Management Policies

The above discussion would indicate the need for clear policies for document management. There are other areas that also need similar consideration and policy development. These include such major areas as:

  • Selection of document management systems. You can go for systems that can help document workflows and business processes extensively, or opt for less expensive and simpler systems that can be implemented quickly.
  • Document retention periods and disposal methods. Documents need not be retained in perpetuity and can be disposed off once the legal and management requirements are met. Some might be preserved as historical records even after this period. Policies need to be in place regarding how long each type of document need to be preserved, and how to dispose them once this period is over.

Policies Are Implemented through Procedures

Policies are overall guidelines. To implement them, you need to develop detailed procedures, indicating what, when, who and where of specific actions. You would also have to develop checklists that help staff members to check that they have attended to all the requirements.

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