Who Owns Document Management in Your Company?
I’m not the first person to say it won’t be the last but there’s too much jargon and too many buzzwords thrown around by vendors today. Regardless of the technology that you’re looking at, these are just complicated acronyms used to describe the different ways you can go about doing simple tasks. In the document management space I find that people are frequently bewildered by terms like ECM (Enterprise Content Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), WCM (Web Content Management), and RIM (Records and Information Management). If it’s this hard just to identify what we’re going to call document management, imaging how difficult it is to define who should take ownership of this function in an organization.
Let me try and make this simple. Document management is the practice of organizing and accessing information relating to the transactions and operation of an organization. If you don’t like my definition that’s fine, but we’d likely be arguing about semantics at that point. There’s just not much more to it. Document management is simple, and in many instances it doesn’t require dedicated or complicated software, or a department of people to manage it. Effective Document Management requires some planning and foresight to understand the challenges relating to two things – Organizing and Access.
For many organizations of a certain size, the person who’s primarily responsible for document management has a title that actually makes sense, Records Manager. In these organizations the records manager is charged with defining detailed policies and procedures relating to the retention and retrieval of information. Oftentimes the records manager has specialized training and experience and really understands what’s required to effectively manage the information of an organization. These organizations stand to benefit over time from the expertise only a true records manager can provide.
In the majority of organizations, however, this responsibility is left scattered across many departments and ultimately falls on senior management (within a regular corporate structure), an office manager (within medical and legal practices), or the business owner themselves (in many small businesses or Professional Firms). In addition to these roles many companies find ways to leave IT professionals, HR managers, and accounting staff each with a piece of the document management pie. In these instances the results are often less than stellar, as the lack of centralized focus creates fragmented processes and presents the organization with undue risk.
Think about your business. Do you have a detailed records management plan in place? Does your staff utilize a consistent methodology for organizing and accessing information? Are you adhering to retention schedules? If the answer is no, then now is the time to re-examine your document management plans. Remember to keep things in perspective – document management requires a little bit of strategy to deliver fantastic returns. If you don’t have the expertise or the resources in-house, consider relying on a partner to fill the role of records manager and help with your document management needs. Whatever option you choose don’t underestimate the value that an effective document management strategy can have, and don’t let a lack of strategy be your excuse for inaction.