Creating a Document Management System

Is your organization looking to create a document management system? 

Organizations need a good document management system for:

  • Standardizing documentation and reducing operational costs
  • Proper organization of information and easy access to it
  • Better control and management of content

If this sounds like something your organization could benefit from, you can start with some questions to identify the current challenges you are facing in document management. Also, ask some questions that can help determine your organization's documentation goals and needs. Consider these sample questions:

  1. What are the weaknesses in the current documentation system, if one exists?
  2. Are there aspects of the system that are working well? If so, what are they?
  3. Is the version control for the documents working well?
  4. Does the current location for content storage allows users easy access to the content?
  5. What is the content usage pattern – how do users access the content and how often do they access it?
  6. Going forward, what process will work best for content development and maintenance?
  7. What output format will be ideal for published content – should it be print, electronic, or both?

Understanding the current challenges and clearly defining your organization's objectives will help in developing a document management system that meets your organization's needs.

The first step in this process is to identify owners for developing and implementing the document management system. This team can be made up of representatives from the various divisions of your organization, where each representative can determine the documentation needs for their corresponding division. The team can then devise an organization-wide documentation strategy that will standardize the content development and management process. As the needs for handling documentation may not be same for all divisions, there should be room for exceptions and customizations. This is possible as long as the need for customization is clear and the customization process itself is well-documented.

Some key implementation steps:

  1. Define your organization's documentation policy.
  2. Study the current system and challenges, and define a documentation strategy to address them.
  3. Define guidelines and standards for documentation.
  4. Decide the contents of your document library - identify the different types of documents used by your organization and list the set of documents for each type.
  5. Define processes for content creation, review, approval, and publishing.
  6. Define the process for document version control.
  7. Define processes for storage and dissemination of documentation.
  8. Define backup and recovery policy for documents.
  9. Define the process for on-going maintenance of documents and also for archiving documents that need to be retired.
  10. Define the process for identifying documents that are obsolete and require purging.
  11. Create templates and style guide.
  12. Create procedure documentation for all the processes you defined.
  13. Drive organization-wide adoption of new documentation standards and processes by creating awareness and providing training.
  14. Have checks in place to ensure that the individuals in your organization follow the required processes when creating/updating/publishing/archiving/purging documents.
  15. Consider the use of an electronic document management system as it can make management and movement of the documents more efficient.
  16. Maintain a knowledge repository of project history including lessons learned from projects, trouble tickets and resolutions etc.
  17. Implement a feedback system, especially for content shared externally with customers or other users, to capture what is working and not working. This allows you to take timely and appropriate remedial actions to make the content more user friendly.

If your organization is currently facing challenges in managing documents and would like to consider improving  or redesigning your document management system, please email us at tech.writing@ASCENTed.com.

About the Author

Surya Nair

Technical Writer and Editor<br><br>Surya has been writing and editing technical content for over two decades in multiple industries. How do you transform complex technical content into an easy-to-understand document? Ask Surya - technical writing is her passion! She has been with ASCENT since 2018. She holds a master’s degree in English Literature, and a diploma in Journalism, and is a certified Technical Writer.

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