What happens to your company’s signed contracts, once negotiations have been completed and dotted lines have been signed? Do they end up going into a filing cabinet to collect dust and take up space? If so, how do you keep track of deadlines, renewal dates, and those fees discounts you fought so hard for? How much does it cost you to pay the employee whose job it is to dig through the records to find specific documents when they’re needed? What if you could cut those costs?
Here are some tips for managing documents at your business:
- Create a document management system. A document management system is a software application that helps you organize, store, and track your documents. There are many different document management systems available, so you can find one that fits your needs.
- Scan paper documents. If you have a lot of paper documents, you should scan them and store them electronically. This will help you save space and make it easier to find the documents you need.
- Use a naming convention. When you create new documents, use a naming convention that will help you keep track of them. For example, you could use the date the document was created followed by a brief description of the document.
- Store documents in a secure location. Make sure your documents are stored in a secure location where unauthorized people cannot access them. You can store your documents on a password-protected computer or in a locked cabinet.
- Back up your documents regularly. Make sure you back up your documents regularly in case they are lost or damaged. You can back up your documents to an external hard drive or to a cloud storage service.
- Train your employees on document management procedures. Make sure your employees are trained on how to use your document management system and how to properly store and manage documents. This will help you avoid problems with lost or misplaced documents.
- Review your document management procedures regularly. As your business grows, you may need to review your document management procedures and make changes as needed.
Successful document management these days requires a digital document management system. Even if you’ve long since transitioned to digital signatures and electronic copies of everything, you can’t just toss those digital contracts into the digital equivalent of a filing cabinet (i.e., into a digital folder labeled with some less-than-helpful description or maybe with just a letter of the alphabet) and expect everything to come out in the wash. You need a system that allows you to store documents, retrieve them easily, monitor and manage renewal dates and contract deadlines, and more.
Here’s what the right document management software can do for your company.
Cut Down on Storage Space
You can see the physical benefit of a digital document management system right away when you get rid of your clunky old dead-tree filing system. Commercial space isn’t getting any cheaper, and the less room you need to store paper documents, the more money you’ll save on office rent. A document management software system allows you to store as many documents as you need with nary a file box, storage bin, or file cabinet in sight. Digital signature options even allow you and your clients and customers to sign contracts without the need to keep and store a paper copy, and with digital copies available at your fingertips, you can afford to store any hard copies you might need off-site, in a storage unit, vault, or other, cheaper, location.
Improve Your Organization’s Regulatory Compliance
Many of the consequences of poor document management will just cost you time and money — but dropping the regulatory ball can shut your company down, full stop. Compliance requirements can be complicated, especially for certain types of documents and contracts. A digital document management system can help you stay in compliance with strict regulations like HIPAA or Sarbanes-Oxley, which lay out rigid requirements for document management and data security.
Take Full Advantage of Your Contract
The negotiation phase of a contract can see your attorneys fight hard to win the most favorable terms for your company, only to have those hard-fought benefits fall to the wayside and be overlooked once the contract is in effect and the document is in the management stage. That’s because it can be hard to keep track of contract terms, including fee discounts, project schedules, bonuses, and late work penalties, unless you have a document management system primed for tracking those aspects of your documentation. The right document management software won’t let you forget about the most favorable aspects of your contract. It will track all of your contract terms, so you can get the benefits you fought for, avoid violating the terms you agreed to, and keep track of renewal clauses and expiry dates.
Reduce or Eliminate Retrieval Costs
If it takes one of your employees an hour to locate the hard copy of a file in a physical file storage area, and you pay that person $20 an hour, then congratulations, you just paid $20 for file retrieval. If that same file had been digitized on a document management system, your employee could have retrieved it instantly, for practically nothing, at the cost of merely typing a few keywords into a search field. That’s one way to drastically reduce operating costs.
Bounce Back Better
You never want to think about your business struggling due to a fire, flood, earthquake, or some other catastrophe that damages or destroys the physical copies of your contracts and other documentation. But these things happen, and when they do, you’ll recover faster and more easily when you have digital copies of your documentation. Assuming you have copies backed up in the cloud or in another safe location, and that the catastrophe in question didn’t take out all your digital storage, you should be okay — at least, where your contracts are concerned.
When it’s time to revamp your company’s document management, you need the right software. When you can track your deadlines, contract terms, expiry dates, and schedules automatically, day-to-day operations will be so much easier — and cheaper, too.