Essential criteria for choosing a systems document management solution

One of the decisions you’ll have to take when you tackle the task of documenting your business systems is about where to actually store your systems documents. Now there are quite a few choices out there, but more on that in another post, perhaps. It is kind of obvious that this is a fundamental decision. Once you got these systems documented, you don’t really want to shift them around all that much. You want them nice and handy and in a central location.

So let’s take a step back today and establish what is high up there in terms of features that such a document management system has to offer in order to make it into the top contender’s list.

Speaking of nice and handy in a central location – here is the first decision: Do you want your systems in the cloud or on a local server? Most providers of such systems nowadays offer their cloud solutions – and that’s it. There are two criteria that might come into play here – cost and security. Costs for a solution in the cloud are usually tied to the number of users and can shoot up quickly. However, costs for a local solution are not just those for the software itself, but you have to factor in the administration costs as well, which for a cloud solution are usually included in the monthly fee.

But there is also the security concern. If you are located somewhere in the European Union, you will no doubt have heard that according to GDRP – the European Data protection law – the storage of European data on US servers is no longer legal. In fact, that applies to all countries outside the EU that have not demonstrated adequate protection. Here is a link with a list of countries that have been recognised by the European Commission as having adequate protection. But why not put that worry to rest by hosting your systems document management solution on your own local server? After all, it is your intellectual property about how you do business that you are unlikely to share outside your company anyway – so why put it in the cloud in the first place?

So cost and security are important factors in the decision. Accessibility and scalability are other factors. There is just no point in documenting your business systems and then not the share them with every one of your employees. That brings another feature along – you want to have solid user management and inbuild version control of your systems. At the very least you want to be able to divide your users into Readers, Writers, and Administrators and give them the appropriate rights. But it doesn’t end there. When creating and reviewing the documents you want to be able to muster the participation of the actual users of the systems for review and check off not just some creator and you want to make sure that they can participate with minimum training and minimum risk of disrupting working process flows.

In terms of user comfort, gone are the days where your systems documentation just consists of written procedures. You should be able to enrich your documentation with media like video, recordings, and graphics. This brings up two criteria – that of storage again and that of embedding of media tools – like flow-chart drawing packages, for instance. Storage touches on the criterion discussed above whether it is acceptable to use cloud storage and how secure it is. Embedding of external tools actually has another dimension: how well does your systems document management solution interface with project management tools or communication tools. In the end, the quality of your systemisation efforts stands and falls with the adaptation in the daily processes in your business. So these two interfaces are essential to help your people to adapt your systems.

So here are a number of criteria to keep in mind. I am sure there are others. As always, please comment below which of these you deem essential and which can be dismissed from your point of view.

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