How to Choose a Cloud Based Document Management System

According to Colin McArdle, Tikit’s Senior Account Director for the Accountancy sector in EMEA, we’re at the point where firms can clearly see the benefits of a cloud-based document management system (DMS). The question is now, “Which system should I choose?” Here Colin provides some useful answers.

I find that the firms I talk to these days are fully convinced of the benefits of a cloud-based DMS. On the one hand, there’s a really strong recognition that on-premises systems have had their day. They’ve just become too unwieldy and expensive to maintain, update and house – to the point that IT is using up huge amounts of time just “keeping the lights on” On the other hand, cloud-based applications have now proved their value.

Firms are now keen to partner with a cloud provider who takes the burden of on-premise document management systems away and in its place offers high levels of security, seamless updates, high reliability and cost certainty. At the same time, a huge attraction is that all disparate document management systems in use, can be consolidated on to one cloud-based system. This is clearly much more efficient for users and at the same time much better for audit, governance and compliance.

So at this point the question becomes not if firms should move to a cloud-based DMS but rather which one. That’s why the bulk of this article is about how to choose a cloud-based DMS.  That said, there’s really only one factor you need to consider, and that’s the rate of adoption. If a system isn’t happily and readily adopted by the user-group then its value stalls. You’ll be paying for licences for 100 per cent of your people. If only around 30 to 40 per cent adopt the new DMS – and that’s a realistic figure for systems that don’t work well – you’ll be wasting a lot of money on unused licences. The question becomes, “What drives cloud-based DMS adoption?” The answer lies in the extent to which it lets people work in the way they want to and in the clear benefits delivered.

How Users Want to Work

Firstly, it’s an inherent virtue of cloud-based applications that they can be accessed wherever and whenever users want, via whichever device they want to use: be that a laptop, tablet, PC or phone. It would be unwise therefore to choose a cloud-based DMS that doesn’t offer that capability. Even if your users are predominantly office-based for now, the desire for flexible access will only increase.  The next critical factor in adoption is that as much as users want new ways to access the system, they actually don’t have much appetite for making fundamental changes to how they themselves work.

On the contrary, the systems which achieve the highest rates of adoption are those that don’t impose new ways of working on people, but rather allow them to work in the way they would like to, not how they have been forced to.

In this context you should be looking for systems which mimic “old-school” behaviours. For instance, “old school” is to pick up the document you’re working on from the top of a “recent documents” list rather than have to hunt it down through a labyrinthine maze of folders and version files. So look for systems which enable that. NetDocuments, for example, holds all recent
documents one click away from the desktop.

“Old school” is also knowing that the document you’re working on is the current version, without having to go through elaborate hoops to make that so. That’s why you should look for a bi-directional syncing capability. This means that users can be confident that as long as they have internet access, the document they’re picking up from the system is the latest version.

Moreover the system should let them work on that document with or without internet connectivity, confident in the knowledge that it will be synced just as soon as connectivity is restored. Solutions which provide this type of high level intelligent functionality in effect take system worries away from the users – the DMS becomes invisible. This leads to higher rates of adoption.

Making Life Better

The next critical factor in adoption is – “Does the system offer clear benefits over what I have already?” This is where the best DMSs can really underline their value. These will, for example, offer
powerful and intuitive search functionalities and almost painless filing. NetDocuments, for instance, can analyse every attribute of an email (sender, recipient, attachments, subject, etc) to make a prediction about where it should be filed. Users just have to accept the system’s prediction. Firms can even set up the system to file emails automatically if the system prediction is 80%+ confident it knows where the file belongs.

Moreover NetDocuments will indicate emails that have already been filed. It means users can come back from leave to 500 emails and straightaway filter out the ones already dealt with. It’s this type of clear user benefit that drives adoption of a new system. In fact, with the right functionality – which lets people work in the way that they want to and also adds usable new benefits – cloud-based DMS’ will achieve adoption rates in excess of 90%. This is what you should be looking out for when you make your choice.