How to Successfully Implement Document Management
An Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) is a user-centric information system that provides access to all information from one interface-a single point of access-without regard to content or format. Because electronic document management (EDM) is a system, the only way to successfully implement it requires vision and a system life-cycle approach. If you can build your EDMS well, it can become the beginning of the corporation’s knowledge base.
The electronic document is the building block of the EDMS and of an organization’s knowledge base. Electronic documents can take many forms-text, images, facsimiles, video, audio, voice mail, email, programs, or virtual reality. According to Tom Koulopoulos in Electronic Document Management Systems: A Portable Consultant, EDM is “the embodiment of personalized information systems, since it represents the user’s own proprietary knowledge base.”
If you are a technical communication manager, and you have begun thinking about the usefulness of implementing an EDMS for your technical information, you must recognize that your system has the potential for becoming a corporate-wide system for organizing all types of diverse knowledge. It can also become the knowledge workers’ means of publishing and receiving the information they need to do their jobs.
For EDM to be successfully implemented, users must buy into the concept that it is a system. Otherwise, they will “fall back to old ways of managing their information, or worse yet, choose solutions that cannot be supported or integrated with other enterprise systems.”
Before we discuss how you can implement an EDMS, here are some important terms:
Document Management. The ability to automate the end-to-end life cycle of any document type in a common enterprise repository. Document management enables an organization to assemble and publish information dynamically, according to its business policies and processes.
Virtual Document. According to Jeff Barton, Texas Instruments, “Content is maintained in one or more places, wherever it is most appropriately maintained, and is later pulled together into the output `document’ via a process. This process can be directed by the authors of the content, other editors, or by programs triggered by events, which themselves might be triggered by entries into databases or other means of control.”
Just-In-Time Documents. Also, according to Jeff Barton, “The right people maintain the right content at the right places and times to produce raw material for other people to draw upon from the right places at the right time to produce the `documents’ that do not, literally, exist as discreet collections of input until the output is requested.”
Object-Oriented Database Publishing and Content Management. Content management or OO-database management refers to the process of storing document components as separate objects within a database to facilitate virtual documents and just-in-time documents.
The implementation of document and content management requires that you use a rigorous systems development life cycle methodology. This article describes each of the following steps in detail:
1 Conduct a needs analysis and develop a requirements definition/information plan based on the needs of the people who will be using the EDMS. Decide on how you will measure success.
2 Design your system before you decide on a product.
3 Send out an RFP to EDMS software companies.
4 Decide on a product based on your requirements and design.
5 Train your team on using the tools.
6 Plan your implementation.
7 Implement the system.
8 Test the system.
9 Prepare a maintenance plan.
10 Measure your results.
If you are creating a documentation database, the phase approach means that you will spend about half of your time planning, about a quarter of your time implementing the database itself, and another quarter of your time testing. The testing might include making certain that your database feeds information correctly into the templates you’ve developed for electronic books, print, or even a help system. System testing might mean making sure that your end users are getting the information they expect. You may also need to ensure that the system is scalable to large amounts of information in the database.
When you have determined that EDMS is the solution, start small. Limit the implementation to one department or one application. Starting small allows you to retain control, particularly if this is your first systems implementation. I base this recommendation on the system development literature. For example, according to Patterns of Software Systems Failure and Success, the more complex the implementation, the higher the likelihood of failure. In Quality Software Management: Volume 1 Systems Thinking, Gerald Weinberg states that, “as the size of a system grows, the complexity required to control it grows nonlinearly. Any particular human brain, however, has a relatively fixed capacity….Once the complexity