This might be a trivial question, however, many organizations still use network drives for storing documents and their employees collaborate on these documents by sending them to each other as email attachments.
What is wrong with this picture?
The volume and variety of electronic information is exploding. Organizations are required to analyze new information faster and make timely decisions for achieving business goals within budget. They therefore are becoming increasingly dependent upon efficient access to information. In order to effectively use information, it must be readily available for analysis and synthesis with other information. The value of information depends on two things: finding it, and being able to use it.
Why can't this be done in network drives? Here are just few reasons:
- documents in network drives cannot be searched;
- there is no version control in network drives;
- there is no trail who changed documents and what has been changed;
- there are multiple versions of the same document;
- there are no workflows and so there can be no automatic documents movement between participants;
- few people could be editing the same document at the same time and so there is no control of made changes;
- there is no possibility for the reuse of content;
- permissions cannot be set up.
Further on, your organization would not meet regulatory and legal requirements if it stores its documents in network drives. If you are in a regulated environment, such as ISO 9001 or GxP/GMP, you must have a document control in place. Documents have to be accounted for, there can be no multiple versions of the same document in one place, there has to be a complete control on which documents are used, etc. This cannot be done in network drives. In addition, e-discovery is going to be very difficult and its cost very high.
Sending documents as email attachments is inefficient and time consuming. Sometimes it is even impossible, for example when these documents are too big for the email to handle. It is much easier to upload documents in a central location and for employees go there and update them as necessary. If it is a CMS, you can keep control on who changed what and when.
Content re-use is very difficult or even impossible, because every time a document needs to be changed, a user would have to change the entire document instead of just changing one paragraph and then being able to have the same content output as a brochure, marketing collateral, white paper, etc.
And if you need to translate documents in multiple languages, documents change is going to include tremendous cost because rather than translating just one paragraph that was changed, you would have to translate the entire document.
There are numerous advantages of having a content management system (CMS) in place. Here are just a few advantages. CMSs provide the facility to control how content is published, when it is published, and who publishes it. CMSs allow to set up workflow management thus allowing documents to automatically move between participants (reviewers, approvers, etc). There is version control, audit trail, collaboration features. You can set up appropriate permissions for your documents. Your documents would be searchable and readily accessible in one central location.
The best option is ECM suite. To be considered an ECM suite, the system has to include the following components:
- document imaging – the ability to process and store high volume images of documents like insurance claims;
- document management – the ability to provide library services and version control;
- records management – the ability to declare and manage corporate records;
- collaboration – the ability to share content with team members;
- web content management – the ability to publish and update web sites;
- digital asset management – the ability to manage digital assets like powerpoint slides and movies.
Some content management systems are free, such as Drupal, TYPO3, Joomla, and WordPress. Others may be affordable based on size subscriptions. Although subscriptions can be expensive, overall the cost of not having to hire full-time developers can lower the total costs. In addition, for many CMSs software can be bought based on need. In addition, many CMS can be deployed in a cloud thus further decreasing costs.
CMSs are designed with non-technical people in mind. Simplicity in design of the administrator UI allows content managers and other users to update content without much training in coding or technical aspects of system maintenance.
Many CMS tools use a drag and drop AJAX system for their design modes. It makes it easy for beginner users to create custom front-ends.
Once you have deployed a CMS, your employees are going to be more efficient and productive and you will save cost in the end.
How to choose a CMS? See my blog post on this subject.