Image by: BernardaSv, ©2016 Getty Images

As we close out another year in the electronic document management (EDM) world, I have a suggestion: Start the year with an audit of your EDM system. Why? Over the years, there have been many articles by industry analysts, surveys by AIIM, and my own personal experience that show EDM systems are not performing optimally and that user adoption rates remain low.

If you haven’t reviewed your EDM system since it was installed, and you haven’t been keeping up with its users, an informal audit may be a good starting place. Start with the following:

1. Check your contract renewal date and find out who has been paying the contract each year
It may be “automatically” paid by information technology (IT) or accounting without a review to see if all product modules purchased are being used. For example, maybe you originally included a license to convert scanned invoices into text (OCR), but you have since moved to a purely electronic invoicing system and no longer use the OCR and associated modules. Perhaps you purchased a workflow license but have not really used it. Maybe it is time to cancel that module. Don’t continue to pay for software that isn’t being used.

2. Evaluate user licenses versus actual users
Did you originally pay for 50 licenses, but find, through an audit, that only 20 or so people are using the system? Running a current user report should not be too difficult. Don’t continue to pay for seat licenses that are not being used. You can always add more when needed.

3. Talk to your users
Are they happy with the document management system? If not, why? Consider writing up a five-question survey that you can distribute. These could be simple questions like:
  • What is the best feature of the EDM system?
  • What is a missing feature or function from the EDM system that would help you?
  • Have you contacted customer service or the help line? Were you satisfied with the support/answer? How could we improve?
  • If you have problems using the EDM system (or avoid using it), what are they (e.g., hard to use, not intuitive, too much work, can't share files, etc.)?
  • Do you think your system training was timely and sufficient? Would you like to have additional training? Please explain.

"Document management is a journey, not a destination."

4. Look at implementation, support, and training
Quite often, the software system itself is not to blame, but the poor ratings from users are due to a bad or incomplete implementation, support issues, and inadequate training. If this is the case, and your survey shows that the EDM system rates poorly, it is time to reevaluate both the EDM system and the implementation to make it into a more useable system.

5. Invite your vendor (sales rep and sales analyst) to review your results and the current system installation
Review any problem areas, and ask them to assess your installed modules versus new software not initially installed that may be useful in today’s environment. For example, many vendors have developed cloud-based software that may benefit your current system. Ask if they can host additional training on specific areas, if needed, such as how to develop workflows or how to improve records management. You may also consider sending your IT person to a lengthier admin training class so that he/she can better understand the system.

An audit of your system will help you and your users to better understand if your EDM system is working as planned or if it needs some work. EDM systems are "live" systems that should evolve and change over the years as users find new ways to work with it and vendors add new functionality to an existing system. Document management is a journey, not a destination.

One way to keep in touch with your users is to host a monthly workshop or a "brown bag lunch" series. Ask the users to suggest topics or review areas like creating workflows, communicating with other users/departments/external clients, searching for files, or create topics that are based on the audit problem areas.

By keeping your users, IT, and management informed and active, your system will continue to grow and change to meet the evolving needs of its users.

Bud Porter-Roth has over 20 years of experience as an ECM consultant, with a focus on cloud collaboration, electronic document management, records management, and paper document projects. Follow him on Twitter @BudPR or contact him at

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