In my first article about hiring a document management consultant, I highlighted areas that you should consider before making this decision. The guidelines provided were meant to help you to better understand your project needs and some basic information about your project before talking to a consultant.
Today, we want to provide more details on collecting this information prior to looking for a document management consultant. You may also use this information internally to help identify your document management issues.
The Stumbling Blocks to Avoid
First, let’s cover some of the primary stumbling blocks to any document management project:
- Number of users or “seat” licenses: Vendors, and the document management consultant, will be interested in how many people will be using the system. Try to get an accurate count of users, which may be everyone in the department/company or only a limited set of people. For example, if you want those that don't normally have computers (factory floor workers) to have limited access, you may ask about a kiosk-type license for a public workstation.
- Number of electronic files: This is of prime interest to any document management consultant and vendor. The “number” is often stated in gigabytes, not the actual number of files. You will need your information technology (IT) department to run reports on this for each department participating in the study. However, you may choose to not migrate everything at once, so talk to your document management consultant about the options for electronic file migrations. Also, think of the electronic files as two types: files in existence that are stored somewhere and those files that are created each day by each department.
- Number of paper documents: If paper documents are part of the study, or the main reason for the study, this will be important information to collect. There are two types of paper documents to consider: what already exists in file cabinets and file rooms and the number of paper documents created each day by each department.
- Records management: If your project is to incorporate records management in a “system” so that you can destroy documents/records on schedule, you will first need a records retention schedule. If you do not have one, the project cannot really progress at the records management level until the retention schedule is completed.
- Workflow: This is the automation of a manual task, such as getting an approval for something like an invoice in accounts payable. Workflow can happen in every department and will become an important piece of information for the document management consultant and vendor. For this level of study, you do not need to be exact in defining the workflow steps (the document management consultant will do that), but you do need to point out each potential workflow in each department.
The above items are typically the most important parts of the study and will become the most important areas for the document management consultant and potential vendor to review and understand.
The Document Management Questionnaire
When working with a potential new customer, I use the below questionnaire, which covers all the basic questions that any document management consultant will want to know.
Download the Document Management Questionnaire here.
Remember, this is a high-level pass at gathering information that would help anyone to understand your document management issues. You may add to this questionnaire, depending on your unique situation. For example, you may have a specialized way of putting together document sets (for insurance, bank loans, healthcare, etc.), or you may have a very long folder/subfolder organization on your shared drive, reinforcing how complex this organization is to your internal systems.
Depending on your unique circumstances, the document management consultant may ask questions that are not included in this questionnaire, expand on some of the existing questions, or want to go into more detail on certain aspects of your existing business. For example, a document management consultant may want to know more about your back-office systems, like SAP, Salesforce, Oracle, etc., or want more information on your records management schedule, and if you don’t have one, what that means to the project.
Here are some tips on using this questionnaire from my own experience:
1. The questionnaire should be sent to each department manager with instructions to work with the appropriate supervisors or subject matter experts when answering the questions.
2. It should be completed by each department being considered for the project. Some departments may have significantly different “sub-departments,” like purchasing and contracts or accounts payable and accounts receivable, and these departments should complete their own questionnaire.
3. People may not understand the purpose of this questionnaire, so don’t send it out without some prior notice and explanation. Preface the questionnaire with a short write-up about your document management project and how important it is to gather this information.
4. Consider having a kick-off meeting to review the project and questionnaire, establishing the value of the project.
5. People will take as long as you give them, so don’t make it an open-ended time frame. Allow at least two weeks, but try to limit any extensions.
6. People may not want to complete this questionnaire, so it is good to follow up with each team leader after about five business days.
7. People may not understand some of the questions and will not respond to them. Be prepared to follow up on any questions asked and to review the returned questionnaires if they are incomplete.
8. When completed, review each questionnaire and compile the results.
9. Consider reconvening the people in the original kick-off meeting to review and discuss the results. This can provide you with some surprising and interesting insights into your document management issues.
Understanding the Problem
While the document management consultant can help you to better understand your issues and how the issue(s) can be resolved with a document management system, it is valuable for you to identify your problems on a non-technical level first so that you can communicate them to the consultant. This allows the document management consultant to get a head start on the primary issues, and during the review, the consultant may come up with additional areas that should be considered.
The questions in the above questionnaire are straightforward and should be clear to most study participants. However, you should be prepared to work with them to answer questions and provide guidance. Remember that you are trying to better understand your own document management issues and be able to successfully communicate them to a document management consultant.