Yes, what good is an ERP system in today’s world if you cannot store relevant documents together with other electronic pieces of data. In my opinion Document management should be an integral part of your ERP system like purchase ordering is. Imagine looking at a purchase order and having an electronic image of the supplier invoice and the cheque issue conveniently linked to the point you are reviewing that purchase order from.
Remember as an SMB you don’t want all the bells and whistles but you should be looking for functionality that would offer you the ability to address the challenge. Here is a list of basic functionality I would recommend you look for to support your electronic filing system.
1. You should be allowed to attach electronic documents or files anywhere a data record is created. For example, an inventory record, an account payable invoice in the A/P, a customer PO on the order document in the sales module and so on.
Why is this important? – T answer here is obvious but as with everything legal there is more than one way to implement a “legal” document management processes. Having a system flexible enough to remove restrictions in this area makes it more likely your document management system will be able to fit your needs rather than dictate how you implement your document management business process.
2. It would be great if your software controls the files attached and by this I mean you should not be picking a location on your file server where that file will be stored. Once attached the EPR system should take control of the file, and store it on your system for you.
The importance of this feature is more related to employee management rather than file organization. By removing the human decision process from the picture you can be guaranteed a more easy to follow business process that you would have if you had to set out rules for which document is stored where on your file server.
The most important aspect of a system that does this is that your system would be “mobile” ready. In systems where the files are managed by the software it is very easy to make a request from a mobile device for any file. The system would be responsible for getting the file and delivering it to your mobile device saving you from having to solve the challenge of how you locate that file on your remote server.
3. Search feature, even a basic one is very useful. Be careful in this area as the more powerful the search feature gets the more expensive a system will likely become. My minimum would be the ability to search on a file name but if a file comment can be added and searched on this is better. The ability to search within the name for a string rather than a search that only looks from the front of the name/comment would be a minimum level of functionality in my books.
4. Data file security is another really nice feature to have built-in to your new ERP system. Once files are attached to your ERP system would the software automatically encrypt that file and store it safely somewhere on your the data storage device. This would be a neat feature to have as your files are now hidden from anyone who would be able to copy files off your file server and you would/should be able to control who has access within your software as you are already establishing user access for your ERP system.
5. Finally, in systems where mobility is supported, data encryption during the process of moving file between the server and your mobile device should be built-in if access to your document management system is allowed.
If your ERP system offers these basic features you would be on a good track to having a useful document management system that you should be able to take advantage of within your business and on the road.
Remember don’t settle for “Why?” Ask “Why not?”.