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Need for Document Management System?

Need for Document Management System?

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I've read the posts about which document management software to use etc but I am wondering if one is required at all.We have about 80 clients.

In my previous practice, everything was printed off (including all emails) and filed. This mean that all documents relating to a client from accounts working papers to tax returns to correspondence could be found on a paper file.

In my new practice, almost all correspondence is by email. I sort the emails into folders for each client. I also have folders on the server for each client for accounts working papers and scanned incoming/outgoing correspondence. We save relevant emails as pdfs in the client folders (e.g. client payroll hours or closing stock, so we have evidence of where we got our figures). So theoretically at least, all client files are dispersed across these two systems. We use Google Apps for business so searching for emails and or documents is quick and easy.

Is there a need for specific document management software at all?

My only concern is that I have two staff and there may be some information spread across all our emails which are only accessible by the recipient of the email. Having said that, almost all of the emails come through me (except for innocuous information requests etc.)

The other reason I ask is that even when we had the paper filing system in the old practice, we rarely consulted the files! I don't want to spend time and money setting up a document management system if we will never use it.

Does anyone else manage fine without document management software?

Replies (9)

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By 3569787
03rd May 2016 16:29

No system is compulsory...


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Locutus of Borg
By Locutus
27th May 2014 10:48

What happens to your documents when the DMS expires?

The reason why I have always avoided a Document Management System (DMS) is the question of that what happens to all of the documents when the DMS expires?

For instance, in 6 years' time you get a brand new system running Windows 2020, but the software company that wrote your DMS has long since ceased and the DMS program disk won't run on Windows 2020.

You are then stuck with 6 years of documents on an ageing computer that you hope won't crash.  Also, one DMS system that I used to use at another firm stored all of the Word / Excel document names in some unintelligible format.  So god knows how you would read them without the DMS.

For me, a proper file file and Windows folder structure is the best of all worlds.

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By Cardigan
27th May 2014 23:30

Thank you
Really good points about the day to day costs of the system and the software expiring.

I'll stick to Windows folders for the moment and save the emails to them as I go.

Thank you!

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By duncanphilpstate
29th May 2014 13:00

Shared email box?

We also suffer from the individual's email creating silos of information. One solution is to use a shared or team mail address which is accessible by everybody in the team. The downside / one downside of that is you then have to manage who is dealing with the items as it could be anyone. Mind you, there's something similar if an email is address to several individuals.

If your email system lets you, is it possible to move "closed" or archived emails from individuals' email boxes into a shared email folder structure so that everyone has access once something's been dealt with. That's sort of the way I'd be looking I think.


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By Cardigan
29th May 2014 14:23

Shared email box

Thanks for that.

I had a look at the shared email box and it is possible with Google Apps for business. I would prefer to just have a shared folder without having to share an email address, but this doesn't look possible with Google Apps.

I might have another look and see if we could do something.

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Replying to johnhemming:
By duncanphilpstate
29th May 2014 16:07

Shared email box? Further thoughts

I'm not an expert on Google Apps but it occurs to me that if there is a "rules" facility in it, you might be able to get it to automatically forward a copy of everything into a shared box from the individual's emails. Still could be a pain as it might not handle separating items into a different folder per client, although maybe some tagging method might overcome that.

I agree though that shared mail boxes are not a good solution if volumes grow or staff numbers increase. You do need to think and define what the filing structure is going to be (eg by client and by year?).


Whatever you do is going to have some cost in effort, time or money - Information Theory 101 says that if you're imposing order where there was none, you have to pay somewhere else in order to have a net increase in entropy. (This is the same reason that adequate internal controls are more of a pain than just letting people do their own thing.)


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By Cognidox
29th May 2014 14:40

Depends on DMS definition

You're right that if you define "document management system" as file storage then you don't need one. Most DMS would provide many extra features over that and the day you need one of them is when this changes.

Examples that could change the picture:

- You need review and approval workflows to meet document control requirements in regulatory or quality standards
- You need document security beyond read/write permissions to guarantee information security
- You need entitlement-setting to make sure documents sent to a client portal can only be opened by that client
- You need to be able to save directly to your repository from Microsoft Office applications

I'd also say the method sounds time-consuming to me. Scaling that up to say 50-100 staff and it would be a wasted savings opportunity not to automate the processes more. It's very much down to number of people - what works for 3 won't be so good for 13 and so on.

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By Sheepy306
29th May 2014 15:37

Bigger picture

I have a similar size practice to Cardigan, no employees, and I run a fairly paper-free office other than for larger audits and investigation work. I currently get by with a mixture of software products and an ordered Windows Explorer folder structure. However, my practice has been going less than 2 years so far and I'm finding things are starting to get a bit ragged with regards to document storage, especially storing emails and the more unusual documents. I simply don't have the time to pdf every email (received and sent) and save it in the relevant folder for example.

I had a look at 2 DMS products at Accountex this year, both of which appear excellent. They both included the option of client portals and (ignoring the initial setup/installation/training) they range from £25 per month to £60 per month.

Taking the cheaper option as an example, that's only £300 per year, with say a £100 per hour charge-out rate that means that if it saves me just 15 minutes per month then the investment can be justified on a financial basis, let alone the peace of mind and knowledge that everything is correctly filed away. And of course the portal system. If I had employees it would be an absolute no-brainer for me.

It has been a simple decision for me anyway, I'll be buying a DMS within the next few weeks.

Locutus made a good point though in respect of what happens if the DMS company goes bust. I shall be asking the DMS company the same question but I'd be fairly happy that, bearing in mind you pay a monthly fee for what could actually be nothing in terms of development and updates, the DMS company is probably unlikely to go bust. If it does then I suspect other DMS companies will be able to transfer the system across to them, or a 3rd party will buy the original DMS.

Sharing an email box......sounds like a nightmare to me.

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By william0555
29th Aug 2016 12:16

Document management systems come in many shapes and sizes. Some are stand-alone ... meaning they are programs designed with the sole purpose of assisting users with managing files and documents. Others come as part of a more robust suite that entails a number of other business-related tools ... including calendars, messaging, blogging, wikis, and case tracking, to name a few. Commonly referred to as social business software, social intranet software, or collaboration software, these suites are ideal for businesses that are looking for a singular vehicle for handling day-to-day operation, and Communifire lands firmly in this category.

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