What is Document Control?
Document control is the process of ensuring that your documents are created, stored, reviewed, shared, archived & disposed of in a systematic & efficient way. Document control helps businesses keep track of day-to-day document activity like who created the document, how many times the document has been accessed, which users accessed the document, how many document versions were created & much more.
Why is Document Control Important?
Document control is important because it simplifies document processes & creates a centralized method of managing documents. Let’s say your company has to routinely archive important documents for safekeeping. Without a proper document control process in place, there is a possibility that some documents are not archived on the required date. This makes such documents susceptible to edits or even accidental deletion.
But with a proper document control policy, every member of your organization will be aware of exactly when documents need to be archived, which will reduce document errors, losses & misplacements. Basically, document control ensures that all documents complete their life cycles & provides a system for tracking & retrieving them.
5 Stages of Document control
1. Document creation
In this stage of a document’s lifecycle, document control helps define which users can create documents & document groups, and list document creation criteria. It also creates a process for naming & numbering documents, along with adding document tags, which helps in easier retrieval.
2. Document editing
Once a document is created, it undergoes repeated edits & changes. In this phase, document control defines which users are allowed to edit which type of documents, and also records document edits & versions for future reviews. In some cases, documents sent for review come back to this phase for more changes. In such instances, users need to follow the same exact procedure of regulating & tracking document changes.
3. Document review & approval
In this stage, document control creates an end-to-end process for document reviews & approvals. It defines which users are responsible for reviewing which types of documents, the complexity of the approval process, the need for e-signatures, how review & approval processes are recorded & more. Proper document review & approval is a must for audits, as well as for companies applying for licenses like ISO 9001, HIPAA, etc. ISO document control & compliance is extremely important for business in sectors like hospitals, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, etc.
4. Document publishing
Once documents are approved, they need to be shared or published. In this stage, document control defines aspects like when & where the document will be published, who will have access to the document, security restrictions on the document & more.
5. Document disposal
Securely disposing of or deleting documents frees up storage space & ensures that important information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. In this phase, document control defines when a document expires, secure disposal options, which users are allowed to delete expired documents & more.
What is Document Control System?
Document control system or document control software allow you to manage document control procedures online. Document control systems create a central repository of all your information, and help streamline, automate & track document processes. Document control system can be on-premise or cloud-based, depending on the user’s needs. Cloud-based system are easier to upgrade & manage, whereas on-premise systems give you complete control over your data servers.
How to Better Utilize a Document Management System?
Organize documents using metadata
Metadata refers to the key information components contained in the document’s content or code. This may include a serial number, client name, amount, date, address, payment status, etc. It is important for document control system to use this metadata to organize documents into easily identifiable groups, which in turn reduces document search time.
Automate repetitive tasks
Across its lifecycle, a document goes through thousands of document processes like document import, archiving, approval, disposal, etc. These processes, when done manually, can take a huge chunk out of an employee’s working hours. Document control helps automate these processes by providing pre-defined templates for each individual process. For example, importing documents from the drive can be automated by asking the document control system to monitor folders on the drive & automatically transfer all incoming documents to the system.
Integrate with other business tools
Integration helps speed up processes like document sharing, emailing, document transfers & more. The ability to open, view & edit DOC, PDF & XLS files is always a benefit for users. Document control’s integration capabilities are also beneficial for users using other business tools like CRM, ERP & Tally, which enables faster transfer of information.
Control document access
Another important facet of document control is document security. Along with tools like encryption, two-factor authentication (2FA) & security groups, document control systems also employ document access control. Access control allows users to restrict or grant document privileges like viewing, sharing, editing, deleting, etc, based on the user’s hierarchy, needs, department & much more. For example, a manager might be permitted to edit or share an invoice, whereas a sales representative might only be permitted to view it.
How Does a Quality Document Control System Work?
Capture, Scan, or Import
Document capture, scan or import allows you to gather information from any source, on the go, and add it to your central repository for easier access. Let’s say you want to scan an important physical document. It can be time-consuming to scan the document & manually add it to the system. But a document control software’s built-in capture feature allows you to immediately capture & import the document into the system, within the app itself.
The next step in document control is document organization or classification. Document classification is the process of organizing documents into various folders & groups based on their metadata. Document control systems like EZOFIS automatically index every uploaded or scanned document for metadata like amount, serial number, name, date, etc. This metadata is then used to organize the documents into their respective groups, and also as search keywords to help find them faster.
Once you have classified your documents, you need to store them in the correct location. Document control systems have two databases – Live Database & Archive Database. A live database is the database you work on every day. Documents & files stored in this database can be modified, deleted, shared & so on. But the archive database is like a protective vault for your documents. Once documents are moved to the archive database, they cannot be edited, shared or deleted without being transferred back to the live database.
Document control systems provide plenty of ways of retrieving documents like multi-condition search, multi-language search, full-text search & so on. For example, say you need to find all unpaid invoices from the month of March 2022 with amounts of more than $5000. To do this you can use multi-condition search and enter the search criteria ‘Date = March 2022’, ‘Status = Unpaid’ & ‘Amount = $5000’.
The final step in document control is document sharing. Document control systems have multi ways of sharing documents, both internally as well as externally. The most common way of sharing documents is via email. Document control systems have built-in email support that connects with your email service & allows you to share documents as email attachments from within the app. Some other ways of sharing documents are document linking, where you link documents to their respective stack(s) & customer portals, which act as secure & transparent access for customers who want to keep tabs on their documents.
How do Document Control Systems Benefit Organizations?
Document control systems create a central repository for all your documents. This means that you no longer need to access multi apps & email accounts to find the right document. Plus, most document control software has both a web interface & a desktop app. This allows you to stay connected to your information from anywhere, at any time.
Productivity is the measure of output to input. Managing unorganized documents takes several more hours than managing digitized & organized documents. Document control offers specific features that are aimed to automate document processes & reduce working hours. This reduces employee input & improves output, thereby increasing company-wide productivity.
Document control features such as tracking & version control ensure that the document you have in front of you is the latest, updated version of the document. This assures employees & customers alike about the authenticity of the company’s documents. Whereas, features like expiry date & disposal ensure that old unwanted documents are disposed of in a secure manner.
Compliance guidelines for ISO 9001, HIPAA & others mandate certain requirements from businesses like duration of record keeping, safety & security of data, etc. Document control systems allow businesses to follow the mandated protocols set by these industry moderators by providing a safe & secure way of storing & managing documents.
Data safety is a critical part of document management. Document control system provide essential safety features like access control, tracking, encryption & more that protect documents from thefts & leaks. For example, let’s say all your employees are connected to a common storage platform and you share your documents via email. Imagine what can happen if someone downloads a virus-contained document & adds it to the system. Your entire database becomes at risk. Document control systems allow you to control every aspect of document management like who is allowed to add documents, which documents can be added & more.
Most people think about document control when they want to apply for grants, submit documents for audits & file for compliance. But document control is essential to your business in many other ways. It reduces unnecessary work, improves document tracking & automates repetitive document processes. Hence it is important for businesses to invest in document control systems to improve the way they manage, store, track & share documents.