Finding and choosing a document management partner is an important but tedious process.
Finding, vetting, and selecting a partner will usually involve several stakeholders within your organization to ensure that the correct decision is being reached. While these viewpoints bring new perspectives to the table, they can complicate and setback the time to select a partner.
To avoid that problem, here are conversations you and your team should think about having when going through the selection process. There is no right or wrong answer to these questions either, but it is important to relate them to your own organizational needs.
So, with that said let’s get started!
1) How long has the document management provider been in business?
The longer a document management provider has been around the more experience that team will have. When we talk about the experience a company has, there are a couple criteria that are important to digest.
The first, is that if a document management provider has been around for an extended amount of time they will be on top of industry trends. An experienced partner will understand what your best practices should be and show you how to leverage new and innovative technologies specific to your industry. This helps you gain a competitive advantage over your competitors as well as staying compliant with any governmental regulations.
The second benefit is that you’ll have access to a more experienced team. When we talk with prospective clients, or those interested in the space in general, we like to think that organizations hire document management companies for the team behind the software– not the software itself. The reason being is because the teams act as a consultant and help you avoid pitfalls, help you align your goals, and establish your foundation.
Just having access to the software isn’t enough, as you’ll have the probability of using the system incorrectly or inefficiently. This is why we put great importance on the team behind your document management system.
At the end of the day these teams are the brains behind how you organize your content.
2) What is your desired level of customer service?
Instead of hoping that the customer service team is going to meet your needs, we recommend using this as vetting criteria when talking with different ECM providers. We like to boil this down to one simple question:
How do you want to be treated as a customer?
High touch? Low touch? Only talk to customer service when things aren’t working right? There is a massive spectrum of how enterprise content management teams offer their service, and the client dictates how frequent that should be. Customer service is there to be an extension of your existing team whose goal is to help you achieve the success you desire.
More experienced businesses aren’t partnering with a document management provider just for the software, but instead for the company’s expertise. Having a strong and knowledgeable customer service team will help you solve your problems when things go wrong, create a solid infrastructure when you’re starting out, and of course be your number one fan.
However, finding superior customer support teams are few and far between because document management companies sometimes lack deep enough staff to service every client with top-tier support. This should be a conversation with your ECM provider as well when trying to figure out what level you’re looking for.
As you can already imagine, most things aren’t free and customer support isn’t an exception. This is because your support staff has to be highly knowledgeable about complex software and integration troubleshooting. While you might have a higher support cost, your level of experienced and intelligent help should outweigh the expense.
We’ve found that the top document management providers will unlock unlimited support for you and your team, but for a price. However, there are some ‘tricks’ that you should be aware of as detailed below:
At the end of the day it’s about finding a customer success team who will treat you like a human, and fight with you when things get tough. At least, that’s what we believe here at Imagetek (meet our team).
3) Can the document management provider integrate with your existing tools?
Integrating document management software and practices into your existing tools is a vital component when selecting a partner; like if you’re using QuickBooks and you’re wanting to process invoices, you’re going to want to be able to have these two applications talk to each other.
For example, after scanning in incoming invoices into your document management system you would be able to automatically input that data into QuickBooks without you having to do twice the work. In addition, you’ll now be able to search for invoices in one place, rather than having to reference two different tools.
This isn’t the only integration you should be worried about though. There are thousands of different software’s you would be able to integrate into, and although a document management provider doesn’t list all their integrations doesn’t mean it can’t be built. Just have a conversation about what your business needs are and the tools you use with the document management company.
This is important to talk about in the beginning stages as all variables and goals need to be considered in the preliminary stages. Moving directions or even backpedaling is expensive and time-consuming work, while having a frank conversation at the beginning to ensure everyone is on the same page reduces confusion down the road.
4) Is the document management provider overselling you?
If you’ve done any research on enterprise content management systems, you’ll find several different product offerings or solutions to choose from. Normally, these solutions work together in some way but sometimes (especially when you’re just starting out) you don’t need them all.
The normal offerings revolve around:
See all of the product offerings? It can be a bit overwhelming when trying to decide which is best for you.
As you can see here, there are a lot of products/solutions to choose from! Make sure your provider is recommending the right solutions at the right time.
Each of these products are designed to do one thing: improve your bottom line. However, implementing all these products at once can overload your team and increase implementation times. To more efficiently get started, it’s best to phase-in all of these offerings as the timing improves.
5) Do you believe them to be an industry expert?
Having industry experience is not a necessary factor when deciding on a document management partner, but it does help when it comes to your implementation.
Industry experts are sought out because they have implemented safeguards to ensure you’ll be compliant with your industry’s governmental regulations (I.e you’re a healthcare provider who needs to follow HIPPA compliance).
They will have also worked with a lot of business like yours and have experienced issues (or successes) that you might not even know exist – like hidden compliance issues.
If you are vetting a document management provider who is not an industry expert, your team should be prepared to work a bit harder at the beginning of your implementation as you will need to act as the industry expert on their behalf to ensure you’re headed in the right direction.
To be clear – although this sounds like a negative, working with a non-industry expert is not a bad thing. Remember, there are a multitude of other factors (like price, location, customer and technical support, integrations, etc.) that are worth taking into consideration in lieu of vertical expertise.
6) Does your provider have the resources built out for you?
Maximizing the use of technical software requires a necessity for education, training, and mastery. Because of this, it’s suggested that you partner with a provider who can help train and provide resources to you and your team. This could come in the form of webinars, e-books, user guides, or even training programs. For example, Laserfiche, a popular enterprise content management system has a training program that offers certification.
Here is what another ECM company does for education. We’re really happy with what they are investing in their client education.
However, we take a different approach here at Imagetek and have a resource and user guide library for our products. This is because we believe in self-guided journeys as not all information is necessary to know for every user. We would rather give an a-la-carte (the freedom of selecting what you want and only what you want) approach to education rather than everyone needing to know everything.
The bottom line is there is no wrong way to approach education as long as what’s provided meets your educational needs. These products can be highly technical and do have a learning curve and there is no reason to learn ‘trial-by-fire.’
7) Keys to a successful Implementation
Let’s say you’ve decided to hire a document management company. Your next steps would be doing something called an ‘implementation.’
An implementation is when your document management provider starts integrating your organizations existing apps, software, tools, and processes into your new system. This is the most important factor when choosing an ECM partner. Your implementation is your game plan, and both you and your provider should have a clear vision about where you need to go.
The key to a successful implementation is an organized pre-plan that is executed in phases. However, before signing the dotted line with your new provider, you should talk about what an implementation looks like before moving forward.
This is one of our favorite vetting conversations. It will be clear to see which companies were listening to you, who understands your needs, and who have experience executing for you. You’re going to want to find a partner who is confident when they are having this conversation, or at least know what your next steps look like to create a joint implementation.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors you should be considering – this isn’t a light decision. All of your employees (and future employees) will need to be trained on a new system which can eat up lots of valuable time and resources. In addition, this is a long-term investment – all your company’s data, documents, information, employee records, and more is going to be stored in this new system for years to come.
If you have any more questions or would like any clarification, feel free to reach us here, or click that little blue messenger button at the bottom right of your screen and send us a message. If this information helped you at all we’d love to hear that too!
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