If you decide to go into partnership with someone, once all the signatures are on the paper and everybody has been slapped on the back and the ink has dried on the paper, is the job done? Or do you now have to start delivering on the agreement that has been drafted by people in dark suits, speaking a language that is totally foreign to everybody?
If you are planning a project and everybody involved in the project have received the relevant documents for the first time and even took the brave step to actually sign an acknowledgement of receipt – is the job done?
I think it will be commonly argued that “No, the job is only starting.” So before you fool yourself into thinking that the job is done, here is a quick reminder that the first piece of paper is only the beginning of a long process of managing documents.
Document Management is not something that you put in place once you have so many documents that it is difficult to find or you have to employ an army of people, constantly looking for documents. Documents need to be managed from the inception of a business, project, or agreement and it continues until you switch off the lights and /or close the business. The last person to leave your company or project will be the one filing the last invoice for the electricity or telephone account and he/she will probably hand over the office keys to whomever and get them to sign a proof of receipt.
It has definitely become easier, because we do have electronic document management systems (EDMS), that make it easy to share documents. We no longer have to search in filing cabinets, but we can search on key words and find the document that we are looking for in shared repositories.
There are however a few important prerequisites for finding a document and for this document to be of value to you:
- It had to be document controlled
- It had to be scanned at the correct dpi for you to read it.
- You need to be able to audit your scanning software to ensure a complete audit trail, from scan time.
- The metadata/index information needs to be correct and agreed upon in advance.
- Quality assurance needs to have been done to ensure that your documents show the important information like signatures and dates.
- The documents need to be stored in the correct repository, with the correct authentication in place for security purposes.
- Your physical document storage need to adhere to the requirements of the NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SOUTH AFRICA ACT1996 (ACT NO. 43 OF 1996) JANUARY 1997.
- Are all the versions of your documents available and is everybody involved working on the same version.
If you are still using a manual system to control your documents, the controls need to be even more stringent, because if you misfile a document of which you only have one original copy – your document is gone and the potential loss can close a business or bring a project to its knees.
If you are not making use of off-site storage facilities for your physical documents, you need to ensure that all the necessary fire/water regulations are in place to protect your important information.
These are just some of the issues to consider when managing your documents.
So, do you still think your paperwork is done?