Despite being an aspect of great importance and relevance in the medium- and long-term for companies, a document management system’s capacity for evolution tends to be a facet that is undervalued by users when it comes to making a decision on investing in a document management system. In this article, we will explore what we understand as a document management system’s capacity for evolution and how it can affect our organisation.
What do we understand as a document management system’s capacity for evolution?
A product’s capacity for evolution is based on two components:
a) The capacity for evolution of the product itself: in this sense, we are talking about a roadmap that allows us to continuously benefit from new features that help and provide support to our users in the way that they work. This evolution is not linked our own company, but rather the vision of the product itself. This capacity of the product will ensure that we are not working with an obsolete tool in 5 years’ time.
b) The product’s capacity to evolve with the business: in this sense, we are talking about if the business evolves or changes, that the product will allow us to tackle these changes and that the document management system will be able to offer the features that the processes demand. This capacity involves the product’s flexibility. Of course this flexibility has a limit, given that I am referring to a product on the market and not one that was made to measure. With a custom-developed product, we will have much more capacity for evolution with the business, but the product itself will have less capacity for evolution. In previous articles we have analysed the disadvantages of custom developments in document management.
Now that we have clarified what we understand as a document management system’s capacity for evolution, I would like to share my experience with how a product’s capacity for evolution can affect us.
How can a document management system’s poor capacity for evolution affect us?
The degree of impact that a document management system’s capacity for evolution can have on our users, processes, and organisation in general is going to depend on various factors, such as:
- Our dependence on the document management system.
- How static or changing our processes are.
- The number of end users using the document management system’s features.
If we have a core process implemented in the document management system, we will certainly need the product to be flexible and able to adjust to our business. For example, if what we have implemented directly affects client management and service or sales, the competition and the market itself will force us to continuously offer cutting-edge digital services.
On the other hand, if we have many end users working directly with the document management system (from the user interface), we need them to perceive the product as modern for them to continue using it.
In the first example, we are primarily talking about the capacity to evolve with the business whereas in the second, it’s more likely that the capacity for evolution of the product itself affects us more.
In our experience, we have seen companies that have been forced to do a juggling act in order to keep their systems up-to-date with the rate of changes in the business. For example, there are companies that, due to limitations on integration with other systems, have to do periodic data uploads so that they can keep data up-to-date across different systems. Of course, a solution like this one not only creates unnecessary work, we also run the risk of compromising the integrity of the information.
Another typical example of what happens when a company is suffering from the limitations of a system that doesn’t evolve is that it ends up implementing features in other systems in order to make up for the features that are lacking in applications that really should have that feature. With this solution, we make it so that users end up having to repeat processes and jump from interface to interface.
How do you evaluate a document management system’s capacity for evolution when purchasing an ECM system?
The first thing is to show the provider the process we want to implement. Next, you have to ask him or her 3 things:
- Can I do it myself?
- How much would you charge me to do it?
- How long does it take you to do it?
If the first answer is yes, then we have a product that will offer us lots of flexibility when it comes time to evolve. Of course, the probabilities that the response is a yes is going to depend on the complexity of our process.
The other two questions are going to help us get an idea of how expensive it is to make changes to a document management system. Try to use the features of the existing product to carry out your process, given that the greater the need for customisation via code is, the greater the costs and time needed will be. Likewise, the cost to maintain the solution will be higher.
On the other hand, in order to evaluate the capacity for progress of the product itself, ask about:
- Regularity of the updates and number of versions per year
- Product roadmap
Also pay attention to how modern the product interface appears.
I hope that these paragraphs have helped you to understand the impact of a document management system’s capacity for evolution and how you can evaluate it in the product you are going to purchase.