Software is a choice as a tool to help meet your needs. Many providers have solutions that not only keep documents, specifications, and procedures controlled, but also help companies meet their regulatory compliance and/or quality organization standards. Basic features should be checking content in/out, revise, review, approve, and archive the information.
If your company operates from multiple locations, you should think long and hard about consolidating the various procedures, specifications, policies, drawings, and documents into a single repository that can be accessed from anywhere. The software should allow you to access your documents through your intranet or the internet.
Companies spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to keep many locations and/or departments on the same current sheet. File shares and email create duplications that immediately lead to wasting your time, effort, and resources. The software chosen should control how users see and work from the current versions while automatically archiving older content. It is important that for most industries and their regulations that the archived material can be accessed when called upon, make sure the software you choose meets those requirements.
Don’t make the decision to purchase software in a vacuum. Look around your company ans see who else will be affected by this decision. Assumptions about their needs should not be taken when moving from paper to an electronic document control process. Failure to obtain “buy-in” can result into a delayed rollout and severe pushback. The document control software provider selected should have experience in managing such a dramatic change and brought that to your attention during the initial search.
Prior to making a change, analysis should be conducted on the current lifecycle being used by the company. Do you know exactly where the breakdowns occur? The analysis should help provide you with an understanding of where current bottlenecks lie, what the costs are to the company, and help all the stakeholders understand the purpose of changing. Education of the parties involved will allow them to see the larger picture and the valuable impact an investment in document control software can bring to the company. The software vendor should have experience in the analysis and align the software with your company mission and goals.
When choosing a document control software package make sure that the automation of the workflow is easy to understand, configure, and is better than what is currently being done. The software should quicken the time for reviews and approvals of policies, procedures, etc. that normally languish in a manual or emailed workflow. The user interface should be easy for your managers to go in and conduct the actions required of them in as few steps as possible.
The document control software chosen should be able to work flawlessly with your email to send notifications to managers, users, and others when content needs to be reviewed, approved, and read. The software should be configurable to notify when document become current and replace older versions. Notifications should also be configurable when to remind users when their actions required of them are overdue and escalate the delay up the chain of command.