How to

How to develop a digital document management system

Growing companies face the necessity to complete and manage tons of documentation in their activities. It can include financial, legal, human resources, and quality documentation. Without the processes within the company can become weaker, or it can even fail to meet the requirements of authorities. 

But what should companies do not to burden themselves with tons of paperwork and keep documentation managed? With this article, we describe how companies can develop their documentation system. As a bonus – find what benefits the companies get with the system and what business areas get the most fruits.  

What brings the documentation management system to your company processes?

Regardless of the area of company operation, documentation brings clarity and helps to arrange the vague flow of undocumented business tasks. The digital system contributes even more to the company – it can protect from security breaches and mitigate their consequences if they happen despite everything. 

In case the company wishes to get compliance certificates for their management system, it would be easier for them to prove the conformity with such a system. As well as to pass further periodical controlling audits. 

What businesses can get the most benefits from introducing the digital document management system?

Management processes digitalization can improve any business, but the companies from the following areas will get the most benefits:

Finance, banking and accounting

Lots of calculations, tables, evaluations and reports need to be classified and stored properly. Moreover, they are often needed in several departments and need a version control system to track all changes. Some core points can be missed within the documentation if conducted manually, caused by document inconsistency. 

Logistics

The businesses from this area often need the introduction of quick changes and should provide remote access to documents. It is convenient when all documents can be gathered and managed from one place regardless of the user’s location. And when the system offers numerous users with different access levels. 

Healthcare

As far as this area deals with sensitive personal information, the companies should pay special attention to private data security. The document management system can ensure control over weak areas, transfers of information and note of obsolete information.  

Education

Educational institutions often have tons of paperwork. Besides the students’ personal info, it includes educational programs, evaluations, researches, and reports. Periodical addition of the huge amount of new data requires strict classification of documents and database scalability. 

Government

Needless to mention how much data the government holds about their citizens. That all requires extra security measures, gross databases and complicated personal cabinets for users to manage the data. 

This list doesn’t mean that other areas do not need the introduction of documents management. Each company, rather big to produce at least ten agreements or invoices a day, dealing with personal data will benefit from it. 

How does a simple document management system work?

Each software item differs a lot depending on the particular company it is used, or the requirements of the business. Nevertheless, we can define the basic points and functions a documentation management system can make. 

The functional flow of such systems is defined by the documentation life flow:

  • creation;
  • uploading to the system;
  • storage; 
  • sorting;
  • distribution;
  • alteration;
  • erasure.

To satisfy these functions,  the developers make user cabinets with different access levels for different staff to manage their own part of the database. Besides the basic functions, the systems include various tools for simultaneous work of several teams with one document, electronic signatures or approvals and compliance tracking tools for specific documents. 

How to develop a document management system?

Though any documentary management system includes numerous functions and complicated structures, most of them are connected with the back-end architecture and adjustments. 

Similarly to the common digital product creation, the stages here are basically the same:

  • business and functional analysis;
  • checking local regulations for documents retention;
  • planning and technical documentation conclusion;
  • database server selection;
  • architecture and scalability calculation;
  • UX prototyping, UI conclusion;
  • front-end and back-end development;
  • final testing;
  • thorough security tests; 
  • deployment;
  • feedback gathering and its analysis;
  • maintenance and further expansion. 

The first part defines the stability of the future product, its scalability and ability to satisfy the primary needs of the particular company for which it was developed. As far as big arrays of data require special handling, they need comprehensive testing, especially in security. For these purposes, the teams of developers apply the contemporary methods of development (PETs, encryption, onion routing, triple back upping, etc.). 

Now we describe more specifically each particular point of the document management system development process.

Business and functional analysis

The first step should get as much attention from the developers’ team and several analysts as possible. 

First of all, the business should define whether they need custom software or pick one from the existing systems to cover their needs. This process and criteria of selection were described before in our article

The team has to define the primary business needs and processes that include documentation use. With the list of needs, it would be possible to outline the particular functions of the system. 

Determine user types and their competence and access scheme. Segregation can be as follows: users possessing solely reading rights, editors, admins who can make adjustments, quality persons, supervisory authorities, super-admins, etc. 

Scale the scope of documentation used in the company. The database selection can depend on the amount of information stored and the periodicity of its updating.

Checking local regulations for documents retention

Different countries have different requirements for the documentary system of any company. They may require special storage conditions, retention periods, and document utilization processes. Consider the locations of your operation and staff, the data that will be stored in the databases. Complete the complementary table defining the particular document, its storage location, the type of stored data, retention period, purposes for such retention. For more info, search for advice with the relevant legal services. 

Planning and technical documentation conclusion

Only now we come to the development process initialisation. The team of developers makes the work plan based on the requirements that we had defined in two previous steps. The clearer this plan is, the less extra work will appear before the release deadlines. Technical documentation, if properly concluded, helps with future scaling up and separate functional modules addition.   

Database server selection

The server location can vary from an on-premise data centre to cloud services in case these documents do not require special security. Besides the secrecy of the stored data, the server selection can depend on the necessary response time, ability to maintain the server facility, and scalability plans. Other crucial points for the selection of any database, you can find in our article.  

Check the specification of the server you are going to use. Try to predict whether it will deal with the load if numerous requests from users will be routed to it. What the routing of responses will be, how much time the server response will take?

Architecture and scalability calculation

The developers’ team architects select the particular methods of how the system should work as a unified whole. When the separate modules are built without the considerations of future scaling up, the addition of supplementary functions to the system can become a pain in the back. 

The team considers security levels and introduces extra means for database protection here as well. Several back-ups should account for mitigation of the natural disasters and keeping the database. 

UX prototyping, UI conclusion

Later the team brings to visual the particular functional scope. UI and UX designers should consider whether the company has its templates of documentation or brand styling to transfer them in the system. In the case of a new system, they build the branding and all associated elements from the scratch.  

Additionally, they have to pay attention to the target users who are going to operate the system. Besides being intuitive, the interface should have clear notifications, distinctive blocks of information, and numerous other points. 

The designers should build a comprehensive admin panel with reports, charts for better management and further analysis of the system state. 

Front-end and back-end development

The stage is about the implementation of the outlined architectural and design methods. Here the prototype turns into a vivid product. Depending on the chosen methodology of the project performing (Waterfall, Agile or their variations), the team completes repetitive sprints or produces the product within the approved scope. 

Final testing

The system is ready to undergo numerous tests, besides those performed in the process of front-end and back-end development. The Quality Department makes manual and automated testing. They can even check the system under conditions similar to a live environment. They do this to be sure that the product will satisfy the primary needs of the company. According to their reports, the team fixes the undercovered bugs, and the code undergoes checks in a new light. 

Thorough security tests

Being an important part of the document management system integrity, security tests get an integral part in the testing process. Among the others, they include brute force and penetration tests. In some cases, the teams hire third-party specialists for this purpose.  

Deployment

The team of developers deploy the product to live servers with this step. They adjust the environment for everything to work correctly: check whether all APIs are connected properly, assist in user cabinets creation or massive arrays of documents downloading. 

Some teams offer post-launch education and staff training. They can even create the styled guidelines for the company’s staff to get acquainted with the system faster. 

Feedback gathering and its analysis

The development process does not end with the deployment. The team gathers the feedback from users, and admins control the usability of the system themselves. Finally, suggestions for improvements appear. They can refer to excessive or missing functions, unclear UI or elements of users customization. If it was previously agreed, the team analyses the feedback and releases the patches. 

Maintenance and further expansion

The code can become obsolete with time. If everything worked properly several years ago, it could fail later. That happens not due to code weakness but because the software and hardware change rapidly, so sometimes conflicts appear. That is why the teams often offer continuous maintenance and code support.

Some companies may face the need for expansion of the system. The modular architecture can make this happen without a massive impact on other modules. 

Ways to develop a document management system

The intention to build a complementary digital document management system is a great initiative helping to arrange the internal company’s processes and avoid numerous failures. Small companies would not get the most of its benefits, but it is much easier to improve this process on starting point. Before the company buried the staff with papers. 

The modern world brings more and more requirements to the handling of data and documentation. Not to miss this passing train and having the ability to operate, the companies should consider introducing their own systems. 

The process of development of a digital document management system is similar to any average digital product development. Though, it requires the experience of the team of developers in terms of architecture creation and security measures. They should understand the business needs and be ready to perform evaluations and constant communication. 

In case you wish to discuss this point more – contact us, and we will gladly provide you with assistance in development issues. 

EVNE Developers - IT service company that provides Impressive Experience in the development of web and mobile products worldwide. We help people build better software without losses.

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