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Why Simply Digitizing Documents Isn't The Be-All End-All


Digitizing documents doesn't necessarily mean they will be more easy to manage, but through the use a variety tools and strategies, they can be. Removing the burden of having to search through stacks of papers to find specific information can help, but if digital files are scattered throughout different machines and locations within your business, you may not have made management any easier and may have even made it more difficult.

The Challenge of Widely Distributed Documents

You may think you know that the document you are looking for is stored on someone’s computer in your office or even on a server with a shared drive, but what if your office has 50 computers and multiple share drives? The process of looking through each machine, hoping it was filed in a logical place, named in an intuitive, logical way and that you have the necessary rights to access to see it can make your task potentially more time consuming, than searching through physical papers.

Or perhaps you worked on an earlier version of the document on your personal laptop so you could work on it at home, but another version is on your company-issued desktop. If you need to view both documents simultaneously, it becomes difficult to do so if they are on different machines. And that's to say nothing of the age-old problem of having multiple "final" versions saved with same file name. Sadly, without the proper tools, digital documents and the specific information contained within them can be just as difficult to manage as physical documents.

Managing Documents vs. Managing Contracts

These problems can largely be solved using Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions such as Box or environments like Dropbox, where documents are stored in the cloud and where access rights can be centrally managed. Contract documents, however, represent a special class of documents, with management needs that go well beyond those that an ECM solution can comprehensively provide. To properly manage contract documents, information must be well organized within a central repository, provide the ability to classify and associate documents one to another, to support many different document types via meta data, to easily search for internal document and meta data and to create alerts to assure that key contract tasks are not overlooked. These, and a host of additional capabilities, are best managed by a class of solutions called Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) solutions.

ECM vs CLM

Like an ECM solution, a CLM solution manages digital files in a central repository, managing file organization and access rights in a comprehensive manner. Unlike an ECM solution, a CLM solution manages the data, tasks, obligations and events associated with each document or class of documents, starting from the time the document is created and ending when it is no longer in effect.

Stories abound of people spending days or weeks locating a specific word, phase or language in contract documents (either in hard copy or digital from), and never knowing at the end of their search whether they found everything they were looking for. In other cases, contracts are renewed in error, missed contractual obligations result in substantial penalties or the ability to access better pricing was missed because alerts and reminders were not automatically generated. These are tasks that CLM solutions do well.

No Panacea

Moving from hard copy to digital documents is no panacea. Enormous benefits can, however, accrue from going from physical to digital, as long as the proper tools, procedures and methodologies are also put in place.

A Progression of Solutions

If you need a central repository, the first step is a share drive (most companies have them). If you need to securely access a shared drive from the road or at home you will probably need a VPN. Putting documents in the cloud, where they can be securely accessed from anywhere and where access rights can be centrally managed accomplishes both goals and is best facilitated by an ECM. Lastly, if you are managing more than 100 contracts (many companies manage tens of thousands of contracts), a CLM pays for itself quickly, deftly managing the myriad of tasks that comprehensive contract management requires. If you have both broad-based enterprise document management needs and contract management needs, ECMs and CLMs do work well together.

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