The times, they are a-changin' Featured

9:53am EDT March 22, 2005
The title of Bob Dylan's famous song from the 1960s describes very well what is going on in corporations of all sizes.

The big crashes of major corporations over the last several years triggered a whole array of new or amended regulations, and now all decision-makers of a corporation are confronted with a new set of rules that they need to comply with in order to avoid legal issues or problems with their shareholders or auditors. One of the biggest challenges in this field is the need to accurately document all business-relevant transactions from beginning to end.

Document management systems play an important role in this scenario.

Here are the different types and sources of information that are the building blocks of business transactions.

* Quotes or offer letters to your customers and prospects

* Accompanying documents during the negotiation phase

* Purchase orders from your customers

* Order confirmations

* Production documentation

* Quality control documentation

* Shipping documents

* Invoices to your customers

* Checks, documentation for wire transfers or direct debit

All these document types lead to accounts receivable records, and they may be received or sent via phone, fax, e-mail, mail, EDI or one of the many transportation methods over the Internet. A similar set of information exists for the accounts payable departments of a corporation.

While phone transactions would typically be entered directly into the organization's ERP system, others may need preparation to find their way into this central repository to be processed according to the business process rules.

But the ERP system, although typically the most important source of information of a business, usually does not supply the necessary functionality to keep track of the paper trail of the business transactions. This is where document management systems come into play.

The market offers a wide variety of solutions, and almost all of them cover the basics to enable your organization to capture, index, store and retrieve the documents described above. You can purchase and implement a simple system for a few thousand dollars, but you may have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars for an enterprisewide deluxe solution.

To make sure that you get the maximum benefit from a document management solution, ask yourself and the potential vendors of the system the questions in the above chart.

There are a lot more questions to ask and decision criteria to be defined. However, you may use the above questions to eliminate some solutions early in the selection process and save yourself a lot of time and frustration.

Ales Reiss is president of Resolutions (, a provider of state-of-the-art document management solutions. Reach him at (678) 714-3400 or