A Guide to Indexing Documents in Your DMS

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There’s no question about the many benefits of switching over to a modern document management system in order to store documents in a digital format. However, one of the chief advantages of these electronic systems—speed, when it comes to finding specific information—is contingent on something that will be unique to every organization; indexing.

To quickly retrieve data, policies and methodologies must be put into a place to make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for while minimizing indexing effort. Document indexing is critical to the success of your document management system and there are a few things you can do to ensure this process is a success. 

Plan Comprehensively

Whether you’re migrating from an existing system to a new document management system (DMS) or making the leap from a traditional, physical, paper-based system to a digital DMS, planning is essential. Different organizations will have different requirements. If you’re working largely with documents that use language and text like legal documents for example, then you may want to think about Full-Text Indexing, which is a style of indexing where the specific phrases and content from the documents are captured, stored and used as the basis for searches.

On the other hand, for transactional documents that use more numbers, information, or other data, Field-Based Indexing is more appropriate. This divides up the material in the DMS according to a number of different qualifiers, such as document type, date of creation, and other standard categories such as customer number or PO number. 

Staff and Department Participation

The employees that will be retrieving this information should have a lot of input on your index plan. Bring in representatives from different departments and take the time to hear them out on their requirements for information retrieval. Different departments search for data differently. For example, Accounting may use a customer number while Sales may use the company or contact name. The planning department may use a lot number or legal description and the service department may use the address.

When you meet with them team members ask a lot of questions. How do they typically retrieve documents today? Which bits of information do they use to locate a document or transaction? Are there special cases? Which searches are particularly difficult for them today and why? What are the consequences if they cannot locate a document? Do other departments ask for this data and how do they like to search for it?

Because different departments will often require a lot of the same information, it’s possible to arrive at some kind of standardized index that will meet the needs of all these groups. At the same time, individual departments will also have specific needs, and data unique to only their department. It’s important that their search and retrieval requirements are also considered in order to ensure that everyone can access the data and consequently support the implementation of the new system. 

Take the Time to Do It Properly

The last thing that you want to do when it comes to indexing documents in your DMS is to leave it “undercooked.” That is, make inadequate preparations, and eventually create an incomplete system that doesn’t address all the needs. With proper planning, you won’t be in this position.

However, it’s also important to not overcompensate. Making the system larger and more complicated than it needs to be can increase implementation costs and slow down operations just as much as being insufficient to the task. Once departments have what they need to operate efficiently, it’s time to stop planning and start implementing. After the index plan for each type of document is defined, review the requirements again with the users. Another important consideration, too many indexes can bog down the entry of documents into the system. If the data in the system is not current, team members will work around the system to get what they need and this undermines the implementation efforts.

Automate, Automate, Automate

In today’s world, most documents are created electronically and index values can be automatically derived from file names, database fields in an existing line of business system or through automatically “COLD” processing digital documents. The more you automate, the less likely you are to introduce human error during indexing and the less effort that will be required to index your documents. Automation can also ensure that documents are available in the DMS as quickly as they are available. In many cases, this process can be become 100% automated. In other cases, simply typing in one unique value for each document will enable the system to look up and populate the remaining required index values. Another opportunity to automate is to automatically funnel inbound emails and attachments related to organizational transactions into the DMS and automatically index them using business rules. In this way, critical documents are instantly available to everyone and not locked up in someone’s inbox or worse still, sent to everyone’s inbox.

Bring In Professionals

While it’s our last suggestion, it’s certainly not our least important. If you have any doubts or concerns about efficiently creating an index system, there are always professionals in information technology available for consultations.

This is often the fastest, most efficient way to come up with a plan of action. DMS information technology experts already know the systems and merely have to find out more about your organization’s specific needs in order to define the solution most appropriate for those requirements. They can leverage industry best practices, as well as their past success and failures. It’s still important for people in the know within your organization to contribute to this process, but now they’re working with experts, and this can speed the process considerably.  CASNET offers indexing and coding as part of our document conversion service.  To learn more, contact CASNET today.

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