Mobile document management systems give users access, IT control

A slew of newer mobile document management systems allow IT to secure and track data while granting employees access from their iPads.

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More companies rely on mobile and cloud-friendly document management systems to increase productivity and address the needs of iPad-carrying employees

The maturity of mobile devices combined with a bevy of mobile document management applications has given IT an efficient way to secure, track, and audit business files both in and out of the office.

Giving employees the tools to accomplish work is a vital part of an IT shop’s overall strategy for a bring your own device program, said Mark Gilbert, an analyst at Gartner Inc., a research firm based in Stamford, Conn. Products from vendors such as Laserfiche, WatchDox Inc., and Copiun Inc. help IT achieve this goal, he said.

At Womack Machine Supply Co., an industrial machine distributor based in Dallas, salespeople began using their tablets on business trips, then putting corporate documents on their iPads via Documents to Go without IT knowing.

“We didn’t want that to happen, but we also didn’t want to block them,” said Matt Britt, Womack’s director of information services.

In response, Womack rolled out Copiun's TrustedShare mobile document management product for the salespeople who brought their own iPads. The initiative began for just a few employees in early 2011, but now more than 50% of the sales team uses the combination of the iPad and Copiun at work, Britt estimated.

“They’re able to close deals with clients immediately,” because employees have access to all the documents they need, Britt said.

Previously, employees had to guess what documents they might need to bring on a call, because storage space on an iPad was limited.

TrustedShare costs $5 per user per month. Despite the added budget expense and other ancillary costs such as maintenance, Britt said the initiative has been hugely valuable for the company. Other IT pros have said the same thing when it comes to measuring the value of mobile document management systems: The benefits outweigh the initial financial costs.

Automating workflow with Laserfiche

Roughly a month and a half ago, Patrick Gray, database applications analyst for the city of Wichita Falls, Texas, began using Laserfiche, an on-premises content management system, to digitize the city’s records. He also wanted an efficient system the city could use going forward to track and audit municipal files because of state record management laws.

“We were basically just throwing records and files in a box and ignoring them,” Gray said.

The benefits have been numerous for the city. The records department digitizes all new files coming into the system and is slowly making progress digitizing all its older records.

For example, the records department could previously scan 80 birth certificates a month in its efforts to digitize records. Now it can scan 1,000 per week with an iPad and Laserfiche’s autocorrect feature, which touches up documents scanned by iPad cameras, Gray said.

Before, when a citizen requested a copy of a document, it would take Wichita Falls about 10 days to comply. Now, staffers can search for and find the document in minutes and “email it off in seconds,” Gray said.

Also, Laserfiche’s new iPad app has allowed the city’s municipal judge to securely manage his entire caseload on an iPad -- about 3,500 cases per year, Gray said.

Michael Betz, a managing director at AdvisorNet, a financial advisor group based in Minneapolis, said his group saves the equivalent of a full-time salaried position per year through the use of iPads and Laserfiche.

“To be honest, Laserfiche is not the cheapest product, but it brings tremendous value to us when it comes to archiving documents and automating workflows,” Betz said.

Benefits of mobile document management systems

Laserfiche, WatchDox and Copiun's TrustedShare are considered among the best of these document management systems, because they offer granular security controls, on-premises storage, consumer-friendly mobile apps and document management functionality similar to Microsoft’s SharePoint, Gilbert said.

Unlike SharePoint, however, these products are designed for cloud and mobile computing while still providing data security, which is the main reason driving their adoption, Gilbert said.

Betz agreed.

“Most of our older advisors are not working in the office because they want to spend time with the grandkids,” he said. “The junior advisors are young guys who grew up with these new ways of working. For both groups, using a mobile device while working has become important. It’s a matter of finding good technology to make that possible."

Another vendor in the mobile document management market, FileTrek Software Inc., will release an iPad app Tuesday. The company is more geared towards tracking file versions throughout the lifecycle of a project. FileTrek also provides insight into where files are located, who accessed and edited those documents, and which documents and files were used to create a finished project.  

“There [are] a lot of products that makes things convenient for sharing, but we need visibility into what’s happening with the files at any given time,” said Wendy Ficklin, creative director of PrimitiveSpark, a Los Angeles creative agency that tried several different products before settling on FileTrek.

“Not having to send an email at 1 a.m. just to check what’s going on with certain files and projects from my iPad is a bonus,” Ficklin said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email James Furbush or follow @JamesFurbush on Twitter.

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