In our experience, most businesses using or considering NetSuite are doing so to both improve visibility of critical information, and drive efficiency throughout their organisation by speeding up manual processes and removing bottlenecks.
Whilst documents (be that contracts, invoices, vendor agreements or anything else) are fundamental to the completion of work, unless an entire organisation is using NetSuite it would be impractical for the system to be the single repository for business documents. This means that NetSuite users often rely on other systems, processes, people, or a combination of all three to find the documents they need, and as a result valuable time is wasted simply searching for what they need to get on with tasks.
This blog addresses key issues with document management and why it is so important to any business using NetSuite by discussing:
Before the modern era of technology, document management was a bit more straightforward. Documents were literally filed in a filing cabinet and when you needed something, you went to that filing cabinet and hoped it had been stored correctly. If not, you could spend hours digging through stacks of paper to find what you needed.
Fast forward to today and we are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Physical documents are becoming a thing of the past and we can instantly create, capture, share and collaborate on everything from photos and videos, to quotes, orders, and contracts, on any range of devices from anywhere in the world.
This technology means that documents today aren’t just bits of paper around the office, they are live bodies of work. Overall, this fluidity is definitely an advantage. Things move more quickly, people work in tandem to find solutions, and clever use of documents can lead to increased sales, improved service, and better communication. It does however also add a layer of complexity to managing how your team collaborate, access, amend or update them.
Whilst NetSuite includes File Cabinet (which provides a space and folder structure for documents to be stored and accessed within NetSuite), it’s fair to say that with a standard storage allowance of 10GB which is restricted to NetSuite users, business-wide document management is not NetSuite’s main focus, or key feature.
So, to answer the question of what modern document management means to NetSuite users, we need to look at a few factors.
Firstly, NetSuite is predominantly used as a financial solution first, regardless of what other modules businesses may use, finance is usually at the core of its activities. No matter what documents pass through your organisation, they probably have some relevance to your finance team; whether that be a signed contract which is associated to a sales invoice, a Goods Received Note associated to a purchase order, a signed timesheet for a chargeable day, or a delivery confirmation for a shipped product.
Secondly, referring back to our introduction, we are viewing NetSuite as a system to increase visibility and drive efficiency.
Combining those factors, the question then evolves to – ‘how do we ensure our teams have access to the documents they need, within our core system, to save time and effort finding them elsewhere?’
If information regarding your finances isn’t available to view in NetSuite, where is it? If you were to ask this question to your team, you’d likely get a few different answers about how they manage their own documents and, in many cases, they can still get on with their job. However, this creates a scenario where you have silos of information in various locations, therefore increasing the work for your staff every time they need to find a document.
By implementing a business-wide document management system which integrates to, and is accessible from within, NetSuite you remove this bottleneck. This means that everyone can not only view, but actually progress or complete work which benefits them and colleagues in other departments without leaving NetSuite.
Poor document management can have a number of impacts on your team. Without going into every detail, you will normally see these manifesting in two key outcomes: frustration amongst your people due to inefficiencies, and delays and errors in processing due to inaccessibility of key information.
Commonly, businesses will default to using SharePoint or Google Drive as they are market-leading solutions which are already included within their subscription to the core communication or productivity tool (Microsoft365 or Google Suite).
Even if you have the greatest file structure in the world, without a set process, people will do their own thing. In practice this looks like: different naming conventions; similar types of documents being saved in different places; and new folders created when someone can’t find something. Documents then end up duplicated, or even worse, replaced for good.
As a result, your team spends valuable time drilling down 20-something levels to find documents that they need, hidden in the deepest darkest folder in your organisation. This impacts the efficiency of your team as people are wasting time looking for what they need to get on with their job.
In turn, people start to avoid the structures completely and save anything important to their desktop for easy access, meaning, of course, that no one else can access it.
It is a scenario like this that leads to silos of information within your business, as people want to get their work done, and to do so take their own approach. Remember, as we discussed in our Outlook Integration blog, we believe that regardless of outcome, in the vast majority of cases, your employees have the best intentions at heart and would normally just do what they thought was correct to get the job done. Unfortunately, it is often the tools they have, or the lack thereof, which leads to unsatisfactory outcomes.
As mentioned above, it isn’t uncommon to look at a SharePoint or Drive and see five copies of the same document, or an updated version of a document with the dreaded words (re-draft, copy, or final included in the name) with no previous version history.
Version control and audits are a topic all of their own, especially if you need to comply with standards mandated by ISO, IRS, HMRC, ICAEW or other governing bodies - as the paper trail is crucial for any auditing you will be required to do. We will cover this in a separate article, but the key questions relating to document management are:
All of these questions relate to permissions and version history. Without a piece of software which has been developed to track these factors you will likely encounter issues at critical points in your process, particularly as your business continues to grow and the requirement for more formality and transparency is driven or dictated by larger customers and suppliers.