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  • Writer's pictureSherri Thorpe

Document Management and Levelling Up

I am often asked what I do for a living, and as many times as I am asked, I am challenged to define the field. In part, it is because if your industry is not one where document control or document management is a named function, it is unfamiliar and requires some explanation. Document Management has a broad scope so there are too many words in that explanation. Also in part, it is because I don’t believe that document management begins and ends with being the guardian of the tools and evidence that make up a company’s collection of information. So, my answer is usually that I am a Project Manager for Documents.


To me, Document Management is a hybrid function that is the hub of an organization, facilitating the completion of work in a reliable and consistent way by providing control over document production, identification, review and approval. It is the collector and curator of evidence, making connections, looking for gaps, calling for higher quality, greater clarity, refining and streamlining practice and ensuring integrity in the records being produced. To me, Document Management is an extension of quality that permeates all areas of an organization. It requires coordination, tracking and active management. It means actively tracking and managing work product in the form of documents/data/records, as part of tracking and managing the processes.


I read recently that there is no such thing as a quality department. Never has this been more true. Quality is a culture and a commitment to doing the right thing even when it is hard. Especially when it is hard.


When it comes to upping your game in Document Management, electronic systems can improve compliance to document standards and processes, but only if implemented well. If the system is hard to use or is not intuitive, there will be poor adoption and workarounds will develop. If it is too loose, it may lack integrity for process and enable users, again, to create workarounds. It is so critically important to create processes that are easy to follow. The objective should be fluid and compliant processes that produces evidence created and maintained with integrity. Control that makes sense and doesn't inhibit work. From a documentation perspective it is evaluating whether the tools being used are fit for purpose, whether that tool is a paper-based procedure or an eQMS workflow, or something as simple as cloud storage with a bit of capability to help with pushing the process.


Before even considering an implementation of an electronic system, it is important to scrutinize your process. Do not just copy-paste your paper-based or hybrid process into an electronic workflow. What are the pain points in your current processes? Is there too much lag between activities? Is there a bottleneck in QA? Are there too many cooks in the kitchen? Decide what efficiencies need to be gained. Decide where compliance needs to be managed. Do some processes already hum? If they do, what makes them hum? Can it be replicated in other processes? Consider the metadata that you are collecting or lacking in your current system. Consider how capturing different kinds of metadata could contribute to quality improvement.  Take a moment. Take a breath. Determine your needs first.

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