By Daniel Warren-Smith

You can have the best content management system going around, but if that content is not easily searchable (and therefore not easily shareable) it will end up being under utilised, causing frustration amongst your staff as valuable time is wasted conducting unnecessarily lengthy searches.

Migrating your paper documents into an electronic document management system can bring a number of benefits to an organisation, such as:

Ensuring that your information is properly indexed is a vital component of an overall content management strategy, as good indexing improves searches and allows you to organise your information in a variety of ways, making information easily discoverable and shareable.

Information can be indexed using barcodes, metadata, OCR (Optical Character Recognition), content data mining, or full text searching, but whatever method you choose, you must ensure it is the appropriate one to meet your specific needs, as content management systems can be difficult and expensive to amend down the track if they are not correctly set up at the time of implementation. You could also be left exposed in terms of meeting regulatory compliance obligations if information you are required to produce cannot be found.

The process of indexing is a delicate balancing act. On one hand you don’t want to be too elaborate when it comes to tagging your documents, as the search process becomes too complex and time consuming, and your information can become too fragmented.

On the other hand, you don’t want to have too few index points either, as you could then have the situation where a search for a specific document returns a large number of results to wade through before you find what you are looking for.

It is therefore critical that the establishment of the search terms prior to the implementation stage of the content management system is a consultative process, not only between internal department heads but also with your system provider, who can offer their expertise and experience to help you decide the structure that will work best for your organisation’s specific needs.

The good news is that the classification and categorising of documents can be automated, based on the information contained within each document, according to a pre-determined and installed set of search terms, with limits automatically imposed on the number of index values.

This is where it is vital to consult your department heads, who should be able to let you know which search terms will be most beneficial for them to include to simplify the discovery and categorisation processes. Those department heads should also discuss this with the end users, as they will have the best insight as to what is required of the system.

Having a standardised indexing system also makes it easy to share documents across different departments (or even across different geographies) if everyone is using the same agreed search terms – another reason why collaboration is so important prior to the implementation phase.
So when developing an indexing strategy, talk to your staff and utilise the expertise of your vendor in order to ensure that you end up with a system that perfectly suits your organisation.