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How a DMS helps you get the most out of external collaborators

shutterstock_373751506Good collaboration is at the heart of business success. And with the vast array of digital tools available to businesses today it’s never been easier to initiate. With better access to global suppliers, we have the opportunity to source from and work with the best people for the job - wherever they are in the world.

Now we can work with a range of international partners, consultants, and even customers to help design, develop and refine new products. But while this kind of collaboration is producing amazing results, it is also generating extraordinary amounts of documentation and throwing up new challenges and risks.

So what can senior managers do to get the most out of their external collaborators? What part can a DMS play in ensuring these essential relationships are managed securely, efficiently and productively?

Trust and cooperation

For collaboration to work effectively, there needs to be trust between all parties. Of course, this is largely dependent on personal relationships, but a company can always contribute to this through improved communication and greater pooling of knowledge and information.

At the same time, for many high tech businesses, using specialist subcontractors, developers and marketers, there is now a commercial imperative to allow outside access to their networks to complete key stages of projects.

While you want to facilitate this level of trust and cooperation between your business and selected third parties you clearly don’t want to compromise systems security or your Intellectual Property in the process

Choosing the right DMS can open up new opportunities for secure cross-business collaboration while streamlining feedback and approval processes. It can protect IP and keep projects on track.

Linking up silos

A good DMS will connect internal and external stakeholders. It will be a seamless, remote experience for those logging in from alternate locations. It will allow the integration of software development tools ensuring that relevant third parties can contribute to, edit and approve key pieces of documentation. This, in turn, will keep the wheels of your business turning.

For the business owner you should expect your DMS to allow you to control every aspect of this partner experience, deciding exactly what documents should be available to each user and what levels of privilege they have to edit and approve. It will allow you to see ‘at a glance’ the status of every project you are responsible for.

With a graphical representation of each project, responsibilities and requirements of each team/individual are outlined and everyone is clear on what is expected and when. Deadlines and notification capabilities should enable managers to assign tasks and streamline workflows, so there is no more waiting around for multiple collaborators to come back and approve the same document before progressing to the next stage.

Collaboration with Control

Businesses need their DMS to be responsive to the increasingly complex demands of modern business practice. As third party contractors are bought in to work on specific projects, often at short notice, you should be able to set up DMS access for them quickly and easily.

A good DMS will have just this kind of ‘limited access’ functionality, giving external collaborators shorter term, curtailed access to add and update content. These users should be able to search for and view only documents and categories that are relevant and appropriate to them. But their user experience has to be good, too. For them to make the most efficient use of their time, it should be easy for third parties to log in, navigate and contribute to documents.

Utilise private workspaces

Your DMS should also offer opportunities for smaller groups of users to collaborate on specific projects together, sharing resources and documentation as required. Private workspaces are separate spaces within a DMS that can only be seen by those granted membership to them. They offer hierarchies of access, ensuring individuals and sub groups can make contributions to projects, while all the time being kept separate from sensitive or secure materials.

Features such as these reflect the collaborative way we work today, but also the way such collaboration can be monitored and controlled to be secure and effective.

High-tech companies who invest in tools like these improve their chances of avoiding risk and achieving competitive advantage. The right DMS will help businesses achieve more parallel workflows and create teams that can work in alignment internally and externally wherever they are in the world. Duplication of tasks can be avoided, silos removed, and the development cycle, ultimately shortened.

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Tags: external collaborators, document management system