HR Departments considering new or replacement technology to help them create a paperless environment might be surprised by the variety of solutions available.  Small to medium-sized businesses can especially benefit from using some of the new technology available today. Cloud-based solutions allow a small department to operate like a much bigger one because the technology automates many of the administrative tasks that would take people longer to execute.

Selecting the solution that is the best fit for your company will depend on your requirements, but there are some emerging trends in records management that should be considered to reduce dependence on paper and maintain proper information governance.

Document Ingestion

There is a trend toward integrating intelligent capture tools into document management solutions which can automate the classification of documents or extraction of data.

Most organizations operate in a hybrid environment where paper and digital documents coexist.  This means there must be tools to automatically, or manually, upload digital documents without printing and scanning.  Paper documents that are converted to digital should also be easily ingested by the solution managing your documents.  Email, fax, upload and secure FTP (file transfer protocol) should be available to add documents to a system.

Secure Access

The solution managing your documents should allow users to control and grant access.  All users may not have the same access rights so there should be a method to control which documents a user can see.

An equally important feature can be to limit what a user can do with the document they are viewing.  Features such as printing, changing metadata or downloading should be restricted to control security and reduce the creation of paper from digital documents.  There should also be tools to temporarily share documents with people who are not users which will eliminate the need to print those documents.  Providing an external user with a secure link to a document or a group of documents is fairly common.  Secure data rooms can allow access to larger groups of documents by more than one person.

Digital Signatures

If you have to print a document to get it signed, then you have taken a step backwards in your efforts to go paperless.  Digital signatures are a component of some document management solutions; standalone e-signature solutions are also an option.

By implementing digital signatures, sign-off on documents occurs faster, and printing and shipping documents for signature is no longer required.  User authentication and time/date stamps are the foundation of an acceptable digital signature tool.


Documents should not be kept past the time identified in your company’s retention schedule unless a legal hold has been applied to some documents.  When selecting a solution to manage digital documents, make sure to ask how documents are deleted when they reach the end of their lifecycle.  Trigger events frequently start the clock on the retention of documents so tracking dates or document status may be needed.  For example, some documents in an employee file must be maintained seven years after the termination date.  If your document management solution does not manage the retention of documents, adhering to your retention schedule will be a challenge, and end up being quite costly.

Responsive Design

As smartphones and tablets become the preferred devices for many business professionals, mobile computing is a trend that is gaining momentum.  The design approach that allows applications to adjust based on the device being used is call responsive design.  This is typically only found in cloud solutions, but is rapidly becoming the standard for new solutions being developed.

The list of trends and features available in document management solutions is lengthy.  It’s important to focus on the needs of your organization and not get caught up in all the features available.  Ease of use and deployment should be a consideration when looking at any technology.  If a solution does not have an intuitive design user adoption can suffer along with efforts to go paperless.