10 October 2008

The curse of document management in SMEs

Managing documents in Small to Medium Enterprises has always been problematic.

In the old days filing cabinets would overflow with the things, customer quotes were scribbled on the back of napkins and then fax machines came along. Non-face to face collaboration strated to spread, but everybody bought two more filing cabinets for the multiple versions and copies that followed any negotiation or agreement.

Email came along and before long every Small business owner had an account with their local ISP and soon after that their workers did too. Before long it was easy to fire a document around the office and have several people be involved in either creating or reviewing it. Easy...but not efficient. Different versions got out of date. Version paths split when two people edited the same document and emailed it on to others. Shared drives helped a little, but remote access issues and single-editor restrictions saw most ignore that path. So email remained king for document collaboration.

Of course at the top end of town anybody with a spare $300k could just install a Document Management System and all their problems were solved (funnily enough many of these guys still email documents, but that's another story).

Wiki's help to overcome all these issues and allow a team to truly collaborate on document creation, distribution and management. If this sounds like a problem you would like to fix, check out Stewart Mader's excellent post and give it a try!

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