How I chose EDMS - what vendors are silent about

    Recently, good friends asked me to help them choose a workflow system with the words "well, you are doing this kind of automation."

    I agreed, although I’m working in a slightly different direction and before I did not come up against EDMS. What I found in the process of studying and comparing different solutions is so interesting to me that I even decided on a small investigation and now share the results.

    I found that the market for workflow systems has developed an extremely strange situation. It seems that the manufacturers seemed to have conspired with each other and decided to hide their information about their products with all their might. It even seemed to me that they were afraid, lest I see something superfluous.

    It turns out that I, like other buyers, try to find out about the product’s functionality, study and try it before buying, and the developer does everything so that nothing works out for me, but he generously and many-letter talks about achieving business goals, advantages, economic effect and other abstractions, avoiding showing the “product face”.

    At first glance, strange behavior. But quite understandable, if you dig deeper.

    This is what we will do now. Digging to the full depth and see why this happens and how in such circumstances, the buyer behaves in order to see what is hidden.

    Deceived expectations


    Let's move away from the topic of electronic document management for a second so as not to offend anyone. I just suggest you look carefully at the two pictures.



    This Salesforce is one of the most serious and reputable CRM systems. On their website you need to go through the registration procedure, including specifying the company name, number of employees and your phone, just to watch a video about the system. Without this, you will not see a clear description of the functionality or screenshots that would help make an impression of the product.


    And this is Bitrix24 . They just need to enter their Email address and after a few seconds you can already start working in the system, and after 15-20 minutes you will in practice get a general idea of ​​the possibilities of the proposed solution.

    Feel the difference? Who is more open to the public? Who is more likely to "hook" a client?

    So, the situation on the Russian market of electronic document management systems more and more resembles the first picture. Why? Because the seller (who makes the site) and the buyer (who comes to the site) have different goals.

    The seller’s position is “Tell me about your problems, and I will show how my product solves them .

    To which the buyer replies - "Better you just show the goods, but I myself will figure out what suits me and what does not . "

    Only in a saturated market does the buyer not really seek dialogue, so it turns out that the client comes to the site with the goal of “trying on a suit,” and the vendor nails up the windows with boards, and agrees to show at least something only when the door is behind the visitor is reliable will close.

    However, such paradoxical behavior has a simple explanation - this is how it happened historically.

    Background


    Let's mentally go back around the early 2000s and imagine that you decided to bring a little automation to your business. For example, organize electronic approval of contracts or automate some applications.

    To do this, you would no doubt have to undertake the implementation of a serious and large-scale IT project for at least 6-12 months and several million rubles (in today's money). For the most part, this project would consist of surveys, compilation of technical specifications, business process modeling, modification, adaptation, configuration, configuration and implementation of software.

    Now it’s enough to drive a few words into Google and there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of sites offering ready-made solutions for automating almost any process.

    In other words, before the functional, nobody was particularly interested, because the market was dominated by heavy platform products, in which there was nothing interesting for end users. Before you touch something - you should work for several months.

    Now the time has come for universal, flexible, multifunctional and affordable solutions. And here the buyer can already make a choice, relying solely on the functionality of the product.

    A few years ago, neither the heads of enterprises, nor their employees were able to maintain a dialogue on the implementation of the same electronic document management. It was not uncommon for top managers who did not use a computer at all, and worked only with paper documents.

    Previously, it didn't make sense for vendors to focus on product features, because no one but IT specialists could understand this, much less comprehend it. Customers themselves were more willing to deal with such things as brand awareness, the presence of famous customers, etc.

    But in recent years, everything has changed. But the modern client is a completely different person. Today, the middle manager (for example, the head of the general department) may well discuss the issue of synchronizing 1C directories with the implemented system.

    The modern client is technically more literate and takes an active position - he wants and can independently study the product and draw his own conclusions based on his own experience.

    Look at any market dominated by young companies and you will see it. See the desire of sellers to show and talk about their product as much as possible. Give a try before you buy.

    It has not yet reached the suppliers of EDMS. They still think their buyer is the same as they were 10 years ago. They still believe that they are selling not a product, but their longstanding reputation. They still prefer to show reviews rather than the system itself.

    What to do? How do we choose the right solution if the vendors do not want to meet us at all? It is necessary to collect information bit by bit and read between the lines.

    We’ll try it right now.

    Selection process


    Let's move on to the main thing. Let's look at the process of choosing an EDMS and note what information we need and how easily it can be found on the sites of leading Russian suppliers.

    Step 1. Exploring Feature Lists


    Like any potential client, I come to the site with some understanding of my problems and how to solve them. I can roughly imagine what functionality I need, so the starting point for me will be a list of the system’s functionality. At this stage, I am not interested in the details - it is important for me whether the system basically has the necessary functions. Often, the answer to this question will depend on whether I continue to study this site or go to the next.

    Пример: Организация ведет интенсивную официальную переписку со своими обособленными подразделениями и другими организациями. Поэтому для меня критична функция регистрации входящих писем от контрагентов и государственных органов.

    You should start with such sections as “Description of the solution”, “Tasks to be solved”, “Opportunities”, etc. Try to find a list of specific system capabilities or tasks to be solved. Pay attention to the level of detail, many vendors prefer general wording such as “clean up the contract” or focus on architecture, technology, support for different DBMSs, etc.

    If you can’t find anything more detailed, this is a signal that the vendor is trying give out your decision for what it is not or hopes to tailor the system to your requirements already during the project.

    Good example:

    THESIS. In the "Functionality" section there is a simple and understandable list of basic features, broken down into functional blocks. Allows you to immediately get an idea of ​​the system.

    Bad example:

    DocsVision. Information about the functionality is dispersed along the descriptions of the platform, modules, business solutions and third-party improvements. Understanding such a large amount of data is not easy.

    Step 2. Looking for relevant use cases


    Suppose I found a functional that interests me. Now you need to understand how exactly this is implemented. I have few promises in the style of “the ability to coordinate documents” - it is important for me how the necessary operations will be performed within this opportunity.

    Пример: Продолжая тему регистрации входящих, мне важно понимать, на каких стадиях обработки есть возможность приложения скан-копий, как обрабатывается невскрытая корреспонденция, как регистрируется получение ответа на исходящее и пр.

    To do this, you should look for a special section devoted to a specific function or module, or additional materials. Often on the websites you can find thematic presentations devoted to specific processes, for example, “Coordination of an agreement in system X”, “Office automation” and the like. It’s important to find materials that demonstrate solutions to problems that are most similar to yours.

    Despite the obvious need for examples of use, very few vendors decide to publish them. This can be partially explained by the reluctance of platform solution providers to fit into the framework of specific scenarios. However, in my opinion, even in this case it is quite possible to show a typical solution, describing the possibilities of its adaptation.

    Good example:

    Verdox . The “Virtual Tour” section presents a lot of specific cases, each of which is a small demonstration of the corresponding process with pictures and a detailed description.

    Bad example:

    MOTIV . Instead of describing the features and functions - an article about the need and relevance of workflow. Even in the examples, the problems are described in detail, but it is not clear what solutions are proposed.

    Step 3. Consider screenshots


    Like it or not, and often a good screenshot can say a lot about the system. For me, studying screenshots is a must-have step. And I am not an exception - modern buyers often have enough experience to make certain conclusions even on the basis of a screenshot.

    In addition, the screenshot is a kind of proof of what is written on the site - the truth. It is one thing to write something in the list of functions, and quite another to show the corresponding screen.

    Пример: В списке возможностей Системы значится возможность вынесения резолюции по документу. При этом на скриншоте видно, что резолюции выносятся путём выбора готовых вариантов, а не произвольно, при этом можно прикладывать файлы. Таким образом, скриншот доносит гораздо больше информации, чем целый абзац текста.

    In most cases, you will not have problems in looking at screenshots. Even if they are not on the site, you will probably see them in presentation materials. Pay attention to the number and quality of pictures. A site with a lot of screenshots that you can review and comprehend is likely to show the truth.

    If there are few screenshots or details are not visible on them, then perhaps the development is not as good as they describe to you.

    Good example:

    Optima Workflow . Full-size screenshots are accompanied by a detailed description of what is depicted on them.

    Bad example:

    BOSS-Referent . There are no screenshots at all. All content is text. For me, it remains a mystery - what does this system look like. However, I managed to find one screenshot on the site, although it was so small that the details could not be disassembled.

    Step 4. Watch the videos


    It is time for an in-depth study of systems that have passed our preliminary selection. Videos are best suited for this - this is the easiest way to see the solution in action, while not particularly straining.

    No need to think that screenshots and videos are mutually exclusive. Screenshots make it possible to independently choose what to watch and in what order. But the video illustrates the operation of the system in much more detail.

    Пример: Вендор обещает, что регистрация нового документа будет простым и быстрым процессом. Тем не менее, на видео видно, что на самом деле для этого надо заполнить огромную карточку из 20 полей, которые находятся на разных вкладках. Причем в некоторых случаях совсем не понятно, какие значения надо указывать.

    Watching the video, you can put yourself in the user's place, see and evaluate things that cannot be detected in any other way.

    There are three types of video content on the sites - short overview videos, training videos and webinar recordings. The latter is not the best solution, often it may take more than one hour to view them. Unfortunately, few vendors post good videos. In this case, you can try to search for videos outside the official site. There is a chance that someone wrote it as part of a system review, presentation at a seminar, etc.

    A good example:

    Again THESIS . In the "Video" section, a sufficient number of videos are presented. The videos themselves are also very good - the optimal length, voiceover and a full-fledged demonstration of work.

    Bad example:

    DocLogix. In the first video, a woman tells how she liked the system, but does not show the system itself. On others there is a recording of the work in the system, but there are no comments, so it is completely unclear what is shown on the rollers. Such videos are only confusing.

    5. Demo version


    The final stage of selection is to test the system in conditions close to real. To do this, we need a demo or a free trial.

    Пример: Допустим, мне необходимо автоматизировать процесс работы с корреспонденцией, когда сотрудник А регистрирует документ, сотрудник Б выносит резолюцию, сотрудник В её исполняет, а сотрудник Г контролирует работу. Убедиться, что это возможно и понять насколько удобно можно только в демо-версии. Ни скриншоты, ни ролики не дадут такой возможности.

    And this is the rarest beast. Very few decide to provide a demo. In my opinion, the reason is simple - when working with a demo initiative is always on the client side. Therefore, all the flaws will be clearly visible. Therefore, usually they try not to give demos. Nevertheless, it’s good to see that some still get the courage and put the demo in the public domain, as has long been common practice with all Internet services.

    Good Example:

    Again Verdox. One of the few systems where the demo version is created realistically on the fly without installation, conversations with the manager and other things. Just fill out the form and wait a few minutes.

    Bad example:

    E1 Euphrates . There is no demo version in open access, but you can leave a request. The demo version itself will be given only after a thorough conversation with the manager (I was called back after 3 days). At the same time, there is no remote access - you need to install a server, DBMS, etc., which is impossible to do without an administrator.

    6. Price tag


    Well, the most interesting thing in the end. If the functionality and technical requirements suit me - it's time to look at the cost.

    The most important thing here is transparency in pricing, both for licenses and implementation services. Fortunately, almost everyone has passed the times when value was a trade secret. However, an unprepared user is not always able to figure out the price list.

    Good example: Optima Workflow

    again . A rare case when prices for software and services and for technical support are disclosed. All that is needed is to multiply the number of users by the cost of the license and add the single cost of standard solutions. Bad example: Directum



    . It seemed to me that this system has the most confusing price tag - server licenses, client licenses, each license has three different editions, licenses for additional modules, of which there are several dozen. You need to know the system very well to build this constructor yourself.

    Summary


    As a result, I bring to your attention a summary table with a list of some of the considered systems (in reality there were much more) and my subjective assessment for each item.

    And in order not to provoke holivar, I remind you once again that the sites of the vendors, and not the products themselves, were the object of study.

    TitleFeature ListExamples of usingScreenshotsVideosDemo versionPricing
    Verdox★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
    Optima workflow★★★★★★★★NOT★★★★★
    Docsvision★★★★★★★
    THESIS★★★NOT★★★★★NOT★★
    MOTIVNOT★★★★★★★★★
    1C-Workflow★★★★★★
    Directum★★★★★NOT
    A BUSINESS★★NOT★★★★★★
    Wss docsNOT★★NOT★★★
    E1 Euphrates★★NOTNOT★★★
    BOSS-Referent★★NOTNOTNOT★★NOT
    DoclogixNOTNOTNOT

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