March 2013


Guest Author J. Michael Leinback, AIA, is Senior Associate at  Randall Scott Architects, Dallas, Texas. 

Is it possible for a design firm to function in a paperless environment?  Absolutely.  We all deal with paperless technology whenever we open and view email attachments that are electronic images of what was once a p
aper version of a document.  However, a formal and consistent process used to file, locate, and retrieve that electronic document goes well beyond the "paperless" concept and forms the basis for a Document Management System or DMS.

Before tackling the idea of how to setup a document management system, there is first the question of how the firm intends to use it.  There are essentially two different goals in setting up and utilizing the DMS - one dynamic, the other static.  The dynamic side is essentially an active, ongoing use for the day-to-day management of current projects, while the static side is simply archive storage for the sole purpose of long-term records retention.  An ability to combine the functionality of both facets of document management into a single system provides an extremely valuable tool. 

It is important to recognize that effective document management involves much more than just purchasing a document scanner and a large hard drive and then creating a file naming system.  A bona fide DMS actually automates the naming and cataloging/filing by simply allowing the user to respond to a series of data fields using drop-down lists.  The system then files the document using a predefined path based on this data.  This path should be defined once and for all by the DMS administrator during initial DMS setup.  From the very beginning the system will, without user intervention, consistently file each document in the appropriate location and should affix a date and time to the document as well. 

Once filed into the system, every document instantly becomes available to the entire staff, or, to only a select few.  Most DMS applications provide multi-level security so as to restrict access based on the user's security settings which are defined by the DMS administrator during initial setup.  The ability to quickly locate a document that has been properly and consistently filed into the system yields tremendous paybacks in reduced man-hours.  

The question is often asked, "How do I get started?"  As with any new initiative, implementation of a Document Management System requires a solid and comprehensive plan before embarking on such an endeavor.  Firms looking at DMS cite the mountain of existing paper documents in their possession that MUST be scanned.  While it is true that a DMS handling archival storage is very beneficial in reducing paper storage space, this is not necessarily the best starting point.  There is generally much greater value in utilizing the dynamic side of DMS to manage, and perhaps to even create documents, for current projects.  In this regard, the most important ingredient is consistency of use.  Everyone within the firm should have access to the system and should contribute their own projects' documents to the central database.  No one should be allowed to "squirrel away" documents for his or her project outside the DMS.

Not only is the paperless concept feasible, but it truly results in an extremely functional and efficient office.  Every firm, regardless of size, should seriously consider implementing a formal Document Management System.

Michael Leinback has clearly outlined the benefits of a paperless A/E firm with an effective DMS.  He also recognizes the need and efficiency of a credentials management system that provides each licensed built environment professional with a monthly custom, current and accurate technology based credentials report.  In support of a complete DMS and professional credentials management visit www.AECredentialing.com

License Renewal Dates

Jurisdiction License Renewal Due Date - 03/2013


Engineers: Jurisdiction License Renewal Due Date - 03/2013

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License Renewal Due Date -


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