There are so many document management (a.k.a., electronic content management or ECM) software programs available to independent financial advisors that it's difficult to discern which ones fit your own practice. Having several choices might seem like a luxury, yet advisors might be confused by "one-size-fits-all" packages.
For simplicity, we can divide the software into three categories: simple, moderately sophisticated and full-featured. The simplest "out of the box" packages might attract one- or two-person firms. In the more advanced "moderate" category we could include software with features and benefits for small to midsize firms (say, one to ten employees). And full-featured, high-end packages are feature-rich and could appeal to larger financial practices or planners who like software they can customize and integrate with their other programs.
In the simplest category, we can start with PaperPort (www.nuance.com). The latest version, PaperPort 12 Professional, boasts a faster page-loading time (for PDF documents) with less of a memory requirement. The current version features a "scan now" button for one-click scanning. It has expanded search capabilities and better folder management features. However, this is still an "out of the box" solution with a limited ability to work with other programs (if at all). Still, PaperPort is a good product for what it is intended to do. It is not a full-featured document management solution, but at $199.99, it is affordable.
Microsoft Office offers document management as well. While the program is not as comprehensive as PaperPort, a user can still scan documents (in multiple pages); select and manipulate recognized text; annotate scanned documents and online faxes; and send documents via e-mail or fax. If you own Microsoft Office, you already own the document imaging feature.
Another choice among those products in the simple category is ReadIris Pro version 12 (www.irislink.com/readIris). At $129.99, this program is even more affordable than PaperPort and can handle many of the same jobs. Like PaperPort, ReadIris creates editable and searchable PDF files. The program features optical character recognition (OCR) and can recognize up to 120 different languages. Its makers also claim that it can compress documents to as much as 400 times smaller than the originals for document archiving.
In the "moderate" category, we have a host of different software products. Docsvault (www.docsvault.com) is a document scanning and storage product that offers easy access and collaboration with password protection. It has simple document (data) backup and file storage capabilities with one-click CD/DVD backups. The small business package costs $599.99 for five users.
Another product, DocStar (www.docstar.com), long a favorite with the insurance crowd, has broadened its electronic content management (ECM) to address needs in other industries, including financial planning. It's a product often sold by resellers and priced according to what packages they offer, which can include installation and technical support.
DocuShare (www.docushare.xerox.com), offered through Xerox, is a content management package tied to Xerox imaging equipment and offers a number of features that would be attractive to midsize companies.
Yet another product in this category is DocuXplorer (www.docuxplorer.com). One of the advantages of DocuXplorer touted by its makers is its indexing capability, which makes it easy for a user to file and later locate electronic documents.
While the solutions in the more moderately sophisticated category are good for document imaging, file retention, indexing and retrieval, for the most part they are not easily integrated with other products (the one possible exception being DocuXplorer). For example, an advisor would not necessarily be able to create indexed folders for client documents and then tie them to the firm's client relationship management software. For this, you may need to look at the full-featured category.