Document management is a term that has been around for a long time - since the 1980s. But what exactly is a document management system? In an age where we’re bombarded by terms such as enterprise content management (ECM), case management, knowledge management, and content services platforms (CSP), where does document management system software fit in, and how does it compare?
My intention with this post is to help explain what a document management system is (AND isn’t), share details of key features and benefits, explain why the document management industry is still alive and kicking, and how it has evolved to become a component of what is now commonly referred to as content services.
How do Document Management Systems Work?
A document management system (DMS) is the use of technology to manage electronic documents and electronic images of paper-based documents. Document management system capabilities are often described by three simple verbs: scan, store, retrieve.
- Scan: Functionality to scan paper documents and turn them either into images (such as TIFF or image-only PDFs) or into documents (typically PDFs).
- Store: The core capability to serve as a storage repository for documents, as well as to classify them, provide security and audit capabilities, and enable retention and deletion as required.
- Retrieve: A simple interface to provide search and retrieval capabilities.
Numerous organizations have used electronic document management systems successfully in a number of ways:
- As a replacement for paper-based filing cabinets.
- To create digital mailrooms.
- To enhance security and governance in how they’ve manage traditionally paper-based information.
- To enhance file sharing and collaborating on documents.
- And much more.
What are the Features of a Document Management System?
A typical document management system (DMS) provides core scan, store, and retrieve functionality, but beyond that, there are numerous other features that deliver operational benefit.
- Creation & Ingestion: Allows for the creation of documents within the system, or ingestion of images and documents via scanners, email, fax, etc.
- Document classification: Enables the categorization of documents using various user-defined metadata fields.
- Document searching: The ability to find documents that are stored within the system. Most document management systems provide multiple ways to search including folder browsing, full text search, and metadata searching.
- Document viewing: A means for users to view the contents of the document. Most systems provide built-in viewers for common file types such as PDFs and Microsoft Office files.
- Document check-in, check-out, and locking: Enables the simultaneous editing of a document so one person’s changes don’t overwrite another’s.
- Document editing: In conjunction with check-in and check-out, many document management software solutions allow inline editing of certain common file types, providing the user with a simple and seamless way to edit documents and create new versions.
- Version control: Ensures visibility into changes made on each and every version of a document, and how the current version differs from the versions that came before.
- Document sharing: The ability to share documents with other users, either internal system users or external users.
- Roll-back and version view: The ability to “rollback” to a prior version of a document in the case of an error or premature release, and the ability to view previous versions alongside the latest version.
- Security & Audit: Provides comprehensive access level controls on documents and detailed analysis into all actions relating to documents, users, and the system in general.
- Document workflows: Many document management systems provide simple workflow capabilities that help to automate document-centric processes.
How to Use a Document Management System?
Document management system software can be utilized by many different departments within an organization, and deliver a multitude of benefits. Below are some of the common areas in which a DMS can make a difference.
- Improved employee productivity via faster and easier information retrieval.
- Accelerated productivity and low cost of deployment and ownership, leading to rapid project ROI.
- Strengthened corporate information governance practices, reduced risk of information security breaches, and improvements in compliance and audit management.
- Improved personal productivity and corporate agility.
- Enhanced capability to extract value from existing electronic documents.
Why Do You Need to Think Beyond Basic DMS?
Document management has been delivering benefits for many years across numerous industries and application areas. But the functionality provided by document management systems now forms part of a larger suite of capabilities known as content services.
A modern Content Services Platform (CSP) can deliver all that a document management system software could, but with a multitude of added capabilities and benefits. From artificial intelligence (AI) classification of content, to automated workflows, and advanced content and process analytics - a Content Services Platform builds on the heritage of document management and brings the technology firmly in the cloud- and mobile-enabled workplace. So far from being a dated and irrelevant set of tools, document management has matured and grown into something much more powerful - content services.