Discover the Many Advantages of Document Management Systems
Businesses and organizations are drowning in documentation. Choose any type of company of any size and you’ll find mountains of documents. Contracts, invoices, request forms, training guides, policy statements, financial reports - the list is virtually endless.
Despite the move away from paper-based documents and toward digitization, managing documents is still a major concern. Companies still require an efficient file management system and reliable document storage solutions.
The answer to the problem of organizing vast amounts of digital files is to implement a document management system. Document management systems are software programs that are specifically designed to store, organize, manage, and track digital files, documents, and images.
Choosing the right way to manage all corporate files, images, and digital documents is crucial. In this article, we’ll look at what a document management system is and explain the key features and benefits of electronic document management systems.
What Is a Document Management System?
Document management systems are dedicated digital document storage software. Sometimes referred to as an electronic document management system (EDMS), document management software provides companies with a centralized and structured approach to handling information.
The basic aim of a digital document control system is to store corporate files in a secure and highly organized way. Users can then search and retrieve files quickly. Document management systems allow companies to track who has accessed a file, what time the file was accessed, and if any changes were made to it.
As well as digital files, document management systems can also be used to manage scanned physical documents using OCR technology. Documents can be stored off-site to enhance security and allow easier access for remote workers.
The size and scope of document management systems are always scaled to the size of the organization. A smaller company may use digital document storage in the form of a standalone file management system that serves a local need. Larger corporations will require more powerful digital document storage solutions that can cater to remote workers across the globe.
Implementing a document management system consolidates documents and information into a centralized repository. This makes it much easier for employees to access and contribute to the collective company knowledge base.
What is the Difference Between a Document Management System and a Content Management System?
The terms document management systems and content management systems are often used interchangeably. However, it’s important to realize there are significant distinctions between these two tools.
Document management systems are dedicated to the storage, organization, and management of digital files such as:
- Text files.
- PDF files.
- Word documents.
- Scanned documents.
- PowerPoint presentations.
Most of these files will be for internal use and may contain highly sensitive corporate data. The focus of a document management system is to enhance workflows, increase efficiency, and ensure compliance.
Content management systems have a much broader focus. Their function is to manage the text, images, videos, web pages, audio files, and other digital assets used for creating online content.
While a document management system works best with structured files, a content management system can manage both structured and unstructured data. A content management system will not have the advanced content-capturing capabilities of a document management system.
The choice between the two tools depends on the specific needs and priorities of an organization. A company may have its primary focus on document collaboration or may instead concentrate on managing a diverse range of digital content. In today’s business environment, it is common that both tools will be required.
What are the Key Features of a Document Management System?
Implementing an effective and reliable document management system is critical for any type of modern business. It is a way to create an effective digital workplace transformation. Generally, a document management system will incorporate traditional filing practices alongside a range of key features that are unique to an electronic document management system.
Secure Document Input and Storage
The most important feature of any file management system is that it can store documents securely. Digital document storage solutions store files either in a stand-alone on-premises server or on the Cloud. Files can be encrypted for added security and are usually only able to be accessed by authorized users via a web portal.
Documents can be input into a document management system via:
- Manual uploads.
- Bulk uploads.
- Mobile applications.
- Web services.
- Automated processes.
Efficient Document Search and Retrieval Capabilities
All files stored in a document storage system should be indexed and searchable. Users should be able to find the exact fields they need quickly via tags or other metadata or by search words such as the document’s name, date, topic, or author/s.
Once a file has been found, the users should be able to access it via an embedded viewer and editor that allows them to view the file and make changes to it. An embedded viewer means that users have the option of saving a document but can also view it online without downloading it. Document management software should allow users to drag and drop files between folders or from one application to another.
Security Features and User Access Control
Document management systems are often equipped with granular access controls to restrict document access based on user roles or permissions. Encryption and secure authentication mechanisms are used to protect sensitive information. Many digital document management systems also have file-locking capabilities that prevent users from making changes. File locking can also stop multiple users from making changes simultaneously, which prevents accidental data loss.
Document Tracking and Version Control
Document tracking provides visibility into the lifecycle of a document and allows organizations to monitor changes, access a document’s history, and ensure accountability.
Version control ensures users are working with the most up-to-date information. This is crucial for preventing errors caused by outdated versions.
Workflow Automation Capabilities
Workflow automation tools can route documents to specific audiences instantly, create records of documents, make updates to documents, and enable archiving. These types of automated processes vastly improve productivity.
Compliance and Audit Trail Capabilities
Audit trails improve compliance, accountability, and security. An audit trail will automatically log all changes made to documents, including user actions and edits. The audit trail will also record a detailed access history log. These tools assist in adherence to internal document-related policies as well as external regulations.
Backup and Disaster Recovery
System failures or unforeseen events can cause a disastrous loss of corporate data. A document management system should be equipped with robust backup and disaster recovery features. This feature should be applicable whether the system is stored on-premises or hosted in the Cloud.
What Are the Benefits of Using Document Management Systems?
Before the advent of digitalization, most businesses would have offices filled with filing cabinets. These cabinets themselves would be filled to the brim with all types of paperwork. Although companies have shifted towards a paperless digital working environment, the problem of document management is still with us.
Imagine that instead of keeping a row of neat filing cabinets with all the documents stored in an organized way, a company just dumped all its files into the middle of a room and shut the door. Finding anything important would take a huge amount of time and effort. Critical deadlines may be missed because employees can’t find important information. Files could easily go missing and sensitive corporate information leaked to competitors.
A company that doesn’t have a document management system in place is very likely to wind up with a chaotic collection of digital files. Without the right document management systems in place, a business can easily become mired in inefficiencies, face compliance issues, and have problems with document version control challenges. There are considerable security risks from not implementing digital document management systems.
Efficiency is improved by centralizing document storage. These tools provide employees with easy access to crucial information. Employees don’t need to waste time spent searching for information. Collaboration between departments can be streamlined with automated workflows and mistakes avoided with document version control.
The need for manual document handling is eliminated. Automated workflows mean that approval processes can be accelerated. Users are assured access to the most current and relevant information. Ultimately, document management systems significantly improve overall organizational productivity and result in major cost savings.
Document management systems also enhance security. They typically have robust security features that control access to sensitive documents. These security measures include user authentication, access permissions, and file encryption. Backup and disaster recovery tools protect companies against catastrophic data loss.
Better Compliance Adherence
Organizations can track and manage changes to documents in accordance with regulatory requirements. Document management systems enforce access controls, maintain detailed audit trails, and facilitate version control. In this way, organizational transparency and accountability are improved. Companies can consistently adhere to industry standards and compliance mandates.
How to Choose the Right Document Management System
There are thousands of document storage solutions available today. Finding the right one requires carefully comparing what is on offer to find a software package that matches your business ends, fits your budget, and can handle your workflows.
Choosing the wrong document management software could have a range of negative impacts on your business. Loss of data, a decrease in productivity, and even legal issues. Various factors need to be evaluated to make sure you choose the ideal file management system for your company.
Assess Your Business Needs
Do you operate your own company with only a handful of employees? Do you work for a multinational conglomerate with various interests throughout the globe? The size and scope of your business will dictate your document management needs.
Consider what documents the system will need to work with. Think about your collaboration requirements, workflow processes, and how the document management system will integrate you’re your existing IT systems. Does document management software comply with the relevant industry regulations and standards?
Think About Your Future Growth
Scalability is also a major consideration. You will require a document management system that can scale with the company's growth. The document management software will need to accommodate a changing volume of documents, the number of users, and the potential future expansion of the business.
Make an Evaluation of Potential Vendors
Research the reputation and reliability of any potential vendor. Consider factors such as the quality of the vendor’s customer support, if they provide ongoing updates, and the vendor's track record in delivering quality solutions. Pay attention to reviews from other users and industry websites.
Conduct a Thorough Cost-Benefit Analysis
Evaluate the upfront costs and long-term benefits of different document management systems. There will be various factors to take into consideration, such as short-term implementation costs and potential system downtimes versus increased productivity and reduced operational costs over the long term.
A Quick Comparison of the Top Document Management Systems
We’ve compiled a quick comparison of five of the most popular digital document management systems on the market right now:
- Microsoft SharePoint
Microsoft SharePoint is a web-based collaborative platform that functions as a document management system. It was released in 2001 and now has over 190 million users across the globe.
- User Interface: Microsoft SharePoint has a simple interface that makes it ideal for beginners. However, setting up Microsoft SharePoint can be complicated, and more in-depth use of the program – especially in conjunction with other apps – requires intensive training.
- Functionality: Exceptional collaboration features and enhanced ability to set user permissions. Able to integrate easily with Microsoft products and many other applications.
- Pricing: Microsoft SharePoint has three different price points ranging from $5 to $20 per month. It’s not the most economical choice, but users also benefit from data storage in the Microsoft Cloud.
- Customer Support: Good customer support from a reputable, well-known company.
- User Reviews: Rated 4 stars out of 5 stars by most users.
M-Files was released in January 2005 and bills itself as a ‘leading platform for knowledge work automation’. The company states they have hundreds of thousands of users in over 100 countries. M-Files was rated 9.4 out of 10 by Business.com in a recent review.
- User Interface: A simple, fast, and easy-to-use interface is one of the major selling points of M-Files.
- Functionality: M-Files features a range of automated features that organize and categorize files. The software drastically reduces the need for manual entry and so lowers the risk of human error.
- Pricing: M-Files has a customized pricing structure which some users find to be on the expensive side.
- Customer Support: Users report that M-Files has a dedicated, highly responsive customer support unit.
- User Reviews: Rated 4.5 stars out of 5 stars by most users.
Released as a cloud-based SaaS in 2012, DocuWare is often touted as being one of the best document management systems currently available.
- User Interface: DocuWare interface is relatively simple to master compared to competitors.
- Functionality: DocuWare’s main selling point is its scalability and its ability to be integrated easily with over 500 other applications.
- Pricing: DocuWare has a customized pricing system ranging from $300 to $1,500.
- Customer Support: users rate the DocuWare customer support services very highly.
- User Reviews: Rated 4.5 stars out of 5 stars by most users.
MediaValet describes itself as a cloud-based digital asset management system, however, many companies use the application as a document management system.
- User Interface: Many users consider MediaValet to be simple to use and easy to navigate.
- Functionality: High-level security features with SOC 2 compliance and data encryption. A main feature is its custom-branded libraries.
- Pricing: Many customers consider MediaValet to be one of the more expensive options on the market.
- Customer Support: MediaValet is well-regarded for exceptional customer support, including extensive onboarding support.
- User Reviews: MediaValet scores an average of 4.7 stars out of 5 stars by most users.
Dokkio is a collaborative AI-driven document management platform that enables users to create, share, and collaborate on documents in real time.
- User Interface: Although Dokkio can seem complicated, users report that its powerful AI features enable ease of use.
- Functionality: Dokkio is regarded as providing excellent cross-platform document management.
- Pricing: Dokkio has a free plan and a professional plan from $9.99 per user per month. Enterprise rates are available upon request.
- Customer Support: Most users appear to be satisfied with Dokkio’s level of customer support.
- User Reviews: Dokkio is rated an average of 4. stars out of 5 stars.
Document management systems are crucial for modern businesses. A document management system can enhance efficiency, improve cross-departmental collaboration, and ensure the security of sensitive corporate documents. They also help organizations design optimal workflow processes and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
If your company doesn’t have a dedicated digital document management system in place, it should. Take the time to research and explore the many document management systems available.