Document management software, which falls within the larger category of content management systems (CMS), helps business users digitally upload, track, and archive documents while keeping them secure. Many document management systems include workflow tools to manage the life cycle of specific documents, such as articles or legal contracts.
According to the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), 75% of companies use more than one document management solution. This reflects both the scale of information companies today must oversee, and the diversity of available solutions.
To that end, we've created this buyers guide to help you better understand what this technology is and how it works so you can choose the best document management software for your organization.
Here's what we'll cover:
What is document management software?
Document management software provides organizations with the following functionality:
- A central, searchable repository for records.
- Paper documents can be digitally uploaded and filed, thus eliminating the need for the extra space (and cost) required with paper storage. In addition to improving organization and efficiency.
- Digital document storage minimizes the risk that records can be lost or damaged.
Organizations that frequently use and/or maintain records containing sensitive personal information, such as those in the medical or financial industries, may benefit especially from document control software. These solutions can help ensure industry-specific document compliance while providing the appropriate users with quick, reliable access to records.
Main dashboard screenshot in eFileCabinet
Document management software is also helpful for companies seeking a way to implement rules-based workflow processes, such the review and approval of documents prior to publication and/or release.
Common applications of document management software
Document management software is a broad category that covers many different applications. Many of these applications can be sold either as stand-alone products or combined together in a comprehensive integrated suite.
Screenshot of M-Files software showing document metadata
|Document capture and imaging
||Uses imaging technology to digitize printed documents. These applications are often integrated with document readers and search features.
||Assigns metadata (e.g., properties such as author and file format) to documents in a library or archive to make them searchable.
||Allows users to draft, edit, and distribute content via workflow tools and role-based permissions.
||Secures records by classifying and archiving sensitive data.
||Automates the documentation and management of cases, including approvals, role permissions, and other necessary steps.
||Facilitates the workflow for creating and revising specific types of contracts (e.g., mortgage contracts).
Common buyer scenarios
Buyers evaluate document management software for many different reasons, but most fall within one of the following common scenarios:
Digitizing company documents: Organizations looking to go paperless by digitizing paper records often seek a stand-alone document imaging application to help upload these records quickly, without having to manually scan them. Imaging applications are sometimes part of a larger integrated suite that offers additional tools for the tracking, storage, and retrieval of these digital records.
Securing sensitive records: Companies in certain industries are subject to government regulations that mandate how records are stored and accessed. These regulations often require organizations to keep both historical and current documents in a digital format, and to limit who can access them. These companies often seek document management applications that are designed to aid compliance, and include features such as audit trails and role-based permissions. Companies should also consider a virtual data room which offers more features and protections that standard document management systems lack.
Organizing file systems: Many companies have difficulty finding and accessing files. For example, documents may be stored across multiple locations, including network drives, individual desktops and web-based file sharing platforms, which in some cases may violate company policies. These buyers seek to unify document storage so employees can access documents both easily and securely.
Many larger organizations often seek Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions, which are more comprehensive systems that often include records and digital asset management applications, among others.
Seeking an industry-specific solution: Certain companies require solutions that are tailored to the specific document life cycles in their organization and include case or contract management tools. Document management software helps automate and track the unique workflow of these records to improve efficiency while ensuring no step is missed.
Market trends to understand
Web-based solutions become increasingly available: According to Gartner, while on-premise document management systems continue to dominate the market, web-based solutions (e.g., M-Files, Acquia, and Spring CM) can help supplement it. These solutions offer benefits such as remote access to documents, added security via cloud-based data backup, and the elimination of added technology and hardware costs.
Collaborative tools become more popular: An increasing number of document management solutions are beginning to incorporate tools that facilitate greater collaboration between users. These tools enable multiple employees to work on shared documents, share files, and communicate via social tools within the same platform, thus changing the way teams are able to work together with records.
Emergence of mobile document management solutions: A decade ago, it was unimaginable that companies could create and edit documents on mobile devices. Today, however, the widespread prevalence of smartphone and tablet technology has led many document management software vendors to offer mobile apps that allow users to access and edit content remotely.
Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.