What Is An Electronic Document Management System?

A document management system (DMS), is an electronic, computerised software solution designed to track, manage and speed up access to digital copies of the organisation’s documents while at the same time reducing paper consumption.  One of the main goals of this solution is to streamline user access to stored documents, thereby saving the organisation time and money.

The document management system handles tedious tasks such as archiving, distribution, and the creation of digital documents, electronic forms, faxes, email and rich media. A good example of a well-managed (DMS) can be found in the online banking section of a bank’s website that allows users to manage and access their monthly banking statements.

Introduction

The influence of technology on modern business is significant, and one of the biggest effects revolves around the demise of the paper-based document. Paper has become expensive, is far from secure and has little space in the future of business. The big challenge for business is knowing when and how to transition from paper to a digital document management solution.

Document management is often viewed as the precursor technology to the popular content management solutions. Furthermore, it is often sold as a stand-alone solution in the same way that workflow, archiving and imaging solutions are sold. Basic functionality that is commonly available includes the ability to impose controls and management capabilities to otherwise “dumb” documents.

Document Management System Features

Not all document management systems are created equal. For example, there is the stand-alone solution designed to assist users to manage files and documents. Similarly, you have the more robust enterprise-class document management solution that offers a broad range of features. It is important to investigate the set of features that each product offers and tick them off against your business requirements. Also, consult a qualified provider at the beginning of your investigation to ensure that the selected tool addresses all your business needs.

Some of the key features that are commonly available include the following:

  • Check-in/check-out and locking, to coordinate the simultaneous editing of a document so one person’s changes don’t overwrite another users changes.
  • Version control, so that a history is maintained of all changes, and how it differs from the versions that came before it.
  • Roll-back, to “activate” a prior version in case of an error or premature release of a new version.
  • Audit trail, to permit the reconstruction of who did what to a document during the course of its life in the system.
  • Robust search features that facilitate the location of stored documents by name or locate similar information stored in a group of documents.
  • Support for major universal document formats.

Document Management Business Benefits

The main reason an organisation invests in a (DMS) is not for the features it offers, but rather for the strategic advantages and business benefits the solution provides. Let’s take a look at the business benefits available in a typical enterprise offering.

Benefits you need to look for include:

  • Seamless integration
    It has become important to integrate with common business solutions such as CRM, ERP and accounting, while at the same time providing a scalable framework for functional expansion.
  • Provide Security
    Provide the required security by controlling down to the document and process level by enforcing corporate policies and procedures.
  • Reduce Costs
    Reduce costs by eliminating unnecessary manual processes and time-consuming searches for paper, documents and files. True business value is realised when data entry is eliminated and advanced recognition technologies are used instead. These technologies include automated document sorting, OCR, ICR and barcode recognition.
  • Increase Productivity
    Sharing online documents and files concurrently between your users and across departments is faster than the older serial process where physical files move from desk to desk and department to department.
  • Information Sharing and Collaboration
    Information sharing provides a stable platform while simultaneously improving the flow of data between employees, customers, suppliers and partners with the aim to facilitate the sharing of data. Additionally, streamline real-time project-based collaboration between employees and their partner teams.

Conclusion

Organisations have started to move away from the traditional paper document process and taking steps towards a digital document storage strategy. Document Management has and will always be key to any business operation, and the “digital age” has heralded in a cost saving way to store all business-critical paper-based documentation. Features and benefits that are commonly included in a well-designed DMS have the potential to positively impact the running cost of every department of the organisation. Ignoring these benefits, in today’s competitive business climate is not advisable.

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