What Is A Document Management System

Written by Matthew Dudek

A document management system (DMS) is a computer system used to store, manage, track and secure electronic documents and electronic images of physical media that hold documents, captured through the use of a scanner or a digital camera. Key features of a document management system include but are not limited to check-out and check-in of documents with document locking, version control, granular user access and document security, audit trail, annotation and stamps, document page level manipulation, and data redundancy. More advanced systems include integration with other content management systems (CMS) or database systems, both for capture and for retrieval, and integrated workflow that follows or controls the implemented company’s Business Process (BPM).

Many have said, “We already scan documents into Windows folders and the Windows file system, and we use the Windows Search to find what we need.” Granted, and that is fine if file storage is all you are looking for. However, in light of government regulations and business policies, that system is not sufficient to make your business documents as secure and trustworthy as you would like (or need) them to be.

One area where a true document management system will be an asset to your business is in knowing at all times where your documents are, who has them, and what has been done with them. Hence the need for tight granular security and a detailed audit trail that records every action taken on each document and by whom. Another feature is that you will be able to guarantee the integrity of the documents in the system by knowing that nothing in each document has been modified since it was originally captured into the system. By “sealing” the document, there will be no question that this electronic representation of the document is as legally binding as the original and it will hold up in a court of law.

Also, a document management system is optimized to efficiently handle the workload of document data going into and out of the system by many users who are manipulating documents, adding and removing pages, moving documents from one department to another, and indexing the documents for instantaneous retrieval- which brings me to my next point: A document management system has a very powerful and consistent index and search mechanism that allows documents to be found by many different methods, and carefully organized for easy recall by whoever needs the documents, whether users are the ones who originally filed the documents or not.

Finally, a document management system handles the backup of document data and the redundancy required to fulfill continuity-of-business requirements in case of a catastrophic event, allowing you to get access to all of your documents in very short order so that your business can continue without interruption.

My next post will address the two huge potential advantages of a DMS I’ve alluded to above that the Windows files system could never support- Engineered workflows that automatically move documents through the business process, and the ability to tightly integrate with other software and systems to “Image Enable” any database system currently in use by the corporation