Many people in the world live and breathe document management and they may not even know it. The tools are built into their every day life and ideally make their jobs easier. Unfortunately, a majority of people in enterprises are sometimes leveraging tools that are not true document management solutions. A basic understanding of what true Enterprise Content Management solutions are will help you identify if you are using the right tools for the right job. This is the first in a series of blog posts to help our readers better understand the complex and powerful world of Enterprise Content Management. This post will cover basics of what a Document Management System is and how it can be useful for your organization.
What is a Document Management System?
A Document Management System (DMS), also referred to as a Content Management System (CMS) or Enterprise Content Management (ECM), is a system to electronically store documents. These systems allow users to easily manage, search and track their documents and images from their internet capable device. As electronic files became more and more popular, it made sense to manage documents in a more structured way. This structure has the benefits of creating help data about documents, allowing users to intelligently search for documents, track workflows and document approvals, and reduce multiple copies of a documents being distributed. Documents that live in an ECM system can be created electronically such as a Word document, or they can be paper documents that are scanned into the system.
Some people may even be using light, more collaborative focused pieces of an ECM system and not even know it. For example, if you use Sharepoint to store and version documents, you’re using a small piece of what ECM systems have to offer. We’ll have upcoming posts about why Sharepoint is not a good ECM solution. Additionally, if you store documents in Google Drive so you can access them from multiple devices, you are emulating what a good ECM solution provides – enabling users to access their content from anywhere and on any device.
Why do you need Document Management?
- Your email is a mess
- How often is a document referenced in a conversation and you spend too much time trying to find the specific email with that document attached? A Document Management System helps organize that by providing ways to search for that document based on what you already know about that document, commonly known as metadata. In a controlled document environment, email is never the preferred document repository because it represents a snapshot in time and not necessarily the currently approved content. As more companies institute stricter email retention rules, the ability for you to always rely on your inbox to find documents will begin to disappear.
- Your shared drive is a mess
- Similarly, are you tired of traversing through seemingly endless folders to find the document you need? Solutions like Google Drive are easy to use, but provide little to no governance around how folders and files should be named, structured and maintained. This can quickly become a graveyard of out-dated content and result in users moving to email to find the documents they want. Document Management Systems provide the structure that shared drives lack and have much more robust searching capabilities making it much easier to find the documents you require.
- You need to be notified of a document that is expiring
- If you are creating calendar invites to remind you that specific documents need to be updated in the future, you are asking for problems. Document Management Systems can notify you when your document is nearing its expiration date (or even more complex business rules) so that you can update it and not be left scrambling at the last minute. Additionally, this greatly reduces risk in controlled environments where expired documents must be avoided at all costs (for instance in nuclear and pharma space).
- Employees work remotely
- Today, users can (and expect to) work from anywhere. With a Document Management System, all of the documents a user needs can be available from anywhere, on any device. More importantly, users can be assured the proper version is available.
- Not all employees should be able to see everything
- Document Management Systems provide robust security to make sure that certain users can see only the documents they should be able to see. These access controls are typically highly configurable and can change based on a variety of criteria to meet any business need.
- Some documents need to get approved
- Document Management Systems provide powerful workflow tools to automatically send documents for supervisor approval (that require it). Complex workflows can be built into the system to reduce the amount of emails needed and to organize approval efforts. The approval of the documents can be tracked an audited in the future and if necessary, the documents can be quickly rejected.
Document Management is a critical component for modern organizations. A robust Document Management System will not only increase the efficiency of employees, but open the door for employees to access the correct content they need, no matter where they are. Our next post in the series will unpack why Enterprise File Sync & Share solutions are different than true Content Management solutions. For a more technical deep dive comparison into two content management systems TSG has worked with (Documentum and Alfresco) – download our whitepaper.