What is EDMS (Electronic Document Management System)?

This article serves as a complete guide to document management system definition, features and the importance of having a document management system in an organization.

Girl looking at document management

Document Management System Definition

An electronic document management system (EDMS) is a system or software used to capture, store, manage, and easily retrieve documents within an organization resulting in cost reduction and employees productivity improvement.

When personal computers found their ways to organizations, thousands of files were generated and managing them physically became very complex. To address this, companies started developing document management software to manage organizations’ electronic documents such as word files, spreadsheets, and PDF files with ultimate goal to achieve what used to be called “Paperless Office”.

EDMS kept on evolving over time to cater for more complex document related functionalities such as collaboration, security, automated approval workflows, automatic retention, powerful OCR, version control, & audit trails.

There is a big list of document management systems available in the market but choosing the best one for your organization can definitely have significant impact on how your organization operate.

When you are looking for a document management software, you should make sure that the below features are covered.

Check out my previous article to get to know the difference between EDMS & ECM Solution

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Document Management System Features

Document Management system features

Multiple Capture Methods

An electronic document management system provides the ability to transform paper based documents to digital by automatically capturing and extracting valuable information from structured documents through different channels such as

  • Automated, high volume scanning (Multi-function device, Mobile cameras).
  • Document Imaging (Tiff, JPEG, PDF, GIF).
  • Forms Processing.
  • Recognition using world class OCR (make sure the languages you need are supported).
  • Typed, Handwriting Recognition.
  • Bar Code.
  • Emails

Document Indexing & Classification

A document management software should be able to automatically classify captured documents & extract information from their content for easier retrieval later.

Classification is the process of automatically identifying the type of documents according to their content (invoice, letter, drawing, etc.)

Version Control

Among the top document management system features is version control. Without a good system to control organization’s documents lifecycle, employees can easily lose a document, work on an older version of the document, or can’t revert back to previous versions. Document management software will provide the ability to

  • Create multiple versions of a document.
  • Lock the document when being editing to prevent overriding changes.
  • Keep history of what was changed and by whom.
  • Make sure that employees are always working on the latest version.
  • Ability to rollback to previous versions in case needed.
  • Support the concept of minor and major document versioning (some document management software don’t support this functionality).

Fast Documents Retrieval

Do you know that professionals spend 50% of their time searching for documents. That could be a thing in the past if your organization adopts one of the top document management software which should cater for the following

  • Easily locate documents based on metadata.
  • Easily locate documents based its original content (Full Text Search). Important note: for the full text search to work, you need the attachment to be OCRed. Make sure that the document management software has powerful OCRing capabilities and supports your languages.
  • Documents residing in your EDMS digital repository can be retrieved any time anywhere; from within your organization (your laptop) or while on the move (mobile).
  • Ability to save search queries for easier and direct access later. A typical electronic document management system will allow you to refine the search criteria whenever needed.
  • Ability to mark documents as favorites for faster access through your electronic document management system.
  • Direct view to latest document accessed.

Audit Trail

The importance of document management is the ability to control documents throughout their lifecycle and one of the most critical step is the ability to view the complete history or log of any activity being performed on a document. In this way, you can get to know in few seconds who viewed the document, made changes, downloaded the attachment, shared with whom, etc.

Batch Documents Creation & Update

When dealing with big volume of information, you will find yourself in need to import a lot of documents to your document management software or update metadata to a set of documents and of course doing this operation in single mode is time consuming & productivity killing operation that is why you have to make sure that the document management software provides:

  • The ability to import a set of documents to your edms using Excel where you can define your metadata and location of the attachments in one shot.
  • The ability to watch a specific directory in your network drives to automatically collect documents from.
  • The ability to update metadata for a set of documents using Excel and import the excel back into the document management software.

Fast & Improved Collaboration

Digital document collaboration is a must in any organization specially during and after the COVID19 pandemic where employees are required to work from home. Among the top document management system features is the ability for employees to share documents (internally & externally) and handling advanced collaboration functionalities as detailed below

  • Share: The ability to share a document easily with different stakeholders such as other employees, vendors, sub contractors, clients, etc.
  • Comments: The ability to add simple comments on a document, tagging other users, and receive notifications.
  • Real time collaboration & annotation: The ability to collaborate on a document in real time, add text, images, stamps, and digital signature. Some electronic document management software vendors have integrating the top annotation tools available in the market to provide a complete annotation & collaboration experience supporting most of the well known file types.

Automated Workflows

All organizations today are document-heavy and automating document related processes such as approvals, request for information, will certainly improve day to day operations resulting in cost reduction, customer satisfaction, and increased employees’ productivity.

Using a document management software will help you automate the approval cycle of different activities such as leave requests, purchase orders, insurances & claims, invoices, etc.

Flexible & Robust Security

The electronic document management system – EDMS should include a robust yet flexible security model allowing to define access to documents across users, groups and role levels. Role based security access reduces the risk of information falling into the wrong hands. For more sensitive data, the edms should support data and files encryption so that even system administrators can’t access them. Look for document management software vendors that treat this subject seriously and keep on patching their edms software to block intruders or any kind of data breach. Below are some of the most important security features to look for:

  • Ability to create groups and add users to them.
  • Ability to set on the hierarchy level (folder) which group can see the documents located under this hierarchy object.
  • Ability to set on a document template (class or type) which group or user can create documents, comments, annotations, share, etc.
  • Ability to set on a document template (class or type) which group or user can download the attachment (the document management software should support watermarking).
  • Ability to set which group or user can create new versions or supersede old versions.
  • Ability to have a security report where it shows a high level view on document types vs groups or users. This can be very essential if you want to give certain group the same security as another group. In large edms implementation, controlling the security rights will become challenging.
  • Security on metadata level: that means some users can see sensitive information added as metadata on the documents and others don’t.

Note: It is always recommended to configure document security access based on groups and not users.

Powerful Administration Tool

The document management software should have a powerful administration tool that will allow you to have full control over your implementation. The most important capabilities in a good edms system is listed below.

  • Add/Remove/Lock users into the system and define their roles (administrators, members, read-only, etc.).
  • Import users from your active directory.
  • Create groups & managing their members.
  • Define document types (class), and their metadata.
  • Create workflows visually in order to automate document related processes.
  • Manage the hierarchy where documents will be logically saved. This will allow you to organize your organization documents and control their access easily in the document management software.

Integration with MS Office And Office365

Email is still by far the most used medium to share documents and communicate between team members. For that it is very important to have the ability to directly import documents from Outlook, word, excel to your EDMS. An electronic document management system – EDMS should provide addons to MS Office where users can directly save their documents into the edms in few clicks.

Mobile Support

Do you know that most knowledge workers find it extremely challenging to find documents while on the move? Make sure that the electronic document management system – EDMS have a mobile application that will allow your employees to have access to organization information whenever they are.

Integration With Different Systems

Think about how many applications you use in your day to day work related activities, be it MS Office including office365, outlook, HR, CRM, ERP, etc. The document management software should be able to integrate with most of these line of business solutions in order to facilitate the reachability of information.

When you are evaluating an electronic document management system – EDMS, be prepared and have a list of your most used and critical applications and ask about the feasibility of having these applications integrated with their solution.

Backup & Data Recovery

A good electronic document management system will make sure that organizations never lose their data anymore. A scheduled backup should be available to restore the data in case of emergencies. Remember Information are the most valuable asset of each organization.


Having a big list of document management systems available in the market will give you the ability to choose the most suitable one for your organization (feature & cost wise).

There are different types of document management systems

  • Free document management system or document management system open source: these systems give you most of the functionalities that you are searching for but maintaining & supporting them requires a lot of technical skills from your employees
  • Paid electronic document management system: Different edms vendors support multiple licensing schema. Make sure that you choose the one that fits your organization the most

Deployment Model

Different types of document management systems support multiple deployment model whether it is on cloud, hybrid, or on premise document management system. Consider the following before deciding

  • If your management vision or goal is to move to the cloud and you have the proper infrastructure (internet bandwidth), Cloud deployment should be your preferred choice as it removes all the burdens from your IT support to maintain, upgrade, support, and backup the edms system.
  • If cloud is not an option, you should consider hybrid or on premise document management system deployment.


When you start the implementation of a new electronic document management system – EDMS, typically you should have a success story in one department then start moving both horizontally and vertically across different departments and offices. That’s where you should make sure that your EDMS system can handle the increase both in usage and data without any business disruption.

Benefits of Document Management Systems

The benefits of document management systems will help organization become more agile and cost effective that is why The global document management system market is expected to reach USD 10. 17 billion by 2025.

Increased Productivity

As per Gartner, knowledge workers spend 50% of their time searching for information and that takes on average 18 minutes to locate each document. On average, companies achieve an increase of 18% in productivity from utilizing an electronic document management system (EDMS).

Data entry on Laptop

Minimize Risks

Managing your organizations’ documents using a secure electronic document management software will help you minimize data breach, prevent document loss, and make sure that only authorized personnel will be able to view their related documents.

Reduce Storage and Operational Costs

Each year, the amount of generated information is increasing in high speed pace. Using an electronic document management system – EDMS, organizations will be able to reduce the amount of papers and physical storage required which will have direct impact on filing time and associated costs.

Improved Regulatory Compliance

Compliance requirements for certain types of documents is mandatory and failing to adhere to different regulatory regulations can cost your organization fines and in some cases legal actions. An electronic document management system – EDMS will help your organization reduce the risk of non-compliance to different regulatory requirements such as HIPPA, GDPR by automating records retention.


As we saw in this article, there are a lot of advantages of document management systems. In the digital transformation era, it has became a must to transform from paper based documents to digital using a document management software.


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