What is Document Management System? The Complete Guide

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This article serves as a complete guide to document management system definition, features, and capabilities.

Document Management System Definition

Document management system is a system or software used to capture, store, manage, and easily retrieve data within an organization. Normally this will result in cost reduction and employee productivity improvement.

When personal computers found their way 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 files such as word files, spreadsheets, and PDF files with an ultimate goal to achieve what used to be called “Paperless Office”.

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

There is a big list of top DMS software available in the market but choosing the best one for your organization can have a significant impact on how your organization operates.

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

Document Management System Features

Document Management system features

Multiple Capture Methods

The system can convert paper-based documents to digital format and store them in document repositories. It also allows for the automated capture and extraction of useful information through various channels such as

  • Automated, high-volume scanning (Multi-function device, Mobile cameras).
  • 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 paperless EDMS software should be able to automatically classify captured documents & extract information from their content for easier retrieval.

Document classification is the process of automatically identifying the type of information according to their content (invoice, letter, drawing, etc.)

Check out how these solutions have modules for intelligent document processing.

What is Intelligent Document Processing? The Complete Guide (theecmconsultant.com)

Document Version Control System

Among the top features is document version control. Without a good system, employees can lose information or work on an older version of the file. Enterprise document management solutions will provide the ability to

  • Make many versions of a controlled document.
  • When editing, lock the appropriate data to avoid overriding changes.
  • Keep a record of what was done and who made the changes.
  • Ensure that employees are still running on the most up-to-date version.
  • The ability to revert to previous versions if required.
  • For a controlled document, support the principle of minor and major versioning.

Fast Documents Retrieval

Do you know that professionals spend 50% of their time searching for info? That might be a thing of the past if businesses use one of the best DMS.

  • Locate information quickly in the EDMS database based on metadata or content (Full-Text Search)
  • Information stored in your EDMS database can be accessed at any time, either inside your company (via your laptop) or when on the go (mobile).
  • The ability to save search requests for later, quicker, and more direct access. Allows for the refinement of search parameters if desired.
  • Documents may be marked as favorites for easier entry.
  • View the most recently used controlled document.

Document Management System Audit Trail

The ability to manage DMS documents during their lifecycle is critical. Viewing the entire history of all operations being done is one of the most important moves. This will allow you to see who read the DMS document, made improvements, downloaded the attachment, and so on.

Batch Documents Creation & Update

When working with large amounts of information, you would need to upload large amounts of data or update properties in batches inside the EDMS database, and performing this process in a single mode is time-consuming and productivity-killing, which is why you must ensure that the paperless edms software provides:

  • Import data into Excel, where you can define the data and attachment location all at once.
  • To automatically gather information, keep an eye on a certain directory of your network drives.
  • Use Excel to update the data for a collection of files, then import the spreadsheet back into the system.

Fast & Improved Collaboration

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

  • Share: The ability to share information easily with different stakeholders such as other employees, vendors, subcontractors, and clients.
  • Comments: The ability to add simple comments, tagging other users, and receive notifications.
  • Real-time collaboration & annotation: The ability to collaborate in real-time, add text, images, stamps, and digital signature. Some vendors have integrated the top annotation tools to provide a complete annotation & collaboration experience supporting most well-known file types.

Automated EDMS Workflows

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

An EDMS workflow will help automate the approval cycle of different activities i.e. leave requests, purchase orders, and invoices.

Flexible & Robust Security

A paperless EDMS can have a strong authentication architecture that allows you to handle access through individuals, classes, and functions. The use of role-based security access eliminates the possibility of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands. The EDMS should promote data and file protection with more confidential data such that even system administrators cannot access it.

Look for providers who take this issue seriously and continue to have updates to prevent intruders or data breaches. Some of the most relevant security features to watch for are as follows:

  • Create groups and add users to them.
  • Ability to set security permissions on the hierarchy level (folder)
  • Set on a template (class or type) which group or user can create DMS document, comments, annotations, and share.
  • Ability to set security permissions on a template.
  • Specify 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 class types vs groups or users. This can be very essential if you want to give a certain group the same security as another group. In large EDMS implementation, controlling the security rights will become challenging.
  • Security on metadata level: Ability to set which group can see what.

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

Powerful Administration Tool in Document Management System

The system should have a powerful administration tool that will allow you to have full administration over your implementation. The most important capabilities in a paperless EDMS system is listed below.

  • Add/Remove/Lock users into the system and define their roles (administrators, members, read-only).
  • Import users from your active directory.
  • Create groups & managing their members.
  • Define class types and their properties.
  • Create EDMS workflow visually to automate processes.
  • Organize information based on their storage type. That will allow you to organize your organization’s documents and manage access.

Integration with MS Office And Office365

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

Mobile Support

Do you know that most knowledge workers find it extremely challenging to find information while on the move? Make sure that the DMS has a mobile application that will allow your employees to have access to organization information whenever they are.

Integrating the Document Management System 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 enterprise document management software should be able to integrate with most of these line of business solutions to facilitate the reachability of information.

When you are in the evaluation process, 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 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 is the most valuable asset of each organization.


Having a large range of document management systems available on the market would enable you to choose the best one for your company (feature & cost wise).

There are different types

  • Free or open-source: These programs have the majority of the functionalities you need, but running and supporting them necessitates a high level of technological expertise on the part of your employees.
  • Paid: Different vendors endorse a variety of licensing schemes. Be sure to choose the one that is best suited to your company.

Document Management System Deployment Model

Different types of document management software support multiple deployment model whether it is on cloud, hybrid, or on premise. 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.
  • If the cloud is not an option, you should consider a hybrid or on-premise deployment.


When you start the implementation phase, you should have a success story in one department then start moving both horizontally and vertically across different departments.

That’s where you should make sure that the software can handle the increase in both usage and data without any business disruption.

Document Management System Benefits

The benefits would assist companies in being more agile and cost-effective. As a result, the global enterprise document management software industry is estimated to be worth USD 10.17 billion by 2025.

Let’s have a look at what are the main document management system advantages:

Increased Productivity

According to Gartner, knowledge employees spend 50% of their time looking for information, and it takes an average of 18 minutes to find each piece of information. Using a top DMS results in an 18% rise in output on average.

Photo by Andreas Klassen on Unsplash

Minimize Risks

Managing your organizations’ info will help you minimize data breach, prevent loss, and version related problems.

Check out this in depth article covering document security.

Boost Your DOCUMENT SECURITY With These Tips (theecmconsultant.com)

Reduce Storage and Operational Costs

Each year, the amount of generated information is increasing at a high-speed pace. Using a DMS software, organizations will be able to reduce the number of papers and physical storage. As a result costs related to filing time and storage will be decreased.

Improved Regulatory Compliance using A Document Management System

Compliance requirements for certain types of info are mandatory. Failing to adhere to different regulatory regulations can cost your organization fines and in some cases legal actions. Top DMS solutions will help your organization reduce the risk of non-compliance to different regulatory requirements i.e. HIPPA, GDPR by automating records retention.

TOP DMS Available

If you conduct an online search, you will come across several posts that address the top DMS on the market. Although this should give you an indication of what the competition has to deliver, it should not be the primary deciding factor.

In conclusion, there is no such thing as a “TOP DMS in general.” Each organization has varying business needs, budgets, and standards, which are all essential considerations to consider when making a decision.


There are a lot of advantages of having paperless EDMS software. As a result, It has become a must for all organizations to adopt digital technologies for agility and effectiveness.

What is document management system?

Document management system is a system or software used to capture, store, manage, and easily retrieve info within an organization resulting in cost reduction and employees productivity improvement.

What are the features of a document management system?

The most important features are indexing & classification, version control, fast info retrieval, audit trail, fast & improved collaboration, automated workflows, flexible yet robust security, powerful administration tool, mobile support.

Document Management System Benefits

The best EDMS software will help organizations increase productivity, minimize risks, reduce storage & operational costs, and improve regulatory compliance.

What are the best document management systems?

There is no top DMS in general. When looking for a DMS, create a company requirements document and look for a supplier with prior expertise with your field.


  1. Excellent blog on Best Document Management Software System: 17 Tools Compared, hope this information will help others. Thank you for sharing this wonderful blog post.

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