What is Document Management System? The Complete Guide

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Written By Haisam Abdel Malak
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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 system 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”.

Document management system is a software used to capture, store, manage, and easily retrieve digital documents within an organization. It provides the needed functionalities for businesses to digitize documents and automate their business processes.

Organizations in today’s digital environment are always seeking for methods to efficiently manage their digital documents so that they can digest the information contained inside and gain greater insights to help make more informed business decisions.

Knowledge workers, according to the International Data Center, spend 30% of their workday looking for information. In today’s environment, relying on outdated techniques to retrieve documents is inefficient and can cost your company a lot of money. That is where the elements of document management system come in helpful, as it drastically reduces the time required to locate documents, hence improving overall productivity.

UK employees spend over one million hours a week searching for misplaced documents at a cost of £20 million a year to their businesses.

According to business.com, there are three main functions for a document management system which are the ability to capture, store, and distribute documents. These are the fundamental features supplied, and several providers have expanded their services to assist with process automation.

A robust document management system will help small businesses in managing all of their digital documents in a single location, creating electronic image of documents, speeding up document retrieval, tracking modifications, automating processes, improving collaboration, and providing access to documents from almost anywhere.

What Are The Features Of a Document Management System?

These features allow organizations to get the most out of the benefits provided by DMS.

Document Management system features

the top document management system features

1- Multiple capture methods

Among the top document management system features is the ability to automatically capture information from business documents.

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.
  • Imaging (Tiff, JPEG, PDF, GIF).
  • Forms processing.
  • Recognition using world-class OCR.
  • Typed, handwriting recognition.
  • Bar code.
  • Emails

Check the below article if you are looking to invest in an OCR tool

2- Document Indexing & Classification

Another important document management system feature is the automatic document indexing and document classification.

A paperless EDMS software should be able to automatically classify captured data & 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.)

3- Document version control

Among the top document management system features is document version control. Without it, 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.

4- 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 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.

5- Audit trail

Audit trail is considered one of the most important items in the document management system features.

The ability to manage documents lifecycle and records 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 document, made improvements, downloaded the attachment, and so on.

6- 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, and performing this process in a single-mode is time-consuming and productivity-killing, which is why you must ensure that the paperless EDMS 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.

7- 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 document management system features is the ability for employees to share information (internally & externally) and handle 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, tag other users, and receive notifications.
  • Real-time collaboration & annotation: The ability to collaborate in real-time, and add text, images, stamps, and electronic signatures. Some vendors have integrated the top annotation tools to provide a complete annotation & collaboration experience supporting the most well-known file types.

8- Automated Workflow

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.

9- 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.

10- Powerful administration tool

Among the top document management system features is the ability to control and manage all administrative tasks from within a simple interface.

  • 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.

11- 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.

12- Mobile support

Do you know that most knowledge workers find it extremely challenging to find information while on the move?

Employees need a way to access their business documents from outside their offices. Most solution providers nowadays have the capability to make sure that employees can access documents anytime anywhere.

13- 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.

Most business related processes need to access data and documents from different systems used within an organization.

13- Archives

One of the most important functionalities in a DMS is archives management which allows to manage all archives in one place.

What Types of Document Management System are There?

There are two types of document management systems: commercial and open source. Depending on the size of the business, budget, and the amount of documents to manage, they can choose a free and open source document management system or a licensed one.

For more information about this, I highly recommend checking the below article.

Top 8 Powerful Open Source Document Management Systems (theecmconsultant.com)


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 meant by document management system?

A document management system is a software application that is used to store and organize documents and other files. It makes it easier for employees to find the right document quickly when they need it. It also helps with managing records retention because all of the documents are stored in one place.

What are the types of document management systems?

There are two types of document management systems:

1. Centralized document management system: It is a system where all the documents are stored in one place or on one server.

2. Distributed document management system: It is a system where each department or branch of an organization has its own server and can store its own documents on it.

3 thoughts on “What is Document Management System? The Complete Guide”

  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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