Document management is essential for the efficiency of your business processes. Used to its fullest potential, a document management system (DMS) reduces costs, boosts productivity, and provides a secure foundation upon which to store, organize, and access your vital data.
Taken in this light, every business needs a document management system of some description. But, as each business has a unique workflow and very specific needs, choosing a system that is right for you can be a challenge.
Another thing to consider is that “document management” can represent a broad range of software products, each with a specific focus and unique capabilities. These can include:
- Content management systems (CMSs), such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal, which are designed to organize and deliver a wide range of media and content to their web users and customers.
- Workflow systems, which automate repetitive processes to streamline, protect, and enforce a specific workflow.
- Records management systems, which are largely used by regulated industries such as healthcare, legal, and the government.
- Document imaging systems, which collect and manage images from a range of sources and can help convert paper files and collateral into digital files.
- Enterprise content management systems, which take into account the workflows, processes, and rules of the enterprise using it.
On the surface, all DMSs help you accomplish the same basic tasks: file creation, file management, file storage, file tracking, file retrieval, and file delivery. The differences from one DMS to the next becomes apparent when you consider the options they offer—plus where and how they store the data.
Depending on your company’s workflow and security needs, one such system may be more relevant for your purposes than another. So, let’s look at the broad strokes first. At their core, DMSs fall into one of four categories:
1. Server-Based DMSs
If you are using on-premise servers, you will need a DMS that can be installed as a stand-alone and does not necessarily require an internet connection to do what it does. These systems are typically faster than other types of DMSs and are installed on local workstations, which then connect to the local area network (LAN). Server-based DMSs are highly customizable and can be configured to reflect individual user preferences and security levels.
2. Database DMSs
A database DMS is helpful when you need to organize, link, and cross-reference a range of data sources, such as documents, images, and other assorted data. The software then stores the data and allows you to sort and search for what you need based on field queries or a range of other options.
Examples of a database DMS include FileMaker, Oracle, InfinityQS, and MySQL, but there are plenty more on the market today. The prime advantage of a database DMS is that it can connect and integrate with a wide range of productivity software. This makes it very easy for users to access the files and data they need without having to know where it is stored on the company system.
3. Cloud-Based DMSs
A cloud-based DMS is hosted in the cloud and stores its information remotely, allowing users to access the files they need from any device at any time. There is usually a monthly charge for the service, which can be augmented with various security features.
If you are a small company that produces and handles a large volume of data, this may be a good option for you it is scalable and supports collaboration between users. With the ability to track document versions and set user access, a cloud-based DMS enables the remote workforce and gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of features and security rules.
4. Web-Based DMSs
Similar to a cloud-based DMS, a web-based DMS may also integrate popular productivity software such as Microsoft Word or Excel. It is accessed through a browser and does not require any specific software to be installed to run it. Many web-based DMS are open-source as well, meaning that it is free or very-low cost and can be configured to connect to your other office software systems through an API.
One of the downsides of web-based DMSs is that some of the more robust versions are very complex and have a high learning curve, curve—meaning you may need to spend a significant amount of time training your team to use your web-based DMS to its fullest advantage. In addition, companies that are concerned about security or longevity should beware—Having open-source software means you may not be getting it from a reliable source, and somewhere down the line when you need support, you might be out of luck.
Benefits of Document Management Systems for Business
A document management system can provide your workforce with an easy and accessible way to manage workflows, delivering a range of benefits that include:
Cost reduction: Being able to locate, update, and collaborate on documents from a centralized file system simplifies the process, shortening the time it takes to accomplish vital tasks and reducing costs from end to end.
Robust security features: Most document management systems offer security and configurable access options that allow you to set up your file systems according to your security needs. This is especially helpful in highly-regulated businesses, or when dealing with confidential information, intellectual property, or private client data.
Improved collaboration: A centralized DMS connects all of your departments and stakeholders, eliminating data silos and supporting teamwork towards the accomplishment of a common goal. Better collaboration means enhanced productivity, which translates directly to a better bottom line.
Going paperless: If you are an organization that aspires to be paperless, a DMS supports your goal. It gives you a platform that enables the transformation of paper documents to digital assets, providing you with the ability to sort, store, and access them the way it makes the most sense to you. Going paperless also means you can repurpose that file room into a more viable use of space, such as adding another workstation or two, or perhaps a small conference room.
If you have any questions about document management and how a DMS can provide value to your business, reach out to Business World today. We are an Arkansas-based company dedicated to supporting the needs of enterprise with a range of managed and consultative services.