What is Document Management Software?
Document Management Software allows ingestion of documents or images (converting hard copy to electronic form). Such a system allows converted electronic files to be managed or edited, tracked, and captures required information or metadata. The files are then output for relevant business functions or held for storage until purge or archive.
Document Management Systems are designed for small, medium or large enterprise organisations. Basic features include:
ingestion of documents, emails, and images
storage of these
security and access rights
audit and tracking
management of and automation of version controls
instant online access.
Although Document Management Software may be optimal for some organisations, it may only be a sub component of a much larger Content Management System. It also differs slightly from a pure Records Management System which is used primarily for compliance.
Known as DMS, Document Management System or Solution, the terms can be used interchangeably.
What to Look For
Most Document Management Software offer a standard range of features. Some are necessary for your business, where as others will fit the ‘nice to have’ category. Let’s look at some of the basic features of DMS that you want to look out for.
If you want to get started on DMS but don't know where then click here to find out more.
Cloud Hosted Solution
Cloud hosting is available for most Document Management Software these days. This means that the deployment of the core system files as well as the storage of documents occurs on the service provider/third party servers. A cloud based solution retains most of the complete functionality as an ‘On-premises’ based solution. However some systems may only offer partial functionality.
Let's consider some of the pros and cons of a cloud solution versus an 'on-premises' solution.
- Access documents anywhere with an internet connection
- No hardware required
- Server/ IT infrastructure maintenance is not required
- Reduce ‘soft costs’ such as time to maintain and electricity to run the IT infrastructure
- Easy to manage
- Subscription model for payment
- Less Control
- Upgrades may be required to increase storage space for documents
- Issues with the service provider data centre may cause issues with access
- You rely on service provider’s disaster recovery protocols
Web access and mobility
This feature allows you to access documents on the go- either through a browser, smart device, or an app.
Web access allows you to login to the Document Management Software to access the necessary features. Do consider if your staff are using smaller screens for work related tasks e.g. tablets and mobile phones. Either an app or a mobile-friendly user interface will make it much easier to access documents and the functionality of the DMS. If the DMS is not tailored for a mobile device, it may have a significant impact to users.
Security and access control
There is a strong demand for easy collaboration these days. Modern workplaces are also transitioning to increased remote access for their staff. Therefore security measures need to be taken even more seriously.
Security controls such as file encryption allows files to be protected from unwanted eyes when documents are in transit. User permission settings allow you to restrict access between internal users, teams, or business unit.
An easy to use and manage version control feature allows staff to create and manage document versions easily. Version control allows your staff to access past versions of documents for review or for compliance reasons. Most of all 'version control' ensures that staff are always accessing and editing the latest version of the document.
An important feature of document management software is its ability to log and track changes to documents. From creation, editions, viewing, and approving, the audit trail should allow you to track who performed any of these activities.
What good is a Document Management Software if you cannot find the right document easily?
Having a solid and easy to use search functionality can be the only difference between a decent DMS and a great one. Therefore a great DMS will consistently output relevant results as well as offer advanced search options.
You should be able to search both the content and file names, as well as have options to do advanced searches such as document types, dates, authors, etc.
Workflow automation can sit outside of the Document Management Software. However, a good DMS solution has automation built into it. Workflow automation truly helps achieve efficiency by making the most of digital versions of your documents. It automates some, if not all the manual paper based processes. For example, document approvals, transit of documents, communications and reminders, and even creation of documents and events. Once again, look for a system that allows this within the confinements of proper security protocols and ease of use.
Consider being flexible by creating your own workflows as well as how you create workflows. Also, consider integrating with other business systems to unleash a truly efficient way of working, reducing errors, and creating a great user experience.
The system should be able to integrate easily into either your business systems (e.g. ERP, CRM) or certain applications such as Microsoft Office, Microsoft Outlook, etc. Integration also allows you to access features of the Document Management System itself through certain applications. For example:
- saving documents directly into the cloud through Microsoft Word
- editing a document within the system
- backing up emails automatically through Outlook and onto your DMS
If there is a certain type of document your organisation uses (e.g. MS Excel), then it becomes even more critical for the DMS to support it.
Other business systems can also automatically import/export data from/into the DMS to create powerful workflows. This would reduce duplication of work and data entry as the systems would ‘talk’ to each other to achieve desired outcomes. For example, attaching customer documents related to a customer whose data sits on the CRM.
Some DMS providers also offer an application programming interface (API) for enhancing the functionality and integration of the DMS software. So, if you have the resources and capability then this could be an option for you to create a complete yet streamlined system.
OCR and Data Extraction
Business requirements vary. So it’s important to consider if it is worth paying more for a system that conducts optimal character recognition on the documents. If you are looking at just an archiving solution, do you want to be able to find the stored documents by their content? Will the document type suffice? Do you need to find specific metadata in the document? In these cases, you may need to run OCR on the documents.
The DMS may integrate a third-party OCR engine into its system or it may have its own in-built engine. Regardless, be aware that the quality of the engines can vary.
The quality of the engine can affect the accuracy of the text that is recognised. This has further impacts on the ‘search’ accuracy. It can also add processing time for staff as they will have to conduct more manual data entry.
- OCR- text recognition
- Zonal OCR- recognition of text on specific sections of documents only
- Drag and Drop OCR- allows you to manually select areas of a document
- Indexing – process of creating a database/table of searchable information
- Metadata - are certain keywords that are extracted and indexed
This is the process for uploading or ingesting documents into the DMS. Consider bulk uploads where there is either a backlog of documents that need to be scanned in or large quantities of documents that need to be scanned in bulk on an ongoing basis. The Document Management Software should integrate nicely with a range of scanners or multi-function devices.
What's the right DMS for my business?
As well as the above features, there are other factors you need to consider when searching for the right Document Management Software for your business.
You will see key benefits for your business (5 key benefits of digital document management), user experience for your staff will be a key element to help you bring the benefits to life.
If users do not adopt the software solution it results in a waste of investment. It also means a failure to adopt new processes that were supposed to streamline your organisation.
So, if you want buy-in from your users, consider the following factors:
- Collaboration: does the system allow for the desired levels of collaboration? Can users check-in/check-out documents to lock access?
- File Structure: how are the files stored? Are they easy to find and manage?
- Usability: the user interface, ease of access, features that enhance the usability, and the ease of use
- Training: is training provided and using what medium? (face-to-face, group, online, phone, etc.)
- On-going Support: how is support provided? For how long? Is additional support available?
- Back-ups and data recover options: Is data backed up automatically?
- Speed: is the system fast enough? Does it produce search results efficiently?
How do I choose the right DMS?
Choosing the right document management software can be tricky. But you can overcome this by some simple planning.
It's important to keep in mind that setting up a system can take anywhere from few days to few months. It really depends on the size of your business as well as the complexity of your requirements.
Know your business functions and what integration will be required
Know the types of documents and content
Determine the volume of documents flowing through the system
Know the users and what they are trying to achieve
Determine the mandatory features
Distinguish from must-have's to nice-to-have features
Compare solutions to requirements
We can actually make the process easier for you.
Speak to one of our friendly solution specialists to discuss what you are after and help you find the right solution. Getting your choice right is critical when it comes to document management software. We can help you get started on the right track. There are no commitments and no costs.
How does it work?
When you reach out to us, we'll conduct a high level assessment of your needs and see what you need.
Together, we determine a next step
We compare your needs to our panel of solutions
We pick the top 1 to top 3 vendors depending on your needs
Vendors reach out to you to provide quote
We continue our relationship by answering any questions you may have through the sales cycle. We also work with you to conduct post implementation reviews to ensure vendors continue to provide a quality service.