Essentially, document management software is a software program used to help businesses both organize and manage their information digitally – but at its core it tracks, stores, and retrieves documents with a simple search.
Defining Document Management Software
Essentially, document management software is a software program used to help businesses both organize and manage their organization’s documents electronically. It allows users to store and retrieve digital documents with a simple search, which is the heart of any DMS’s functionality.
Within the system, you’re able to easily store and search for documents like invoices, human resource documents, client intake forms, and more. Modern and more robust systems offer additional functionality to help streamline document-centric business processes.
Most systems include features that bolster your security for digital documents and give your organization the ability to adhere to compliance regulations like HIPAA, FERPA, SOX, or ISO. Some include a whole suite of features that enable users to collaborate easily with others, ensure office work and documents follow specific workflows or even automate these workflows, as well as track a document’s entire lifecycle – to name a few.
The Benefits of Document Management
There are several benefits to using DMS software for your company. All of these benefits combined are why so many businesses have decided to switch to a paperless office environment. Benefits of document management software include:
Easily Find Documents
Document management software was created with an end goal in mind: to make it easier for organizations to find the information they need as quickly and efficiently as possible.
With paper documents, you could be searching for minutes or even hours to find what you need.
Optical character recognition (OCR) functionality is the process of turning scanned images of physical documents into digital ones that are more easily accessible, searchable, and shareable.
Telecommuting is Simple
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many companies have moved to remote working environments, but still face issues with working remotely or being able to securely access documents while on the go.
Document management software allows for quick and secure access to business-critical information any time, anywhere, and on any device.
Automated Workflows = Huge Savings
Intelligent workflows that cross departments within your organization can help streamline any business process.
From the point of document capture, automate the entire lifecycle of a document, send it through approval processes, route for electronic signatures, send reminders, or even amend documents into a predefined packet – saving your business both hard and soft costs that rack up with manual processes.
Eliminate Data Entry REdundancy & Errors
Scan physical documents and allow intelligent software to detect, store, or share pertinent information from these scans, rather than using precious staff resources to manually enter data into third-party systems.
Integrate with 3rd-Party Software
When you use a DMS, you often need to transfer data to other software, such as an accounts payable system.
Integrations with API access allow for infinite integrations which empowers automated workflows across systems that streamline all facets of your organization and save your bottom dollar.
It's Good for the Environment
Going paperless does save you time and money, but it also benefits the environment, too.
When your organization uses less paper, you’re saving money and trees (which is great PR) but the cost savings go beyond the costs of the paper itself to save soft costs as outlined in our paperless office infographic.
Customer Success Story
See how S&D Kids saved time by going paperless:
How do you identify a real document management system?
There is no well-defined industry standard definition for what constitutes a document management system. There are hundreds of solutions on the market today that have branded themselves as a DMS, while offering only a small piece of the functionality most organizations are seeking when embarking on this search – which is why finding such a system can be very difficult and time consuming.
When document management software first came to market, it was basically a scan-and-archive system; essentially an electronic file cabinet. It allowed users to input scanned documents, then index, store, and retrieve those electronic documents. While that functionality is still at the heart of every DMS system available today, the software has evolved exponentially over the years. There are many more features today that a true document management system supplies, including:
Integrates 3rd Party Apps
Access Control & Audits
Will you need a cloud-based DMS?
When considering any software solution, start by evaluating your organization’s specific needs and what goals are required or simply wanted in a DMS solution. For example, there’s been a push in the last year for many businesses to move to software solutions that support remote access capabilities. If you’re considering a move to allowing remote work, then a browser-based system that can be accessed from anywhere likely tops the list of requirements for your
organization’s needs. Some DMS providers offer browser-based systems which can be configured as on-premise or cloud-based solutions that also can allow for access anywhere, while others provide solutions that are client-based which means that there’s a local installation that is launched to access the software.
If you’re looking for a solution that allows your staff remote access, a client-based system is not likely to be the direction that makes sense. If you have an IT department that can manage your installation and infrastructure, however – an on-premise solution could be a great fit. If you don’t currently have a plan in place for such maintenance, though, this might be the wrong direction as such staff, hardware expenses, and general maintenance requirements can prove costly. A cloud-based solution that stores your data in secure data centers and that meets all necessary security and compliance needs tends to be a better fit these days for many businesses, and the lower upfront costs associated with a cloud-based solution are often a major deciding factor as well.
How secure is a document management system?
In recent years, several security breaches have made headlines, making information and data security a top concern for organizations. Holding documents with sensitive data adds an extra layer of responsibility for companies who can find themselves in hot water with their customers and hefty fines.
When searching for a document management system, look for features like data encryption (at rest and in transit), and other ways that they protect data.
Many providers offer additional tools that keep data secure, whether you’re in the office, at home, or working from another location – as well as features that ensure data is only accessible by those intended to view it like access and audit controls.
Within document management software, these controls allow you to assign different levels of access to each employee, ensuring that the most important data is only accessible to designated people. System administrators can also audit the actions performed by any user, allowing you to trace who accessed the document, who modified it and how it was changed, who searched for it, and more.
When you opt to use a document management system, you’ll be more equipped with the solutions and tools needed to increase overall organizational security and data safety.
FAQ’s about document management software
Switching to document management software is a big decision, and it’s common to have questions about the software or the process. Read some answers to frequently asked questions about DMS systems.
Will transitioning to this software interrupt business operations?
Generally speaking, implementing this type of solution can be a relatively quick process, but moving paper documents into an electronic format does take time. Some software providers offer additional professional services to convert from other software solutions or to customize their systems to fit most any business type or need which can take additional time to set up.
However, initial setup tends to be pretty straightforward and can have your business up and running with the new system very quickly. Additionally, most providers also offer training for your staff which can help ensure that your document management system is used properly and poised to maximize your ROI from day one.
Is document management easy to use?
It can depend a bit on which software solution you choose to implement, but most providers offer some options for training your staff when you decide to purchase their system.
Before you buy, it’s good to take the software for a test-drive with some kind of free trial where you can try the software out for yourself before purchasing.
When you work with a software engineer to implement your new system, they help guide configuration, settings, and provide expert insight that will help maximize the software so you can get the best ROI for your organization.
How much does document management software cost?
Software providers for document management systems are numerous and so are the price-points. Some offer products priced on a per-user basis, while others offer feature-based modular pricing, or some combination of the two. As you’re evaluating your organization’s needs, consider the number of users that will need access to the system and the type of access that you’ll need as well as the features that are important to you. Some providers hook new clients with low upfront costs that grow exponentially when users, functionality, or modules are added later on.
WILL I see good Returns on my investment in document management software?
The total strength of your ROI depends on a number of factors; hard costs like physical storage or the costs associated with lost documents, and soft costs like the time to retrieve a document or an employee’s time spent walking from desk to and from a file cabinet.
Your ROI can even be influenced by how well your staff commits to using the new system. There are a number of statistics that can help you calculate a possible ROI, be sure to check out our paperless office infographic to learn about a few more statistics that directly influence your return on investment.
How easy is it to scan and load existing files, papers, and other electronic files into a dms?
While most document management systems are capable of handling lower-volume scanning, if you are looking to handle high-volume scanning you may want to consider adding document scanning and indexing software to your solution as well.
Either way, these systems are designed so users simply upload documents to the system and the software handles the rest. From there, whether you’re looking to handle scanned images, photos of receipts, or even handwritten forms – the software takes those scanned images and its Optical Character Recognition (OCR) turns those into fully-searchable digital versions and then automatically routes them to their next destination within the system.
Some solutions work better than others for specific types of documents, though – so be sure to investigate your software options to ensure that the types of documents that you’re dealing with can be properly indexed and added to any third-party software solutions you currently employ at your office.
Can document management software integrate with my existing platforms?
Some software providers offer API access which can allow integrations with third-party software applications, while others offer integrations through data exchanging between systems. How well systems integrate depends on both types of software – the document management system AND the 3rd party system.
Be sure to investigate any potential software to ensure your planned integrations are possible and any type of functionality you’re needing out of the integration is supported.
Will document management make my company compliant with HIPAA, SOX, or IsO requirments?
Many document management systems will provide you with the tools and security needed to meet compliance regulations. However, it’s important to note that full compliance often extends well beyond the capabilities of software alone. From the software side, most compliance requirements are met with features like Access Controls, Auditing and Logging, Technical Safeguards, SSL/TLS Encryption, and more.
Where is my data stored, and is it safe from hackers?
The location of your data storage depends on whether you choose on-premise software or cloud-based systems.
With on-premise software, you’ll likely have your own server within the company that keeps all your data and it will be up to you and/or your IT team to keep the data protected.
If you choose cloud-based, your data will be stored in secure data center and accessible only via your DMS.
When researching your next DMS be sure you ask about encryption protection for documents at rest and in transit, and if they if they use SOC II compliant data centers and procedures to protect your sensitive company documents.