December 22, 2014

What Is Document Management?

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Document management, sometimes called a document management system (DMS), is a method of storing, disseminating, and standardizing documents electronically.

Birthed in the 1980s as a method of digitizing large stores of paper documents, document management systems were a precursor to modern content management and enterprise content management systems. Once widely available as standalone systems, document management today has become a part of many business software solutions, including project management software, customer relationship management software, and nearly any other cloud-delivered business system that includes file storage. Cloud storage providers such as Dropbox or Google Drive can even be considered and used as a type of document management system.

Most DMS now have similar features and have become somewhat standardized. For the purposes of this article, we’ll break them into three major areas.

Access Control

Role-based access control is common, while user-based is somewhat less common (you can find an overview of different access types here). Most systems include an audit trail, or a function that allows for tracking user changes, and may archive previous versions so you can roll back any unwanted changes or edits. This capability is sometimes called versioning. Most systems also include editing locks to prevent users from simultaneously editing the same document.

Special care must be taken in secure environments, such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, or other HIPAA-subject organizations, to ensure that all encryption, access, and storage of protected health information (PHI) is done in compliance with federal regulations.


Some document management systems include workflow management, usually referred to as rules-based workflow. Some examples would include needing a manager’s approval before a purchase order could be sent, or having to get a CFO’s sign-off before any monthly reports are published. This can help with issues of quality control, and prevent unwanted information from accidentally being published.


Perhaps the most important area of a document management system is its ability to easily retrieve the desired file. There are varied approaches to storing, indexing, and searching documents within a DMS. Most systems allow for the creation and searching of tags and other metadata, and some systems even automatically generate metadata. Sometimes the software can search through the text of the document itself, especially in newer, HTML-based document management systems.

To discuss how a document management system can satisfy your unique needs and which ones can best fit your requirements, call or email one of our Technology Advisors today for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.


  1. Fuensanta

    The cloud based document management has many benefits. I know records managers as Nuxeo, Alfresco or OpenKM that meet all these benefits.

    The latter, is an open source document management system for managing the company documents in the cloud.

    For more information:

    Thank you!


  2. Anna

    “Cloud storage providers such as Dropbox or Google Drive can even be considered and used as a type of document management system.”

    I’m not sure if that’s correct. It would be unfair to compare Wikis, helpauthoring tools (RoboHelp, MacFlare), and cloud collaboration tools (Google Docs) with Dropbox or Google Drive or Talygen. The latter are repositories or document sharing tools, not document management systems.

    • Charles Settles

      Thanks for the reply, Anna.

      Dropbox and Google Drive may not have the full functionality of more robust, TRUE document management platforms, nonetheless they are used by many companies (including TechnologyAdvice) to share and collaborate on documents.

      All of that said, it was never my intention to imply that Google Drive (without the other apps) or Dropbox could fulfill the same functions as the tools you mentioned; I merely was pointing out tools that our readers would be familiar with.

  3. Elena

    IMO one of the important features in a document management software is the ability to organize documents in several ways.
    Some modern DMS such as LogicalDOC have the ability to categorize documents on many levels: folders structure, tagging, metadata classification.
    In addition, other features allow to logically link documents located in different directories.
    This allows connecting the information distributed in various documents with the ultimate goal of saving time in the recovery process of files and information they contain.
    Efficient organization of documents is the basis for reducing waste of time in information retrieval.