A well-designed document management system has become a must-have tool for a number of organizations globally. It tremendously contributes to workflow optimization and takes care of all document-related processes.
Regardless of sector specifics, almost all businesses have one thing in common — they have to deal with a vast (and surely annoying) amount of paper-based work. It goes without saying that documents are an integral part of any company and it’s almost impossible to imagine the world without them.
Even so, the more documents we create, the more complicated it becomes to manage them — and this is exactly where a document management system (DMS) comes to the fore. A well-developed DMS is capable of handling a range of processes, including digitizing, organizing, securing, capturing, and tagging business files. It ramps up efficiency across a diverse set of processes and industries and also grants extra benefits such as high-quality security, effective collaboration, and automated regulatory compliance. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the global document management system market is expected to hit an eye-catching $11.47 billion by 2026.
Read on to find out more about document management solutions, their types, features, and benefits and discover what it takes to successfully implement a DMS.
Document management systems explained
Essentially, a document management tool is viewed as computer software that enables users to store, process, classify, track their electronic documents and perform a bunch of other functions, which significantly simplifies working with them on a regular basis.
Initially, DMSs were introduced to address the issues faced by companies that were looking for ways to shift their operations away from paper-based offices, where millions of folders were stuffed into filing cabinets. Since then, document management has come to assume a more dominant role. It is now regarded as an invaluable tool for facilitating workflows and bringing disparate repositories together in a central hub.
Document management solutions are useful for large enterprises and small businesses alike. These days, companies across the globe have to handle a huge volume of documents and deal with complex workflows. They also often have individual business units that are scattered across different locations. It is clearly more convenient and efficient to store and process all the internal data on a unified, shared platform.
An electronic document management tool is pertinent to all industries. However, this kind of solution is currently most common among companies engaged in manufacturing, construction, and distribution, as they have to take care of a continuous flow of invoices, purchase orders, and various contracts. Without a sophisticated DMS, these tasks would soon become too tiresome and time-consuming to carry out.
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Types of document management systems: on-premise vs cloud-based
When choosing the best document management system for your organization, you’ll have to decide on the type of hosting. Document management systems can be divided into on-premise and cloud-based. Let’s now check how they differ from each other and look at the pros and cons of each.
If you opt for an on-premise solution, you’re required to use your own servers and storage, which consequently implies that your organization will hold responsibility for the system’s maintenance and security. Given that on-premise imposes high technical demands, it’s generally more suitable for larger companies that have dedicated IT resources: if a minor software bug crops up, your developers will be able to fix it straight away.
The great advantage of a self-hosted DMS is that only your firm is in direct control of the system and you don’t have to rely on anyone to keep it up and running. What’s more, you don’t need an internet connection, as you can access all your documents and files offline.
However, the downside lies in considerable upfront costs and extra annual expenses on various software updates. Additionally, it’s down to you to ensure that you have a proper backup system in place because your files won’t be automatically saved in the cloud.
Cloud-based software is normally hosted by the DMS’s provider and can be accessed by the employees of your organization online. All the files are safely stored in the cloud, and you can enjoy great flexibility. Cloud-based solutions charge a monthly or annual fee for maintenance and software updates and provide businesses with an opportunity to scale up and down, depending on the number of accounts they require.
Cloud-based software has two major advantages. First, you don’t need an IT team for installing and maintaining the software. Second, you can literally tap into the system from anywhere at any time, provided that you have a stable internet connection.
However, if your provider experiences some problems with its data server, you may not be able to access your files. In addition, if the internet connection in the place from where you’re working leaves something to be desired, you’ll have a similar problem with access.
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What features you should look for in a document management tool
To make sure that you’ll be able to make the most of your DMS-to-be, it’s essential to examine exactly what set of features it offers. Below, we’ll look into aspects you should take into account when making document management software comparison and choosing the best one for your company. Attention please! 🙂
Document input from several sources
When dealing with document input, the majority of organizations combine both paper and digital files. Therefore, a DMS should enable the input of files from multiple sources such as scanners, emails, web forms, mobile apps, and manually-created digital documents.
Intelligent organization of all files and advanced search
Juggling numerous documents is undoubtedly problematic, especially for growing businesses. You should ensure that your document management system has the proper categorization, tagging, and rating functionalities, as these will make finding documents and files plain sailing. Furthermore, with robust and advanced search capabilities, the previously lengthy and slow processes will be dramatically accelerated.
Intuitive user interface
Given that your staff will be using a DMS on a regular basis, it’s crucial to ensure that it features an intuitive, user-friendly interface. Otherwise, they’ll find the document management tool difficult to use and, in the long run, give up on the idea of undergoing the digital transition.
Permissioned sharing and version control
With permissioned sharing, you’re empowered to choose who can change and delete files. An ideal document management system should provide administrators with an opportunity to set specific permissions for every employee, thus controlling the most important files and protecting them from being altered.
DMSs are also required to track updates of different versions of files and save every version of a document. This feature tends to be especially useful if someone has made a mistake in the document and saved the edited version. If this happens, provided that your DMS records all versions of a document, you can simply restore the previous form and start working with it.
Universal format support
Extensions such as .pdf and .docx are considered the dominant file formats these days, but this does not mean that they are the only ones. Occasionally, clients or partners can send us docs in strange formats that run counter to our file programs, and we have a hard time opening them. Consequently, the more formats your DMS can support, the fewer issues you’ll face down the road — and the more time and nerves you’ll save.
If your organization works with a CRM app or ERP database, then you’d be better off looking for a DMS that can be integrated with these programs. This will greatly simplify the work of all departments. Of course, you’re free to opt for DMS software with a limited integration capability, but this impairs the effectiveness of the entire organization. When the software is compatible, all employees will have the ability to access, edit, manage, and monitor all documents created with your CRM and/or ERP without any restrictions.
When choosing a document management tool, it’s wise to look beyond your current needs to foresee which features your business may need in the future in order to prosper. That’s why it’s very important to look for a DMS solution that will scale up and advance along with your organization, and adapt to its ever-changing needs.
Because of the benefits that artificial intelligence grants, some DMS providers have started implementing it in their solutions. With the help of AI, it’s easy to classify your docs, scan files for particular data, and even separate important business data from the clutter. So if you’re eager to keep up with the times, you should definitely look for AI functionality in your document management software.
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Advanced workflow automation
A DMS should also possess an in-built, enterprise-level business process management and workflow automation functionality that will be responsible for automatically directing docs to their intended destination. Among other functions that it should be able to perform are rule-based processing of incoming docs, setup of individual rules and document actions, business process modeling with custom reports, and multi-level approvals configuration.
Some of the most obvious benefits of a DMS
A robust document management system is bound to give your organization a leg-up. Once you’ve installed it, you’ll enjoy numerous and substantial gains such as reduced reliance on paper, improved efficiency, guaranteed safety and security of all your documents, greater accuracy, and lower costs.
Reduced reliance on paper
If your company still heavily relies on paper documents, it’s high time you started considering a DMS implementation. Being paper-free is seen as the sustainable and ethically correct choice: as well as helping you do your bit for the environment, it will allow you to enjoy greater flexibility and deliverability when it comes to your files.
Searching for your digital files across multiple platforms and devices takes a lot of time. You’re prevented from doing the work you’ve been assigned to accomplish, and the overall efficiency of your organization plummets. With an elaborate DMS at hand, productivity will increase across the board, and all employees will be empowered to work more efficiently, both individually and collectively.
Guaranteed safety and security of your documents
Undoubtedly, the best way to keep all your essential business files secure is to store them in a digital document management system. Thanks to its top-drawer security capabilities, including version control, password protection, real-time notifications, and document tracking, a company’s documents can be accessed only by the authorized, approved party.
With features such as version control and document tracking, all edits that have been made to the doc are visible to everyone who has access to it. When someone spots a mistake in the document, they can always restore the previous version or suggest their own edits. Issues concerning the accuracy of your files won’t be a headache anymore.
It goes without saying that the costs of paper, printing, and storage facilities are extremely high. However, once you decide to go digital with a document management tool, those costs will be eliminated. You can instead allocate your financial resources to more productive activities and projects.
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The existing DMS pricing models
Pricing is definitely one of the most important considerations in choosing any type of software, and DMSs are no exception. While some vendors present pricing information on their websites, others provide a specialized quote, since each company’s requirements for software vary. However, the majority of vendors tend to apply either of the two popular pricing models — subscription hosting plans (for cloud-based DMSs) or perpetual licensing (for on-premise DMSs).
When vendors host the software on their servers, the organization normally pays a monthly or annual subscription fee. This approach is considered to benefit those who don’t wish to host and handle their data themselves. Generally, the standard pricing structure is calculated per user and per month and depends on the number of employees who will use the software. Almost all DMS vendors propose scalable subscription plans that consider the number of users and features included in each plan.
With perpetual licensing, the organization holds responsibility for hosting the data on its own servers. It will pay only for the software maintenance and support upfront. This pricing model is suitable for businesses that are especially concerned about their data security and/or have their own special needs.
The functioning principles of a document management system
A professional document management tool accompanies the entire lifecycle of a business document — from capture and creation to distribution and processing. Now let’s look at how a DMS works.
Step one — creating and capturing a document
Initially, a document is captured from a particular source and is then saved and stored. Naturally, there are multiple capture options, including those for paper documents, and for enterprise applications such as CRM and ERP, emails, and system-generated reports.
This stage also involves another operation called indexing, which is designed to make it easier to find documents by categorizing them according to criteria such as metadata, unique ID, and so on. Once the document has been captured and indexed, it can then be easily retrieved at any time.
Step two — storing a document
All the docs that have been captured are stored in a single centralized location that all authorized parties have access to. A single centralized repository tends to be secure by default since it has built-in access control features that predetermine user rights to create, manage, and edit documents. Additionally, thanks to version control, it’s possible to keep track of all changes made in documents and check who has altered the file and when.
Step three — retrieving and distributing a document
A document management solution also allows for efficient document retrieval and distribution. Thanks to the indexing feature, document retrieval is considerably simplified — there’s no need to spend long hours searching for the desired files. With a powerful search functionality, you’ll be able to find the relevant information in a matter of seconds.
As far as distribution is concerned, it’s worth noting that a DMS permits document sharing via a number of means, including email and enterprise software.
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Examples of top document management systems
Now let’s review just some out of hundreds or even thousands of document management systems that are being used by companies all over the world. These solutions help reduce paper-based documentation and enhance the document performance of the entire organization.
DocFlow is a one-of-a-kind, accomplished blockchain-powered document management system that is capable of digitizing the entire cycle of paperwork. The ingenious blockchain technology and smart contract mechanisms that lie at the core of the solution guarantees unrivaled security for all your files, alongside better regulatory compliance, efficient data backup, smooth document retrieval, and more substantial savings compared to other platforms.
Being a white-label platform, DocFlow can be tailored perfectly to the client’s specific needs. It’s geared towards literally all industries, from engineering and construction to accounting, finance, insurance, legal, energy and utilities, healthcare, and real estate.
DocFlow allows its users to say farewell to doc processing routines and sidestep the risk posed by third-party online document management services. Its infrastructure comprises a web UI for administrators, a database on the back-end and a blockchain network, a secure API gateway for data access, and a user interface for document storage and access.
DocFlow is potentially a game-changing tool for global enterprises and disruptive startups alike, regardless of their industry specifics. With DocFlow it’s more than feasible to address the issues around electronic file turnaround and to unleash an enormous range of opportunities to help you progress.
Being a cloud-based document management platform, PandaDoc allows its users to create, send, track, and even eSign documents from a single integrated platform. This type of software is commonly referred to as a complete digital document solution. It can instantly produce organizational and business documents and is especially useful for sales and marketing teams, HR, finance and legal departments.
PandaDoc can be smoothly integrated with third-party apps, including CRM, CMS, help desk, and various payment gateways, thereby enabling you to import valuable data from other systems and transfer them to the document that you’re working on at the PandaDoc platform.
By dint of this very neat solution, organizations are able to boost their efficiency, reduce the number of manual errors, automate multiple workflows, and foster collaboration.
eFileCabinet aims to assist individuals, as well as businesses both small and large, to arrange their files online and remain organized regardless of the number of documents that they are having to deal with. eFileCabinet makes it easy to search for files and locate them in accordance with folder templates and/or predetermined file names. The solution is especially popular with accounting, HR, and insurance firms.
The standouts of eFileCabinet are its collaboration features and ability to create different levels of security, which helps you ensure that only specific people have access to the data. The system possesses encrypted file sharing and requests, and two-factor authentication as well as role-based permissions. The software easily integrates with a number of familiar third-party services, including DocuSign, Salesforce, and Microsoft Office.
M-Files document management software leverages the in-built AI mechanism to classify and organize information as well as create metadata suggestions. The solution caters to the needs of both small and large businesses. It offers on-premise, cloud-based, and hybrid deployments. Its key features comprise automated workflows, e-signature capabilities, and offline access. It is also able to integrate with a range of apps such as SAP, Salesforce, and Microsoft Dynamics.
M-Files has been embraced by a diverse range of industries, including financial services, construction and engineering, oil and gas, manufacturing, and real estate.
DocuWare is a cloud-based document management and workflow automation solution that enables organizations to transfer and optimize digital as well as paper-based assets on a single, unified platform. The solution is excellent at capturing data from multiple sources. It also ensures the highest level of security and privacy and fully complies with relevant laws including HIPAA, GDPR, and SOC.
An enormous advantage of DocuWare is the comprehensive training and guidance it offers during the entire process. The platform can boast a suite of notable features, with the most prominent being full-text indexing, barcode recognition, and task control.
Confluence by Atlassian is a document management and collaboration tool developed to help teams to communicate internally. It enables them to collaborate smoothly across all departments on several documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and images, as well as to track changes made to a file. It also lets them connect to Jira to provide insights into their development work with quick issue creation and report generation.
Besides, Confluence provides the opportunity to share information not only among employees but also with customers. It’s helpful if your team already uses Jira and HipChat by Atlassian, as it’s been specifically designed to work with those platforms.
Being a relatively new document management system, Templafy has already been adopted by large businesses worldwide that are eager to fulfill numerous routine tasks and save their precious time for more important work.
Templafy uses intelligence software that allows it to automatically generate the most relevant content for each employee according to their position. Conveniently, the solution provides users with the opportunity to create and manage documents directly within a single system. Plus, it can be integrated with Microsoft Office 365, G-Suite, and various CRM solutions such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.
All told, document management tools are undoubtedly the driving force behind current and future workplace advances.
Given that virtually every company is buried under an avalanche of workplace documents, opting for a document management solution is surely the right decision for any business. It’s a valuable support for all routine paper-based processes, giving you a competitive edge over your opponents while contributing to your company’s performance, reducing costs, and, crucially, offering everyone much-needed peace of mind.
With PixelPlex’s unique, sophisticated, white-label DocFlow document management platform that we’re very proud of, it’s more than possible to get all the benefits outlined above. DocFlow is the solution that will enable you to sail through your business challenges and outsmart your competitors.
Reach out to our seasoned experts at any time to request a demo and see how DocFlow can take your business to a whole new level. Let us help you hit the mark and become a game-changer in your industry.