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What Is a Document Management System?

What is a document management system?  A document management system is used to capture, store, and retrieve data and information in digital form.

These digitized versions of documents are typically stored as PDFs, word processing files, or images of physical documents.

Document management systems are being pursued more readily by organizations today, owing to their improvements in efficiency for workflows and their ability to bring data compliance to these workflows.

In this blog post, we’ll be going into the detail and ask exactly, what is a document management system, why are they necessary for companies today, and what benefits do they bring to them?

What Is a Document Management System?

Without repeating what we already described above, a document management system is in its most basic form simply a means to digitize previously paper-based processes and create visibility over manual workflows.

95% of corporate information exists on paper.

A typical document management system will comprise several features:

Search functions

A document management system should have a search function that allows for the finding of information quickly.

Files can be found instantaneously as documents are (including image-based files) are parsed and metadata tags as a criterion are taken into consideration for more clearly defined files.

This in effect means that virtually any document, regardless of file format, can be found instantly.

46% of workers find it sometimes or almost always challenging to find the information they’re looking for.


Security is a key consideration for document management systems today and any solution should come with the measures necessary to secure stored data.

This will include standards like 256-bit Advanced Encryption (AES) security for the sending and receiving of information, and SSL (or TLS) certificates for the protection of data transferred between two systems (like a worksite and client). 

Version control

“Versioning” refers to maintaining a documented history of a file throughout its entire lifecycle.

When documents have been collaborated on, reviewed, revised, or approved, every version of them will be retained in case of the need to revert or study a previous incarnation of a file.

Stakeholders can also be notified when changes have been made for easier collaboration.

A Perforce survey of over 1,000 employees found that 83% of workers lose time to versioning issues every day.

Access control

Access controls are crucial for maintaining or establishing security protocols for stored data and information.

While with paper-based processes, documents can be accessed by anyone with a key to the filing cabinet, a document management system allows for a far clearer visibility over who has access to what.

Compliance support

Access controls and other security protocols like encryption also play a large role in organizations reaching compliance with data standards, particularly those concerning personal identifiable information (PII); especially important for certain industries like finance and healthcare.


A quality document management system should have an easy-to-use interface that integrates with existing applications.

SharePoint, for example, is a management system developed by Microsoft that integrates with Office and allows users to interact and collaborate on documents across platforms through the cloud.

The most likely location used by workers to collaborate and manage documents is email, cited by 69% of respondents, followed by shared network drives and folders (55%) and/or information saved locally to desktop or laptop (54%).


Document management systems allow for the automation of workflows—this is particularly important for approval processes.

In such instances, the workflows can be automated so that the necessary stakeholders are notified before approval, upon which the specified file is sent on to its destination.

This is used extensively by companies that deal with documents such as contracts and invoices on a daily basis and is an important aspect of digital document workflow.

Related Post: Digital Document Workflow Explained 

Remote access

Finally, a document management system for a modern business should be accessible from any Internet-connected device.

This offers more flexibility and efficiency, as stakeholders can conduct tasks regardless of where they are located, whether at the office; on the go; or working from home.

How Does a Document Management System Work?


At the input stage, a stakeholder will capture the document.

This should be able to accommodate a large variety input devices from which to digitize the document or file.

These input sources should include things like:

  • Scanners
  • Email
  • Manual and bulk uploads
  • Mobile apps
  • Web-based software applications


Once a document is scanned or otherwise inserted into the system, it needs to be processed (and converted if need be).

Document processing involves taking a hand-written or paper-based file and translating it into a digital format for indexing and storing. 



At this stage, the inputted documents are “tagged” with the appropriate metadata to make it easier to search for them.

This metadata should be determined by the internal organization process, but will typically involve the use of key search terms and phrases.

In addition, system indexing should also take place here, which in effect means that data relating to information about dates, document type, or other identifiers of the document are taken into account.

Indexing should also take into account revisions after the fact, so different document versions are made clear for people accessing them.


A document management system should offer a search function that is easy-to-use for stakeholders when retrieving documents.

A powerful search engine should form this aspect of the management system which takes into account all of the attributes that are outlined in the indexing stage—most modern systems will have a search function that is more than adequate.

Bottom Line

Document management systems are essential for modern businesses to effectively index, store, and manage their data.

As volumes of data within SMBs increase to unprecedented levels, the need for organizations to both utilize this data effectively and ensure that it is secured in order to meet today’s compliance standards for sensitive information.

If your company is still using paper-based processes for documentation and is in need of modernization, consider asking if a document management system can benefit your operations and improve your efficiency and productivity.

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