What is a Document Management System?

Document Management Systems

A document management system (DMS) keeps track of and stores a company’s documents. The DMS is often a part of an enterprise content management (ECM) system. Digital asset management, document imaging, workflow systems and records management systems are all related and, combined with a well-managed DMS, they allow a company to remain competitive in today’s business world.

Policies that apply to documents become transparent and easily traceable in a DMS, ensuring that a company’s methods adhere to documented procedures during audits. With a DMS, an organization can manage and control the format and style of the company documents. This system also allows for documents be easily shared between co-workers. Easy access gives projects a consistent and uniform look while saving time. Projects are manageable because access to documents can be controlled while team members are creating, reviewing, publishing, and distributing them.

In a DMS, a company’s documents are stored electronically in a secure, backed-up computer using one of the many computer programs available today. Documents in a DMS are organized and access to them is monitored and controlled. Corporate records and corporate guidelines that have legal implications are easily accessible by company staff, but can also be secured, limiting access to sensitive information.

There are many benefits to a well-managed DMS. One benefit of having a company’s documents in one location, managed by a computerized file management program, is history tracking. This allows the administrator to control access to different versions of a document created by different users. Obsolete documents are easily archived and, depending on the computer program used, can be hidden from general viewing to avoid confusion and use of outdated information.

Management must be completely supportive when a DMS is created. Initiating a DMS can be time consuming, and initially costly; requiring the use of additional personnel depending on the state of the current documentation. For example, if there are documents that are not electronic, document imaging may need to be used. Adopting the technology requires careful planning and policy making.
For a successful DMS, a company needs to:

  • define the key personnel involved and what their roles are,
  • develop policies,
  • analyze how a company’s documents are used and who uses them,
  • develop a plan for how the documents will be organized and how they will be used at different locations,
  • examine documents and their content to insure uniformity and consistency,
  • evaluate how the present communication system is currently working, and
  • explore how current communication has impacted the company.

The main objective of a company’s documents should be to communicate information. Documentation should preserve a company’s experiences. Are those experience’s currently accessible? Can you demonstrate to a client what your company does? Can you show them why you do it better than the competition? It is important to get management excited about developing a document management system and demonstrating the benefits of a well-documented, well-managed communication system will give your company the competitive advantage required in today’s world.

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