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What Is Document Management?

Written on 08.07.24

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Document management is the process of organising, storing, and retrieving documents efficiently and systematically. This process uses technology alongside various strategies to help businesses effectively manage physical and digital documents throughout their lifecycle.

Definition and Overview

Document management is a computerised system used to help businesses organise, manage, share, capture, track, and retrieve digital documents. While previously based on paper-based  content, in today’s digital era document management has evolved into a computerised system providing security primarily to electronic files.

Offering organisations many benefits, document management saves time by streamlining search and retrieval. It also increases efficiency, eases regulatory compliance, improves collaboration and access control, and is financially favourable.

Document Management Systems (DMS)

Document management systems (DMS) can effectively provide a digital solution to help businesses process documents. There are three types of deployments to decide between when implementing DMS into an organisation, including on-premises, in the cloud or a hybrid system.

When deploying an on-premises system, the servers, software and technology are fitted within the company meaning any data and documents are stored and managed by an internal IT department. This allows businesses to take complete ownership of their data which would not need internet connection to access. However, on-premises implementation has high upfront costs.

With a cloud based system, software and data are accessed using the internet through a web browser and are managed by a third-party vendor’s servers. This means strong internet connection is often required. The cloud is the most cost effective implementation method and is a favourable option for companies looking for reliability, security and storage scalability.  However there will be less control over storage location, data management and accessibility. 

By combining the two systems together a hybrid approach can be deployed where software and documents can be stored in either the cloud or on-premises. While providing flexibility and adaptability, the hybrid option is more expensive than a single deployment method. 

Document Control and Versioning

Document control is an important system to deploy, as it allows for more organisation, consistency, accuracy, and compliance by ensuring employees have access to the most updated documents. 

Versioning is a key feature of a DMS as it allows for monitoring and tracking on different versions of a document. A record of changes made over time is provided by version control which can have compliance and regulatory benefits for a company. The version number is updated with each modification ensuring efficient and accurate history tracking.

Document Organisation and Storage

Physical document storage methods can be time-consuming, cumbersome, and costly, as well as increasing the chances of document damage or loss. Digital document storage options make it much easier to keep files secure, access them with ease, manage them effectively, and keep everything organised. Cloud-based storage can be particularly effective, as you can access files from anywhere with an internet connection. This also makes sharing and collaboration much easier. 

Document Capture and Conversion

A DMS allows you to easily convert paper documents to digital format, eliminating the need for paper document management. Documents are scanned and stored digitally, and you can use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for easier retrieval of scanned documents. 

Capturing and storing documents digitally is not only time effective but also offers benefits such as greater document security, convenient storage and access to files.

Document Retrieval and Access Control

A DMS makes it easy to retrieve digital or scanned documents quickly and efficiently. By entering key terms, phrases or words into the system search function, any relevant file can be found and retrieved 24 hours a day.

You can also control who has access to the documents, which reduces the risk of unauthorised access, modification, or even deletion of important or sensitive files. 

Document Management Process

The document management process involves creating a strategy that includes:

  • Decide between a system on the cloud, on-premises or hybrid
  • Organise existing files and dispose of out-of-date or unnecessary documents
  • Arrange storage of documents in a digital or physical location
  • Train team-members to navigate the document management procedure
  • Establish user permissions and identify the roles and responsibilities of team members

By following these steps an effective document management system will be created, ensuring employees can find the information they need, files are kept secure and confidential with access rights and encryption and automated workflow will replace repetitive manual tasks.

Integration of Document Management in Business

Document management offers numerous benefits for businesses and is invaluable across all industries and sectors in today’s digital world. This is especially true in industries where sensitive information is held, such as the medical and financial sectors. 

However, when integrating document management, you should consider the challenges of implementing a DMS alongside the benefits. This includes, up-front and maintenance  costs, data migration challenges as well as system faults or a breakdown in cybersecurity.

Future Trends in Document Management

Emerging technologies will undoubtedly impact document management processes moving forward, including Artificial Intelligence and automation. 

The future of document management will include innovations designed to further enhance security, improve efficiency, and make collaboration easier in an increasingly remote working environment.