Description of a Document Management System (DMS)

ave you ever searched for a description of a Document Management System? Document management has been around for quite awhile, and is in actual fact one of the oldest of the content management disciplines - and was fundamentally rose out of the need to successfully manage an ever increasing numbers of documents being created within or delivered to organisations.

When only hardcopy documents existed – the issue for any organisation was, there would always be a limit to the number of documents that could be physically stored securely and successfully retrieved.

A strong case could be argued that with the introduction of Microsoft’s operating system and office suite organisations where then released from their previous physical constraint - and has resulted in an exponential increase in information. Subsequently document management software has become an essential everyday part of almost ever organisation large and small as they seek to administer their ever increasing volumes’ of data they retain.

At a basic level - anybody who has access to a personal computer (PC) and who set up a folder into which they save and store a document, a spreadsheets, a PDFs or an image file are in effect creating a simple document folder structure which allows them to quickly and easily, securely store, retrieve and view that document content. There are differences between this (relatively smaller scale) style of document management and the large scale products provided by dedicated DMS vendors is additional functionality and effectively the scale of what needs to be managed.

Generally a document management system is designed from the ground up, assisting all departments within the organisation seeking to administer the creation, storage, retrieval and expiry of their accumulated documents.

A DMS is different to the file structure you may have created on your PC as it revolves around a centralised repository used to manage how any type of information is stored that could be of worth to the organisation - protect it against misuse and / or loss.

As document stored within a DMS are normally self contained (i.e. it cannot be assumed it has a relationship with any other stored information), a well-designed DMS markets the finding and sharing information is easy, via sophisticated search tools - and by adding classification schemes or taxonomies to the documents and information it stores.

Of the many different types of document management software available a 'best of breed' DMS will have these features:

  • Though often capable of managing other 'electronic information' such as images, movie files etc. Its primary focus should be on the management of documents,
  • Each unit of information (document) should be self-contained
  • Associate items by 'grouping' using a classification scheme or taxonomy there are few (if any) links between documents
  • Focused primarily on document life-cycle management, storage and archiving including document disposal
  • Workflow for integrating the organisations business processes into the management of documents
  • Can accommodate many different information types, storing and presenting documents in their native format (not limited to Microsoft products)
  • Strong security models may be applied e.g. access to documents may be restricted at a folder or document level
  • When looking at document management you see there are a number of overlaps with such concepts as Content Management and is frequently viewed as a module of an Enterprise Content Management Systems and is sometimes seen to cross over into additional areas such as, Records Management systems, Business Process & Workflow systems, Digital Asset Management, and Document imaging.

    Document Management Systems
    Document Security