What Is Document Management (DMS)? Types of Systems, Best Practices and Benefits

BY IT GLUE | March 04, 2024

In today’s dynamic digital landscape, organizations are rapidly embracing hybrid and multicloud environments to meet the demands of scalability, flexibility and innovation. However, this leads to complex IT environments, where critical IT information gets scattered across various applications, locations and vendors, making it challenging for IT teams to access the right information at the right time. Furthermore, as cyberthreats continue to increase, it is becoming more vital for organizations to secure this vast information. This is where document management comes into play as a critical tool in simplifying complex IT environments and enhancing their efficiency.

Document management is the process of organizing digital information in a well-structured manner so that you get complete visibility into your growing IT environment. Document management aids in building a single source of truth for an organization’s mission-critical IT data and knowledge.

If your organization is looking to leverage an efficient document management system that can simplify your IT environment and maximize its potential, check out IT Glue, an award-winning SOC 2 Type II compliant documentation management platform. IT Glue is purpose-built for IT teams and consolidates all mission-critical IT information in one place so that your IT team has easy access to all the information they need when they need it. Learn more about the IT Glue platform.

Let’s see in detail what document management is and how it can benefit your organization.

What is document management?

Document management, often synonymous with document management system (DMS), involves capturing, storing, tracking and sharing all the critical data of an organization, ranging from assets and passwords to mission-critical IT knowledge. It is like a digital librarian for your data, making sure that everything is in the right place, easily findable and safeguarded against potential chaos. In today’s fast-paced IT world where every second counts, having such a single source of truth is extremely crucial for organizations.

Document management encompasses three core functions:

  • Document capture: A document management system is designed to simplify the process of collecting different types of documents. It collects electronic documents that are created and managed digitally, as well as paper files that are digitized through scanning. In addition, external applications like customer relationship management (CRM) systems generate new information every day. The DMS should gather and store data from all these multiple sources.
  • Document storage: The document storage system also safeguards all this information in a centralized and organized repository for easy and secure access to all users. The data may be stored in the local servers or the cloud based on the system.
  • Document distribution: Another core purpose of document management is to enable smooth sharing and collaboration of information. In order to make information easily accessible, your document management system should utilize a robust search engine that can locate documents based on metadata. When creating documents, it is important to use different metadata to tag the files individually, as this will help to retrieve files much more quickly.

Why is document management important?

Poor document management can result in a significant waste of time, resources and money. The time and effort spent in finding information can be much more than expected, considering the volume of documents and data IT professionals deal with today. A document management system can considerably help on that front by providing a central repository for all essential information and knowledge, ensuring that IT teams can access the right information at the right time without any difficulty.

Find out how efficient document management via IT Glue helped Netsmart solve their client problems quickly and provide superior service.

Document management challenges and how to overcome them

Let’s explore some key hurdles in document management and how an efficient document management system overcomes them.

  • Time consumption: Tedious manual processes often consume valuable time and resources. It’s estimated that employees spend almost a third of their workday searching for information. However, modern document management systems leverage automation and user-intuitive interfaces, drastically reducing time spent on document-related tasks and enhancing overall productivity.
  • Multiple versions: IT pros often spend a lot of time and effort in figuring out the latest version of a document and in recovering previous versions when different revisions overwrite each other. However, advanced document management systems provide version tracking, ensuring that everyone is on the same page, reducing confusion and preventing errors stemming from outdated information.
  • Document and knowledge loss: Physical document storage risks loss or damage, leading to critical information gaps. While manually filing documents, human errors could also creep in. However, modern systems offer secure cloud storage, safeguarding data against loss, ensuring business continuity and preserving institutional knowledge.
  • Access and collaboration: Geographical constraints and rigid access controls in traditional setups hinder seamless collaboration. Modern systems ensure remote collaboration, real-time edits and fingertip access to information.
  • Privacy and security: With rising concerns about data privacy and integrity, traditional methods may fall short of ensuring robust privacy and security. Modern document management systems implement encryption techniques, access controls and compliance measures, securing data against unauthorized access and meeting privacy standards.
  • Compliance requirements: Managing documents comes with its own set of challenges and risks. One of the most crucial challenges is to ensure that your documents comply with the industry or organizational standards with respect to their creation, storage and disposal. You need to keep track of the lifecycle and status of your documents to make sure they are updated, archived or deleted as per the requirement. Failure to do so could result in hefty penalties or loss of important data. Modern document management systems integrate compliance features, aiding organizations in adhering to industry regulations and avoiding legal ramifications.

Common types of document management systems

Before implementing a document management system in your organization, you need to understand the different types of document management systems and how they cater to different organizational needs. Let’s delve into some key types of document management systems in this section.

Content management systems (CMS)

A content management system (CMS) focuses on creating, managing and organizing digital content. Widely used for web content, CMS systems simplify content creation and collaboration, empowering businesses to maintain a robust online presence. For instance, let’s say an organization wants to post some thought leadership articles. Then, it can use a CMS to publish them on its website or mobile app. Some examples of content management systems include WordPress, Joomla, etc.

Enterprise content management system (ECM)

Enterprise content management systems (ECM) are advanced systems that go beyond basic content and document management. ECMs capture, store, organize and share large volumes of data across an entire organization while also integrating business data. An ECM facilitates centralized control and compliance, which promotes efficient collaboration and information sharing. It’s important to note that an ECM is not a single tool or technology but rather a collection of content management tools that help businesses achieve their goals.

Records management system (RMS)

Records management systems (RMS) focus on the systematic control of records throughout their lifecycle, including their creation, maintenance and destruction. RMS provides a structured approach to document retention and disposal, ensuring long-term preservation of records and regulatory compliance. They are crucial for organizations that deal with sensitive data, such as healthcare, legal services and financial organizations.

Document imaging systems

Document imaging systems convert physical documents into digital formats, streamlining their storage and retrieval. They digitize paper documents to enhance accessibility, reduce physical storage costs and contribute to a more eco-friendly document management approach.

Workflow automation systems

Workflow automation systems optimize and streamline business workflows by automating redundant tasks, approvals and document routing. Through automation, these systems help free up the time of critical resources in an organization, enhance efficiency, reduce errors, and ensure a smooth, standardized flow of documents. In most cases, a workflow system is a unified platform of several discrete tools that work together to automate various tasks.

Collaboration platforms

As their name suggests, collaboration platforms focus on fostering collaboration and real-time communication. Integrating document sharing, editing and commenting features, these platforms enhance collaboration, allowing teams to work seamlessly across various projects and initiatives.

Knowledge management systems

Knowledge management systems centralize organizational information, making it easily accessible to all employees. These systems enable companies to capitalize on their intellectual properties for informed decision-making by facilitating knowledge creation, storage, sharing and retrieval.

Discover how IT Glue provides a comprehensive platform to effortlessly manage and secure your mission-critical IT information and knowledge.

Key document management system features

Now, let’s look at some essential features you need to look out for in your ideal document management system.

  • Intuitive user interface: An intuitive and simple user interface (UI) makes certain that even new users can easily navigate through the system without much of a learning curve. An intuitive UI enhances adoption rates and ensures that your team seamlessly transitions to the new system without extensive training, ultimately saving time and boosting productivity.
  • Powerful indexing and search: An ideal document management system should have robust indexing and search functionalities for swift document retrieval. The capability to add metadata and indexing to documents makes it easier for users to manage and search information. This allows users to effortlessly locate documents using metadata or keywords, minimizing the time spent on searching information and maximizing efficiency.
  • Cloud and mobile access: Having cloud and mobile access brings flexibility to document management. That way, users will be able to access their documents anywhere, anytime, fostering collaboration and ensuring information is readily available, whether they’re in the office or on the go.
  • Version control and audit history: Version control helps in tracking changes and ensures that everyone is working with the most recent document iteration. It is often helpful when multiple stakeholders are collaborating on the same file. Having versioning features with a history of the edits helps prevent duplication and makes sure users always access the updated version of a document. Similarly, audit history provides a transparent record or an audit trail of document activities, fostering accountability and compliance with regulatory standards.
  • Workflow automation: Workflow automation helps streamline processes and workflows by automating redundant tasks and document routing. It not only accelerates document processing with pre-defined workflows but also reduces errors with necessary approvals and reviews, ensuring a more efficient and standardized workflow across your organization.
  • Access permissions: Granular access permissions are critical in document management for protecting sensitive data. With customizable access controls, you can restrict any document’s access to authorized personnel, mitigating the risk of data breaches and confirming compliance with industry and privacy regulations.
  • Systems integration: It is necessary for your document management system to seamlessly integrate with other tools and platforms used within your organization, such as CRM and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. This interoperability between systems ensures a cohesive digital ecosystem with seamless flow of data, preventing data silos and enhancing overall operational efficiency.

10 document management best practices

Here are some best practices to follow to realize the maximum potential of your document management.

  1. Standardize naming conventions: Establishing consistent naming conventions fosters collaboration and simplifies document retrieval. A standardized approach ensures that everyone in the organization can easily understand and locate documents, reducing confusion and enhancing efficiency.
  2. Maintain a simple user interface: As discussed earlier, maintaining a simple and intuitive user interface promotes user adoption. When the interface is user-friendly, employees can quickly grasp the system, reducing the learning curve and facilitating seamless integration into daily workflows.
  3. Automate when possible: Automation streamlines processes, reducing manual efforts and minimizing errors. By automating redundant and routine tasks, businesses can accomplish faster document processing and free up their valuable time and resources for more strategic initiatives.
  4. Establish goals and key metrics: It is important to define clear goals and metrics to measure the success of your document management strategy. This practice ensures that your efforts align with your organizational objectives, providing a framework for continuous improvement and optimization.
  5. Define access controls: Granular access controls are essential to restrict unwarranted access to sensitive information. By defining access control permissions, organizations can ensure that only authorized personnel have access to specific documents.
  6. Understand compliance and legal requirements: Stay aware of compliance and legal requirements relevant to your industry. Comprehending and adhering to these regulations ensures that your document management practices align with your industry standards, minimizing legal risks and fostering customer trust.
  7. Coordinate retention schedules: Establishing and coordinating retention schedules ensures that documents are retained for the appropriate duration. This practice not only supports compliance but also prevents the accumulation of unnecessary data, streamlining storage and enhancing efficiency.
  8. Utilize tags and metadata: Tags and metadata enhance document categorization and searchability. By adding metadata to documents, organizations can enhance retrieval speed and accuracy, facilitating a well-organized document management system.
  9. Prioritize document security: Prioritize and ensure complete security of your documents by leveraging encryption techniques, secure access controls and regular security audits. Robust document security practices secure your data against unauthorized access and security threats, maintaining data integrity.
  10. Designate roles and responsibilities: Clearly define roles and responsibilities for document management within your organization. Designating ownership ensures accountability, effective collaboration and a streamlined workflow, preventing ambiguity and promoting a well-organized document management structure.

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How can a document management system benefit your business?

Here’s how your organization can benefit by implementing an efficient document management system.

  • Saves time: This is probably the most important benefit of a DMS. You can save a lot of time by organizing your files and making information easily accessible.
  • Low digital mess: Storing files online can get quite messy over time. With a centralized repository, you can clean up the digital mess and organize the way in which you store critical information.
  • Increases security: When you have a secure platform to store your critical files, your information automatically becomes safe. A documentation tool with features like MFA, version control, password protection, audit trail, etc., boosts the security of your IT infrastructure.
  • Fosters scalability: When your business grows, the number of documents you manage will grow as well. By decluttering your information with the help of a DMS, you can easily scale your business.
  • Enhances collaboration: Collaboration should be at the heart of a DMS. Cloud-based document management platforms allow easy collaboration from multiple stakeholders no matter where they are located.
  • Reduces physical storage: Having a big pile-up of paper documents is no way to run a modern business in this digital age. A DMS can significantly reduce your physical storage by digitizing all your paper documents.
  • Eases accessibility: A centralized repository of data is easy to access by anyone with the right access privilege. By ensuring easy access to business-critical data, you can make informed decisions that will convert to business success.
  • Promotes accountability: When you have proper versioning with an edit history, it improves transparency in your collaboration. This promotes accountability among the stakeholders working on the documents.
  • Supports compliance: Having a proper DMS is a legal requirement under many data privacy laws. When you have a robust documentation tool, you can adhere to all compliance regulations.

Download this eBook to learn how IT Glue can help you get started with smart documentation and document management.

How IT Glue can help with document management

Now, you understand the significance of effective document management and how it can help you enhance your organization’s overall operational efficiency. If you are looking for an IT document management solution that can help you realize the full potential of your growing IT environment, check out IT Glue.

IT Glue is an award-winning SOC 2 Type II compliant documentation management platform designed to make IT documentation efficient and effortless for IT teams. With IT Glue, all your mission-critical IT information can be consolidated in one place, including assets, passwords, users and SOPs, making it easy for your IT team to access the information they need when they need it — even when they’re on the go. This helps you streamline all business processes, including resolving tickets, building client relationships and managing projects as efficiently as possible.

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IT Glue’s smart relationship mapping also helps your team rapidly define and understand relationships between various elements of your documentation, drastically reducing research time and providing all the information they need at their fingertips. Moreover, its out-of-the-box intelligence-driven templates help you get started with IT documentation from the get-go. The solution also supports dozens of integrations with major PSA, RMM, BDR and other platforms alongside its public API, making it the single source of truth for your IT team.

Learn more about IT Glue features and find out why IT Glue is considered the gold standard of IT documentation.

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