Document Management

Choosing an Electronic Document Management System

An electronic document management system is an investment that can accelerate workflows and drive organizational efficiency.

Gone are the days when documents stayed stuffed into overflowing filing cabinets. In today’s digital world, electronic document management systems (DMS) have enabled much greater organizational efficiency.

The first step to leveraging a DMS is scanning and digitizing documents so that they can be stored and accessed electronically. Next, you’ll have to evaluate DMS vendors to find the best option for your unique business needs and processes. It can help to start with a basic understanding of document management system features and options.

What Is a Document Management System (DMS)?

Your DMS is a digital software solution that manages the entire records lifecycle, from creation to editing, distribution, storage, and disposal. When your staff has access to electronic records through a digital portal, it’s easier and faster to access the information they need from anywhere at any time, immediately find the files they need through intelligent search functions, and quickly generate reports.

The electronic document management system is both a comprehensive solution to going paperless and a convenient new single access point for all organizational information. The right document management and workflow solutions will streamline operations and boost productivity while also improving data security.

One important element of any document management system project is an investment in scanning capabilities to convert existing physical documents into digital files. Whether this means an in-house document scanning initiative or an efficient and cost-effective outsourced document scanning service, your DMS is only so good as your ability to digitize needed hard copy files. 

Some document management plans will include scanning capabilities to convert physical files into digital ones. Most will also allow you to migrate pre-existing digital files — such as word processing documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, image files, and more — into a single unified system.

Types of Electronic Document Management Systems

There are two primary styles of DMS that are available to choose from: on-premise software and cloud-based software. The choice will come down to the goals of your document management system project. Here are some of the pros and cons of each of the two types of DMS:




On-Premise DMS

  • Direct control of the system
  • External internet not required to access documents
  • No artificial storage limit
  • System always up and running (independent of vendor maintenance)
  • Higher upfront costs
  • Must own and maintain your own servers
  • Backups are up to you to create
  • Higher technical demandsMay be compatible with only Mac or Windows, not both

Cloud-Based DMS

  • No separate costs for maintenance & management of system
  • Accessible from anywhere
  • No need for in-house IT team
  • Lower upfront costs
  • Software updates are automatic
  • Files backed up automatically (saved to the cloud)
  • Files are inaccessible without internet connection
  • Continuity of service is dependent on your provider
  • Storage limit
  • Monthly or annual fee required

Whichever style of electronic document management system you choose will allow your documents to be easily scanned and stored digitally. The system acts like an in-built search engine that eliminates wasted time combing through file cabinets and searching for misplaced documents. Simply put the file name or keyword in the search query and have your required document pop up right away.

Best Document Management System Features to Look For

Any worthy system must help with document storage and organization, but also keep an eye out for the following must-have DMS features while evaluating your options. It’s important to ask detailed questions to sales representatives and, if possible, demo the system before you make your selection. We always recommend selecting an electronic document management system that provides you with:

  • Custom Search Functions: You’ll want your chosen platform to enable easy searches for not only file names, but also keywords, file types, date modified, and other filters. When you can tag all of your invoices with “invoice” in the system and search for that keyword, it’s much easier to find what you’re looking for with a few clicks.

  • Intelligent Data Capture: You’ll want the ability to capture data from a variety of input devices. After scanning, a good DMS can intelligently extract and validate data from the files, tag and categorize them for rapid retrieval, and empower you to search for text keywords — even in image files. Many DMS options say they offer intelligent data management, but not all can deliver on that promise. Ask for a demonstration to see that the system can interpret data accurately.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Features and functions are important, but not if they create an overwhelming or overly complex user experience. It will be hard to get buy-in from staff if the system isn’t easy to use. To get the most from your DMS, it should be simple for anyone to use, from tech-savvy roles to front-line employees who rarely touch complicated software tools.

  • Regulatory Compliance Tools: The best document management software can assist with industry-specific regulatory compliance needs such as HIPAA, FERPA, FACTA, and SOC. Look for capabilities such as chain-of-custody management, scheduling features for record destruction, and systems for compliant storage and record delivery.

  • Robust Security Measures: Cybercrime and data infringement practices are a major concern for any business. Your DMS should empower you to restrict access to folders and files and set permissions for individual employees and roles. It’s also important that you can monitor document access and edit histories.

Consult With a Document Management Expert

A document management system is an important investment that can provide you tremendous organizational benefits. From increasing employee productivity to reducing unnecessary labor, it can help you boost your competitiveness.

Contact us today to speak to a Scan-Optics digitization expert about what options are available for your electronic document management needs.

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