What Is Document Management?

Document management enables robust tracking and secure storage of digital paperwork across global networks.

As businesses scale to meet the demands of a worldwide economy, they need to find more ways to digitize their workflows. The efficiency gains of digitization are demonstrable, but once files are digitized, how do businesses — especially large-scale enterprises — work with them effectively while ensuring employees follow company policy regarding security, retrieval, and disposal?

To meet these challenges, businesses need to adopt an effective document management strategy to enable the secure storage, use, and archival of digital files. Read on to discover what a document management system (DMS) is, recommended tools for building systems for your organization, and more.

Find the best document management solutions for your business with our guide, The complete guide to document management systems.

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What is document management?

Document management is the process by which organizations store, track, and retrieve digital documents as well as digitized scans of paper documents.

Typically, documents move through the following stages, often facilitated by document management processes or software:

  • Creation: Documents are either written directly on a computer or digitized via document scanners.
  • Storage: After creation, documents are stored on physical hard drives or uploaded to internal networks or cloud storage.
  • Utilization: Documents are retrieved, updated, and shared during day-to-day operations.
  • Archival/Destruction: Organizations can archive physical or digital documents for long-term storage once a document has served its purpose. Or, if a document is no longer required or its existence poses a security risk, it can be deleted or destroyed.

A computer program called a document management system (DMS) handles the storage phase of the document management lifecycle. The purpose of document management systems is to create a centralized repository for digital documents for easy access across an organization’s network.

The benefits of document management

In addition to providing a centralized digital storage solution for businesses and enterprises, DMS offers the following benefits:

  • Security provided through user access controls and permissions.
  • Metadata tagging for cataloging, indexing, and searching.
  • Versioning for assessing changes over time and the ability to roll back to previous versions.
  • Collaboration tools for real-time modification and markup.
  • Reproduction through digital copies and physical printouts.

Effective implementation of a document management system can reduce the costs of shuffling necessary paperwork around multiple departments and locations, increase productivity, and reduce the potential for errors when handling outdated information.

Did You Know?:PCMagazine awarded the fi-8270 an “Excellent” 4 out of 5 rating for its scanning speed, accuracy, optical character recognition, and archival features. Read the full review and discover why PCMagazine called it  "Document Management" in a Box.”

Document management compared to other systems

Organizations looking for centralized file management systems may also run across options for managing documents. Understanding what makes each system unique will help you pinpoint the right choice for your organization.

Document management vs content management

Like DMS, content management systems (CMS) provide centralized storage of important files, though they differ in a few key ways:

  • Manages structured (i.e., standardized) data

  • Focused on documents in formats like:
    • .doc
    • .pdf
    • .xls
    • .txt
  • Aids in workflow management
  • Often include imaging tools like optical character recognition
  • Easily searchable
  • Manages structured and unstructured data
  • Can store document files, along with audio and visual formats like:
    • .html
    • .jpg
    • .gif
    • .mp3
  • Aids in publishing content
  • Lacks tools like OCR
  • Less searchable

Document management vs records management

Records management systems (RMS) are a subset of DMS focused on compliance over access.

  • Manages general business documents
  • Includes version history and user access features
  • Meant for storing and using files for day-to-day operations
  • Manages signed contracts, insurance records, and other important documentation
  • Audit history and user access features are more robust and stringent
  • Includes customizable document retention rules for managing document lifecycle
  • Meant for meeting strict security and compliance standards

Tools for effective document management

Document scanner

As organizations evaluate the volume of physical paperwork to convert in their digitization strategies, they will need physical hardware like document scanners to convert their paper documents to digital files. Scanners come in many shapes and sizes and include special hardware or features that aid specific scanning needs, so businesses should assess the scope of their digitization projects to choose scanners that are right for them.

For example, flatbed scanners are perfect for handling bound materials, older photographs, or other awkwardly-sized or delicate documents. On the other hand, sheet-fed scanners are more efficient for processing large stacks of standard paper. These scanners contain automatic document feeders which can process hundreds of scans in minutes, making them perfect for organizations undertaking large-scale digitization projects.

Did You Know?:The fi-7900 comes with a 500-page hopper and can scan up to 140 pages per minute — it’s the perfect fit for businesses that need to manage thousands of paper documents during the workday.

Word processing tools

For creating digital documents, a powerful word processing suite is critical. Look for options that include a plethora of formatting options — like fonts, indentations, bullet lists, table creation, image importing, and other features — as well as the ability to save and export documents into several file types. For example, .doc, .docx, and .pdf are all standard options for documents, and your word processor should be able to save and load these file types.

Document management software

As the heart of your document management system, your document management software will act as the central hub for document access and retrieval. The best options offer collaboration from multiple computers, meta-tagging for searchability, and compliance features to ensure proper tracking and security. Some software also includes integration with third-party applications, thereby granting access to necessary, unique functions organizations may require.

Our recommendation: fi and SP Series scanners

Those in the market for a document management scanner have no shortage of options. We take great pride in having spent the last 50+ years researching, designing and developing some of the most advanced and powerful electronics in the world, including our professional grade fi and SP Series scanners.

Built to purpose for the most demanding document handling jobs, fi and SP Series scanners are capable of processing tens-of-thousands of pages per day at the highest levels of accuracy. Their intuitive integration capabilities with all existing work suites minimize time-to-value for businesses looking to invest in tools that will pay dividends for years to come.

The fi and SP Series scanners were designed to stand up to heavy digital conversion projects to aid in any organization’s document management strategy. The compact, entry-level SP-1130N is perfect for the home office or small business looking to get started with digital management of their paper documents, while the fi-8170 stands up to even the most demanding workloads, with a 100-page automatic document feeder capable of scanning up to 70 pages per minute. Click here to learn more or shop the rest of our production scanner line.