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What is a document management system?

An effective document management system is a centralized repository where documents can be easily searched, accessed and updated by authorized business users.

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Every day, businesses deal with countless documents, such as contracts, invoices, vendor agreements and employee information that come in various file formats.

When someone in the organization needs immediate access to these documents, they’re forced to waste time searching for the information they’re looking for. Without a central location for file storage, employees will have to switch between systems or browse through various folders, email inboxes and devices to find what they need.

This information chaos affects the speed at which your employees, stakeholders and customers have access to crucial data, which takes away from the time they could be spending on higher-value tasks and delivering better customer experiences.

Imagine how much more productive those employees would be if they could focus on their actual roles, instead.

Document management system overview

A document management system manages document capture, tracking and storage — giving all team members access to a centralized file location. It will also record who is accessing and altering documents.

With a document management system in place, your organization’s information and content become accessible through tools like document versioning, workflow automation, metadata tagging and indexing of content for easy retrieval.

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What is the importance of a document management system?

Document management systems are important because they allow organizations to operate more efficiently, stay compliant with regulations and reduce overall costs by allowing an intuitive, searchable flow of information.

For an organization to be successful, information must flow to the right people, when and where they need it. When relying on manual and paper-based processes for managing documents, information often gets misplaced or is delayed in reaching the right people. 

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Key benefits of a centralized document management system

While there are many benefits of implementing a document management system in your organization, the most common ones are:

Allowing immediate access to information

Organizations become inefficient through hidden time-sinks that cause delays in many day-to-day processes and subsequently drain productivity. With centralized document management that stores files and data methodically (through file hierarchies, standardized project names, dates, file types, etc.), employees no longer waste time on paper-chasing and getting lost in unstructured data — but can search for and retrieve the information they need immediately.

Enabling teams to collaborate more effectively

Cloud-based document management systems provide the confidence organizations need to work across locations with maximum security. Collaborating on different projects become faster and more accurate with the help of tools like version control and end-to-end document records retention, paving the way for businesses to exercise greater transparency and accountability in all their daily workflows.

Minimizing the costs and storage of handling paper

Storing documents has become an expensive and inefficient use of office space. Beyond taking up physical space through filing cabinets, paper-based processes will mean purchasing printer ink refills and possibly renting out off-site storage solutions to accommodate the massive influx of paper documents processed by your organization.

Ensuring stronger security and compliance

Data and document security are critical to every organization. Each year, legislation about how organizations should store sensitive customer information becomes increasingly strict and more data security laws are imposed to ensure this is done in line with regulations. Document management systems keep a record of everything with solid audit trails in place and protect data by tracking and controlling which user can see, alter and download any document.

Choosing the right document management system for your people and information

Purchasing a new document management solution is a big decision. While every organization will have unique needs, it is a good idea to look for the following fundamental criteria when choosing a document management solution vendor. Ask yourself:

  • Do they have relevant industry expertise? Different industries have different document management requirements, which makes it good practice to check that the document management software you're looking for has a reputable track record in your sector.
  • Does the software integrate with other applications easily and securely? To gain the full benefit of a modern document management system, it will need to integrate with other systems you use, so employees do not end up juggling too many applications and interfaces.
  • Do they offer a good level of support? Understand what support you are getting from their service level agreements, browse existing customer testimonials and check if they have peer-to-peer community groups that would be beneficial to your organization in the future.
  • Do they understand your security needs? A secure document management system must come with the ability to grant and revoke document access, conceal sensitive information and preserve document integrity at every stage.
  • Can your preferred system match growing organizational needs? Consider software that offers scalable tools such as workflow automation, data capture and electronic signatures so that your document management processes are able to evolve with digital innovation.

The core features of a document management system

While advanced document management systems may have a range of capabilities, these are some of the core features:

Multiple document input methods

Most organizations use a variety of different paper and digital document types, which can be recorded into a system via document imaging and capture. A modern document management solution should be capable of receiving all these files, as well as handling bulk, manual and automated uploads along with inputs from mobile applications.

Automated indexing

To correctly categorize and retrieve a document, it needs to be indexed properly first. An advanced document management solution will automate much, if not all, of the indexing process. This means as soon as a document is captured, it is automatically indexed correctly, allowing for faster and more accurate file storage.

Permission controls

To ensure security, you will need to be in control of how users view, access and edit files. A document management system allows this security through features like:

  • Role-based controls and security
  • Access revocation
  • Ownership transfers
  • A dedicated content management platform

Electronic signatures

Document management systems with electronic signature functionalities accelerate business processes that have traditionally remained slow due to the manual printing, signing, scanning and recording involved. E-signature capabilities speed these processes and protect organizations against fraudulent document alteration and ensure compliance with electronic acknowledgment tracking.

Document version control

One of the key features of a document management system is complete version control. This capability minimizes duplicate files and tracks all edits to a document so that there are no worries of employees working from old versions or risks of document inconsistency.

Synchronization for remote users

The modern workforce is more remote than ever. That is why your chosen document management solution needs to be able to match the needs of the remote worker — enabling them to access the correct, most up-to-date version of every document regardless of location.

About Hyland's OnBase

OnBase allows for the creation, revision and distribution of critical business documents for organizations that handle substantial information on a day-to-day basis.

It centralizes the management of changing business documents and provides offline synchronization for remote users, ensuring that everyone accesses the correct document when they require it.