What is a document management system (DMS)?

Collaboration in the new era of hybrid environments

Part 1 of 2: Addressing common historical challenges

By Jason Huntley

Being on the frontlines of a prominent document management platform, my day—along with everyone else’s at WorkDynamics—is most commonly spent implementing comprehensive workflows for the largest governments and enterprises in the world. As such, I fall under that old adage of “We are all products of our own environment.” What I constantly have to remind myself is that many organizations—even large enterprise environments—have not yet migrated to more modern document management systems.

So for the purpose of this article, I thought I’d back out of my “everyday” to explain to those who are new to document management systems what a DMS actually is—including what it does, and what it can mean for ultimate success in any work environment.

To understand why a company would require a document management system, we first must look at the confines of older technologies, and the impact they have on modernized workflow.

For many organizations, the workflows associated with document management have been historically cumbersome. People have relied on many variations of home-grown solutions and processes—whether managing workflows through emails and calendars, building the beginnings of a Content Management System using cobbled-together point solutions, or using enterprise solutions such as OpenText, SharePoint and more. Regardless of solution, the reality is that workflows still fail, and people still struggle to keep up.

So what is it that people are trying to accomplish, and why is the success of a document management system so elusive? It truly begins at the digital level. For most, paper files are becoming obsolete, or are already completely obsolete. In other cases, however, the burden becomes storage, management and access.

As for storage, the breadth and depth of enterprise files can be extremely costly. This directly translates to physical storage centers that must be tended to, to ensure files are managed properly, do not get lost, damaged, and so on. This of course also means more people, more real estate, and more headaches. In fact, recent studies show that US businesses waste $8 billion annually just managing paper. Moreover, did you know it costs an organization an average of $20 to file a document, $120 to find a misplaced document, and $220 to reproduce a lost document?

But that’s not all. With all companies now having to do business in the digital age, digitizing physical files becomes an insurmountable task. Though the enterprise world is quickly adopting a fully digital, customer-centric approach to applications and architectures, the order of magnitude associated with document management is often still too difficult to address. From required skillsets, integration complexities and more, many digital transformation projects end up unsuccessful.

Add to that the now-ubiquitous requirement of hybrid work environments, and access to files becomes a monumental challenge. After all, if a physical file is sitting in storage across the country or world, how does one easily search and access that document?

This is where a document management system is required. Users now need a multitude of features/functions to complete daily tasks. These can include search, controlled content access, the need to maintain message consistency, and more. Then, of course, there is also the requirement to remotely connect teams and users, all while addressing all the different types of documents including—but not limited to—PDFs, online forms, HTML pages, and Word documents.

Now that we have an overview of the common historical challenges and a potential path forward, Part 2 of this article will address what enterprises can accomplish with a document management system.

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