Document Management Systems: All you need to know about DMS
The collection, distribution, storage, processing and archiving of documents are fixed process components of daily document management in organisations.
As well as the other disadvantages of working with paper, there is no doubt that paper processes are time intensive and unclear. Digital document management can help with this and brings you a big step closer towards digital transformation. Read below how a document management system (DMS) works, what should be noted and what advantages it can bring to your company.
Highlights of DMS: Brings structure to your business documents and data
EASY DMS (Document Management System) is a powerful, flexible and scalable ECM solution. This makes it the ideal document management software for large companies, medium-sized businesses as well as small businesses. Document management software that turns your corporate information and digital archiving into a business resource will help you become faster and more efficient, with more process security. Let us explain…
The DMS from EASY makes the step into the digitalisation of your business procedures possible. No matter whether your data and electronic documents are stored on company servers or if cloud storage is being used: Get started with EASY DMS – thanks to intuitive, easy to understand operation. A document management system can be that simple. With EASY DMS, you can look forward to easier access to all your data, such as documents, vouchers, etc.
“EASY Software’s document management and workﬂow solution has been transformational. Everything is much more efﬁcient now, and no one has to worry about mislaid or lost invoices. Our suppliers are happier too.”
Digital document capture
Reduce your effort. Capture, extract, and index documents in no time with this powerful OCR solution from EASY SOFTWARE. Automated, rule-based, and from any conceivable source, from paper invoice to email.
EASY Archive Smart is an archiving solution with an impressive scope and low administrative effort. Configuration and administration are quick and easy. The integrated database is maintenance free.
Manage and automate document-based workflows without major effort with EASY Workflow thanks to the modeling of rule-based processes via MS Visio. Process monitoring and escalation management are already integrated.
Keep an overview even with lots of emails. Assign individual emails to a business process, link to other documents, and last but not least archive them revision-proof. With the EASY SOFTWARE email management, it’s child’s play!
DMS Requirements Catalogue & Checklist
What should be considered when choosing the appropriate document management system? This free white paper provides you with a checklist to help you select your DMS step by step.
The Functions of DMS Software
Your Benefit Through Digital Document Management
All this makes EASY document management system the ideal DMS/Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution for companies of all sizes. In addition, it can also be implemented quickly. Our document management solution offers numerous out-of-the-box management solutions, such as contract management, order management, incoming invoice processing, personnel management and much more.
- More transparency: structured storage of information and documents
- Greater process efficiency: easy location and fast forwarding of information
- Better cooperation: central data retention facilitates common use of documents
- High traceability: thanks to version control and logging
- Comply securely with SLAs: thanks to deadline management with several escalation levels
- Fast training: even new employees can work securely with the system after a brief introduction
- More flexibility: information is available anytime, anywhere
- Lower maintenance: thanks to central administration
- High security: thanks to a finely graduated rights concept and detailed logging
Definition: What is digital document management (DMS)?
Document Management Examples
Basically, there are four different types of DMS. To some extent, the short history of document management becomes apparent through this differentiation. At the same time, the advantages and disadvantages of the four document management software procedures can be clearly seen.
The file server as DMS vs. database aided document management systems
The storage of documents in tree structured storage locations, for example on file servers, network drives, inboxes and similar replaces one problem with another: A paper one for a digital one. This means that you create electronic documents and they disappear into unclear index structures. Document storage alone requires discipline – from an agreed naming structure for files to the right storage location to tagging (if the latter is possible). As a rule, this type of DMS proves to be inadequate for daily records management.
However, the exception confirms the rule. This means that document management systems exist, that provide the user with a browser based DMS web client for everyday work. Therefore, installation of software on the local computer is not required.
This also applies to a DMS in the Cloud. The document management system can be accessed via the browser of your choice anytime, anywhere, even via mobile devices such as a Smartphone/tablet. This means that you have immediate access to your cloud-based documents when you need them. However, a Cloud document management software also brings many other advantages: As with so many other software as a service offers (SaaS), the service provider also takes on the maintenance of the Cloud-DMS, and ideally ensures the flawless operation of the document management system. The provider carries out regular, automated backups, which means, a Cloud document management system also has lower associated IT costs. However, at this point, everything lives and dies by the content related design of the service agreements. Service lives, number of users, data volume used etc. are amongst the most important factors that determine the costs for the Cloud-DMS.
Current document management systems work according to the following pattern: A document is compiled, certain document information is selected, a document ID is assigned. The document and the Metadata are stored in a database. The big advantage is that via the document ID, the document remains clearly identifiable and is not lost in the document management system. The disadvantage is to access the document management tool you need DMS software installed on the local computer.
Picture: Gone are the days of endless searching in a chaotic order structure. In the digital document management system, your documents are neatly stored and can be found at any time.
According to the DMS system used, electronic document management has various other functions. Important, frequently used document management tool functions are revision security, version control, archiving, requirements for privacy protection compliance, workflows, group-based authorisations and many more. For distributed organisations, i.e. companies with several locations, a DMS simplifies and accelerates the day to day work tremendously.
What is a document in the context of the document management system?
Ultimately, a document stored in a DMS system, contains more information than purely the document content.
Additional information accompanying the document is described as Metadata. These are also assigned to the document:
- Project number and name
- Creation date
- Cost centre
- Checker etc.
The Metadata can either be automatically obtained from the document or added to the document management software via manual tagging. When carried out consistently and uniformly, this helps make searching for documents faster. In addition, documents from a process can immediately be summarised in so called folders, also called electronic files. At this point, it becomes very clear, that a document management system very quickly takes on the status of the Holy Grail of information.
Why Document Management?
Contemporary document management systems help to significantly shorten both process run times and the time for the preparation of documents in an organisation. Therefore, a DMS supports business processes of all kinds. Of course, this requires a database supported DMS (see diagram “…..”). Certain user groups have access to the documents relevant to them in the DMS, regardless of the location (see diagram “Cloud-DMS”).
Furthermore, a DMS should also flank, improve and simplify other processes. For example HR processes, incoming invoice processing, P2P-processes etc. The keyword here is “DMS Workflow”. Essentially, workflow means the fact that the document management combines and automates further tasks. For example, deadline monitoring, escalation management, holiday cover etc.
How does a digital document management system work?
Information is available in two different forms in companies: Already electronic or still in paper form. This information must first be entered into the document management system – yet how does that work and what happens in the document management software as a result?
Entry of information into the document management system
According to the media type, recording documents can take on different forms in the DMS. If the information is already available in electronic form, contemporary document management systems are able to transfer this information to the document management system largely automatically. To record paper based documents, as a rule, a DMS uses a scanner with optical character recognition (OCR) for digital document capture.
According to the document type – or more generally information type – certain formats exist. For example, information which has been transferred with one of the many formats of Electronic Data Interchance (EDI). This could be in the form of sales invoices, bills of lading, orders, shipping notifications, account statements, design specifications, insurance claims etc.
Document management systems and structured data – a perfect duo
The advantage of such structured data for a document management system is obvious – because the data is stored in a fixed location, forever.
As long as the creator of the invoice complies with the agreed specification, it is easy to process the structured information of the incoming invoice automatically in the document management system. It is also clear, that a workflow started via such media is the be all and end all for flawless business processes.
Weakly structured data for document management – OCR-Technology is key
It looks very different for documents and information in paper form. The standard method in the DMS is document scanning. The documents must first be digitised via a scanner. The scanning software of the scanner or a downstream software must have optical character recognition (OCR). Thus, the textual elements of the document are entered, and ideally allocated accordingly. That is the most important source of information for a DMS using this medium. As a rule, these processes for the entry of content are developed and improved over the years, and consequently very precise – always with the requirement and assumption that the data featured in the document remains consistent. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and therefore a stumbling block for the subsequent workflow of the relevant business processes.
Distribution of information in the document management system
From now on, everything will remain digital and media disruptions will no longer happen. A great advantage of a records management tool is that all documents and information is automatically directed to the relevant company departments.
Where the documents and/or information are ultimately transported, is primarily dealt with by the DMS using the categorisation made. Via recognised and selected information, the document management system can determine if a document is a bill of lading, a supplier invoice or a contract etc.
It is at this point that a document management software has an important advantage. Because now, a contemporary document management system can engage with so-called workflows.
Document management systems and workflows - sit back and let it work
Document transport and the processing of documents in the individual departments, can be carried out completely electronically with a modern DMS. In the course of a workflow, a document management system automatically sends documents to the relevant processors or groups within or outside of the company, using defined parameters (category, project, customer number etc.). What is important at this point: Thereby, it is not the document itself that is sent, but rather the link to the relevant document in the document management system. Notification occurs either in the document management system itself or by e-mail. This has the advantage that the document remains accessible to all other authorised employees during the whole workflow. This means that copies of documents are as much a thing of the past, as the complexity that arises from it.
Document transport and the processing of documents in the individual departments can be carried out completely electronically with a modern DMS. Within a workflow, a DMS automatically sends documents to the relevant processors or groups within or outside of the company, using defined parameters (category, project, customer number etc.). Therefore, at this point, it is not the document that is sent that is important, but rather the link to the relevant document/digital file in the document management system. Notification occurs either in the document management system itself or by e-mail. This has the advantage that the document remains accessible to all other authorised employees during the whole workflow. This means that copies of documents are as much a thing of the past as the complexity that arises from it.
A good document management system stands out by allowing the option of two types of workflows. Ad-hoc workflows for tasks that occur rarely and more comprehensive, fixed workflows for recurring tasks. The difference between the two is as follows: Ad-hoc-workflows can be created and set up quickly if needed but have no previous fixed process model. Therefore, they are the right tool to solve simple tasks that only arise during a normal working day. For example, you notice for the second time that invoices from the customer XY are raised during processing. As you use discount revenues and want to avoid reminder fees, you and your work colleagues can easily be informed when the case occurs, via the document management. Read more about more comprehensive workflows under complex workflows in the DMS.
Examples of DMS-workflows
The most important document management system feature is the classification and appropriate document storage. As illustrated, workflows can also be established in the document management system. This applies to all documents. And especially when combining DMS workflows with ECM or ERP systems, time saving simplifications can be carried out.
Tasks and deadlines – workflows in the DMS
An easy and very basic workflow which can be implemented with a document management system is task and deadline monitoring. This is very easy to do. On arrival in the DMS, a document is sent to a group of processors – and the document has a fixed time “attached”, a “deadline”, by which the task relating to the document must be completed. If no-one takes care of the task by this time, the escalation management will get involved. That means there will be a reminder about the unresolved situation. If none of the affected employees react to the reference to the DMS workflow, automated notifications could for example be escalated to the team leader.
More complex DMS-workflows
Of course, more comprehensive workflows can also be implemented with a document management system. For example, the vendor invoice workflow. It is easy to recognise that this workflow consists of several factual and technical tests – with subsequent transfer to an ERP system to post the invoice and ultimately archive.
Versioning of documents in the document management tool
The topic of versioning and version control is becoming increasingly important in the area of document management. Keyword “traceability”. Originally, the problem of versioning and version control comes from software development (the tools there to solve it: RCS, CVS, Subversion, Git etc.).
The problem in the context of document control can be illustrated as follows: By processing a document, various versions of the document are created within the document management system over the course of time. If several people are working on document, this will result in several versions of the document. Sooner or later, all processors will wonder which version of the document is the most current. Document management systems solve this problem, by ideally creating a time stamp with ID of the processor for each version and presenting it to the observer. Of course, you can also travel into the version history of a document via a DMS – this means that all changes to the document remain traceable in the document management system.
Document management: Documents and revision security
The described versioning of documents within the document management system is surely one of the most helpful functions. A question that continually arises in this context is about the revision security of documents. What does revision security mean? The short answer is you want to ensure that a document is not changed or manipulated during the lifetime in the document management system – without it being noticeable.
However, how can a document management system ensure the revision security of a document? Who would feel able to take a document out of a pool of 1000 documents and say that is an unchanged document?
To ensure this, a modern DMS has checksums. Such checksums, also called hash values, are calculated from the document content. These hash values are clear. This means the same document content, the same checksum. And a changed document then inevitably means a different checksum. The document management tool takes on this task in the background and shows the calculated status.
Picture: These two documents look completely the same at first sight. But even if only one invisible pixel is changed, the checksum changes, which can always be used to verify the document.
DMS systems and archiving
In most cases, a DMS also has an archive and/or an interface between the document management system and the archive system. You must ensure this option. The reason is clear. On the one hand, you want to relieve the document management system. On the other hand, you are faced with the task of having to archive certain types of documents for six and/or ten years.
DMS-Integrations: Document management systems and connection to the ERP
Of course, a document management system can only be used to full effect when it is linked to an ERP system. Therefore, when choosing a document management system, it must be ensured that the DMS has the right interfaces and/or APIs for the ERP systems used. The reason for this is that both systems – DMS- and ERP system – mutually complement each other at this point. How does that work and what are the advantages?
Whilst the Enterprise Resource Planning-System (ERP) has the master data of suppliers, an incoming invoice arrives with the company via the document management system. Under some circumstances, it is possible that certain data is missing from the incoming invoice document. The consequence would be that the incoming invoice workflow could not start and/or gets stuck at a very early stage.
Through recourse to the ERP system, the missing data is completed and the workflow can continue in the document management software. The whole thing can be illustrated in a fully automated way. A fully automated workflow can result from the supplier invoice in the document management system and the content comparison with the master data of the ERP system, together with a calculated verification of the sums and checking if an order belonging to the invoice is present. At the end, the data is forwarded for posting in the ERP.
Furthermore, all the documents created in the ERP system can ultimately also be archived in the DMS system, revision secure, and bundled into a process together with other documents within the document management tool and merged. The combination of document management software and ERP system therefore creates enormous synergy effects in terms of automation of workflows.
Connection of the Document Management System to the Microsoft Office world
A seamless connection to widespread Microsoft Office products (Word, Excel, Outlook etc.) is essential for a modern document management system. From a user point of view alone because who wants to continually switch between applications these days?
Ideally, the DMS system links the aforementioned applications so well, that for example a Word document can be opened, changed and saved directly in the document management application.
DMS: What should you consider?
Disclaimer: In all of this, it is clear that no legal advice will be given here; only the extensive situation will be sensitised.
To comply with these requirements, an appropriate certification must be ensured, on selection of the archive system. The standard IDW PS 880.
Disclaimer: In all of this, it is clear that this is not legal advice; you should just be aware of it for the complex situation.
GDPR compliance in the document management system
If you maintain business relations with European companies or work together with customers who come from Europe, you must observe the legal regulations of the GDPR. It is now necessary to combine two legal requirements: the aforementioned archiving obligations and the requirements of GDPR, here in particular article 17 right to erasure (“right to be forgotten”).
What at first glance looks like a contradiction, is easy to resolve. After expiry of the purpose limitation (here: Archiving obligations), GDPR rules – with the consequence that a document management system must be able to erase special documents and personal data. A modern DMS must have this erasure function. Furthermore, GDPR also requires document management systems to have the ability for a customer to make a request for information at any time. Therefore, it is about clarifying whether and for what purpose personal data is stored – and if yes, which data it is. In short, the document management system must have the option to send the data to those requesting information.
Disclaimer: In all of this, it is clear that this is not legal advice; you should just be aware of it for the complex situation.