What is a Document Management System (DMS)?
Document management is one of the oldest of the content management disciplines - and was essentially born
out of the need to manage ever growing amounts of information being created within organisations.
In a world where only hardcopy information existed - there was always a physical limit to the amount of
information that could be stored and retrieved. It could be argued that Microsoft with the introduction of MS-
Office and MS-Windows released users from this physical limit - and with the exponential increase in
information that has resulted, document management software has become an intrinsic part of most
organisations as they seek to manage the vast quantities of data they hold.
At the simplest level - all users who have a PC who set up folders into which they store word docs, PDFs,
PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets etc are effectively generating a basic document folder structure
to allow them to easily store, retrieve and expire document content. The difference between this type of
document management and that provided by DMS vendors is effectively the scale of what is being managed.
Defining a Document Management System (DMS)
Document management systems are designed from the ground up to assist entire organisations seeking to
manage the creation, storage, retrieval and expiry of information stored as documents. Unlike a file structure
on your PC, a DMS revolves around a centralised repository that is used to manage the storage of any type of
information that could be of value to an organisation - and protect the same against loss.
As content stored within a DMS is typically self contained (id est it cannot be assumed that it has any
relationship with any other stored information), a well-designed document management system promotes
finding and sharing information easily. It does this via sophisticated search tools - and the adding of
classification schemes or taxonomies to the document information being stored.
There are many many different levels of document management software available on the market - but 'best of
breed' document management systems will have the following features:
focused on managing documents, though they are often capable of managing other 'electronic
information' such as html files, images, movie files etc.
each unit of information (document) is self-contained
there are few (if any) links between documents (they may be associated by 'grouping' the items using
a classification scheme or taxonomy)
focused primarily on storage and archiving and document life-cycle management including document
includes powerful workflow for incorporating business processes into the management of the
targeted at storing and presenting documents in their native format (not limited to MS-Office products
but including many different information types)
document access may be restricted at a folder or document level - and other security models may be
limited ability to create web pages (suitable for intranets but not internets) typically produces one page
for each document
Document Management has some overlap with the concepts of other types of Content Management and is
often viewed as a component of Enterprise Content Management Systems and crosses over into Digital Asset
Management, Document imaging, Business Process & Workflow systems and Records Management systems.
You will even find some Document Management vendors asserting that their solution can manage web sites
as well as document repositories. As with all extensions of a products capabilities, the degree of success with