What is document management software?

Manage thousands of documents without a single filing cabinet.

June 9, 2021

Article Highlights:

Productivity experts tell us that document management software can save thousands of dollars and thousands of hours in lost productivity. Years ago, a lot of time was spent storing, finding, or recreating a lost file. These days, now that everyone can easily file documents on a computer and reprint missing documents, there are different factors to deal with on a regular basis.

This is on top of the still-rampant use of paper – at least 44% of offices still use paper on a regular basis.

What we can't figure out is, if we have made staggering advances in cloud servers and broadband technology, why are people filing papers to begin with? 

Document management software could save companies hundreds and thousands of dollars in storage, filing, searching, and reproduction. If you've ever done a quick search for a document on your own computer, you know how to find one in document management software: Just search for the name, a key phrase, the author of the document, or even the date it was created. 

And with the latest in version control features, why are people struggling with version control?

What is document management software?

At its foundation, document management software is an electronic document management system. It's a method of organizing and storing the various documents, policies, and manuals an organization produces. Whether you have a system of folders filing cabinets, binders and bookshelves, storage boxes and warehouses, or carefully arranged piles on a table, that is a document management system.

The two terms are often used interchangeably, but at its heart, a document management system refers to any method of managing documents. Document management software is one of those methods. A cloud-based document management solution is still considered software.

Document management software takes your system and basically creates a metaphorical system that mirrors your own real-world system. Electronic documents are stored in folders, which can be stored in larger folders (filing cabinets). Some of those can even be archived (warehoused) for later retrieval. 

But unlike the paper system, the document management software is fully indexable and searchable, meaning you don't have to dig through folder after folder to find a particular document. You just search for the name, date, key phrase, or author, and you can easily call it up.

And since the document management software is cloud-based, you don't have to pay for filing cabinets or let them take up valuable real estate. (A filing cabinet typically needs 17 square feet of space.)

How is document management software different from policy management software?

This is another case where the two terms are used interchangeably, but they're very different.

Policy management software is an amped-up document management system. It has extra functionality that saves time and money when it comes to distributing policies and tracking accreditation. For example, some solutions let you tie policies to new training requirements, keep track of who has read the new policies, and then track whether people have completed the necessary training for accreditation.

With document management software, you still have to do those things manually, or find another tool to do it for you.

What does document management software do?

Depending on what kind of solution you have, whether it's cloud-based document management or a locally-stored software solution, it can perform a number of different functions.

For one thing, it's a central repository for all of your organization's documents, policies, manuals, spreadsheets, graphics, invoices, packing slips, and anything else that you can store electronically. You can put documents into it and take documents out.

You can also control access to documents. You need to control who can add, change, and delete documents. That means you can give different access levels to different people. While you can give everyone read-only access, you can give a select few editorial access, and still others can get administrative access with the ability to create or delete documents.

You can also collaborate and create workflows with document management software. For example, a committee working on a new policy can all have access to a master document and make any necessary changes and recommendations to a single point of access. No more synthesizing all the changes in multiple versions or reconciling contradictory changes.

Some document management software lets you capture electronic signatures. Not only does this make employees more accountable for important documents, it protects your organization from   liability. For example, if an employee doesn’t follow proper procedure and something happens, you can prove they signed and acknowledged that procedure.

Finally, you can track documents to see when changes have been made and move things along to additional people for approvals and final edits. Some document management software will even let you create workflows so you can automate the approval and forwarding process.

Ultimately, document management software can help your company keep track of all of your documents and ensure that everything is easy to find, protected, and accessible to the right people. 

PowerDMS' policy management software has the same functionality as document management software, but we focus specifically on accreditation, policy, and tracking.

You can learn more about the benefits of cloud-based document management systems, as well as learning about the best document management software, on our website. You can also schedule a free demo and speak to one of our sales professionals. 

Check out our essential guide for more information about the benefits of document management, along with best practices and available options for your organization.

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