Document Management Software (DMS)
Everything you need to know about document management software
In the daily work of all companies, masses of documents are used and processed every day (10,000 documents / employee and year). Tasks like processing invoices, concluding contracts, creating orders are all done on one document. In documents the most important information of companies is stored, a loss can lead to a high (financial) damage. But not only the loss of documents can cause costs. Just searching for documents takes a lot of time (about 2 hours per day), time in which an employee could be adding value.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a secure solution that would allow your company to work more efficiently, save time and money, protect the environment and have secure access to its documents from anywhere (even from the home office)? Document management software does all of that. Learn more in this article.
What is Document Management Software?
A document management software (DMS) is a software that helps you manage and process all documents of a company. What the document archive is to paper documents, with shelves, labels, folders, covers and directories, the document management software is to digital documents. In a DMS you can organize, manage view and edit documents in the same way as in an archive. Due to the technical possibilities, there are some functions of the document management software that make the daily work much easier compared to a document archive. Both already digital documents and non-digital documents can be stored. The non-digital documents must be digitized or scanned for this purpose.
Main functions of a digital document management
A digital document management system offers several advantages over a physical archive through its functions. The main functions are listed here:
- Search and Find: Major advantages of a document management software compared to a physical archive is the search. The search can be done digitally like in a search engine you can search for single keywords or key words and reach your destination in seconds. Compared to searching for documents on shelves and in folders, you save tons of time.
- Easy storing: Filing in the DMS is also easy and can sometimes be done automatically. For example, documents from various sources such as scanners, printers or e-mails can be stored in the document management system automatically or on a rule-based basis and thus be stored centrally.
- Revision security: A paper document can get lost and does not tell you who last edited it. This is exactly why a DMS is revision-proof. Audit-proof means that documents cannot be lost and the processing history can be traced back. This means that legal retention requirements can be met and even originals can be destroyed under certain conditions.
- Working with workflows (BPM): In the rarest of cases, documents are simply filed away and then no longer needed. Before documents are finally archived, they must be edited, approved, updated and prepared for resubmission. All this can be done in workflows. One example is the approval of incoming invoices. It is not archived until after it has gone through. But it is already stored in the DMS when it is received by the company and is then released along a digital workflow.
- Digital filing and to-do lists: Those who work with workflows need digital to-do lists for employees and supervisors. These are the digital version of template folders, dockets and signature folders so that you can work digitally just as you normally would, only digitally.
- Automation via BPM and RPA: repetitive activities can be (partially) automated in workflows. This saves employees time and reduces their workload, as simple tasks are handled by the software.
- Collaboration and versioning: often not only one person but several work on the same document. Collaboration on documents while avoiding multiple versions is a basic function. It ensures that there is only one document with a current status and an editing history, instead of tens of versions at different storage locations.
- Interfaces and integration with other systems: Document management software can communicate with other systems and exchange documents and data. This leads to a reduction of inefficiencies with other systems and a uniform and synchronous data and document management.
- Business Intelligence: Knowledge generated from data is becoming increasingly important. The data contained in documents and business processes can be easily analyzed and displayed on dashboards based on KPI’s, for example.
What are the advantages of document management?
As already described, a document management system offers many functions that a normal archive does not have. But what are the advantages? In a nutshell, document management software saves a company time and money while increasing security and reducing risk. In detail:
Increased efficiency: because a document management system (supplemented by workflows) simplifies and accelerates workflows and the handling of business documents, as well as reducing response and processing times, printing costs are saved, and personnel are massively relieved. This increases efficiency and is easy on budgets.
Compliance: Document management also helps you to meet legal guidelines and requirements (e.g. GobD conformity) and increases compliance in your company. This is particularly pleasing for the risk department and the management, as they can protect your sensitive company data from unauthorized access by assigning access rights. The compliance aspect is particularly important, because a DMS enables audit-proof archiving and file management as well as DSGVO-compliant processing of personal data and documents.
For small and medium-sized businesses: Small and medium-sized businesses in particular benefit from the wide range of advantages offered by document management software, especially in times when home offices are becoming an increasingly common part of everyday working life.
Error prevention: Error-prone duplicate filing, double payment of invoices, losing contracts, ambiguity about contract versions, long turnaround times for incoming invoices, inaccessibility due to home office are thus a thing of the past, so that employees are relieved and can concentrate on their core tasks.
Collaboration: Thanks to the integration of critical business processes and the connection of departments and organizational areas, collaboration is no longer a foreign word and information exchange and knowledge transfer are taken to a new level.
A DMS is an all-rounder: Thanks to its extensive functions, document management software creates order, transparency, accuracy, traceability, data security, immutability and increases efficiency – and does something good for our climate and our nerves.
In which areas can a DMS be used?
Whether in accounting for invoice workflows, in the legal department for contract management, company-wide for e-mail archiving or in the HR department for the digital personnel file: A document management software can offer an advantage in most departments because it can be customized. With the workflow component, the most synergies arise, especially across departments.
The driving departments in which document management software is used are mostly similar, which is also proven by studies, e.g. by Bitkom. According to these studies, 53 percent of companies use their digital document management in finance/accounting. With around 43 percent of respondents, purchasing and procurement takes second place. In third place is the marketing and sales department with just under 41 percent. In addition, the legal department and human resources department are departments that benefit most from a DMS.
The application in the departments is rarely characterized by pure filing but much more workflow-driven. For example, the accounting department is not interested in where the invoices are stored, but rather that the approval workflow runs more smoothly. These workflows are similar in every company, here we have compiled the classics for you.
Every company issues and receives invoices, otherwise it wouldn’t exist. While the invoice creation process is usually well defined and can be mapped by industry software, the incoming invoice process is often treated stepmotherly and therefore often still takes place in analog. This analog process is often tedious, error-prone, non-transparent and not “home office compatible”. A DMS with a workflow for incoming invoices helps you to map your incoming invoice processes digitally and automatically. Read more on our product page “S-Invoice“.
In many companies, the responsibility for contract management is not clear or centrally regulated. Closed contracts are either filed in folders or stored on decentralized drives by the departments and kept in a spreadsheet for tracking. Since no one has a central overview and there are no mechanisms, it often happens that contracts run longer than originally planned or that the conditions deteriorate with longer terms. Cancellation deadlines are missed, expiring contracts go unnoticed. This results in economic damage. A document management system that includes a contract module gives you an overview and complete control over all your contracts at any time. Read more on our product page “S-Contracts“.
Digital Inbox – Mailroom
Documents come into a company in many ways: by mail, by e-mail, by fax, by beA (lawyers) or via portals. The aim of the “incoming mail” workflow is to transfer the incoming mail documents to their recipient so that they can be read and, if necessary, processed. However, with the many different sources, this is sometimes not as easy as it seems. Letters get lost, arrive too late at the addressed person or are processed too late. A digital inbox solves all these problems and also offers other useful functions. Read more on our product page “S-Mailroom“.
Order management is mostly under the sovereignty of the purchasing department. Until a material is purchased, material requisitions and BANFs have to be created and released. Along the way, budget limits must be observed, department managers must be informed, delivery dates must be communicated, and suppliers must be qualified. All of this drags a flood of paper behind it and can be done more efficiently with a workflow-supported DMS. Read more on our product page “S-Order-Manager“.
You have not found “your” business process? Look here in the overview of business processes.
Should the DMS be installed in the cloud or on premise?
Typically, document management software providers offer their solution in two installation options: On Premise and Cloud. On-premise means that the software is installed on the company’s internal servers. Cloud installation means that the software is installed on external servers at a cloud provider. It is important to choose a flexible provider that offers both solutions, so that you can find the right one for your company. It is not possible to make a blanket statement about which solution is the right one; both alternatives have their advantages and disadvantages, which will be explained here.
On Premise solutions have been around since before there was a cloud.With an On Premise solution, the DMS software is installed on the company’s internal servers in your own IT environment. The company has control over the hardware and software, as well as responsibility for smooth operation, maintenance, backups, monitoring and the associated effort and costs. If the company’s own server fails to function, the entire system may well be paralyzed for a while. Even setting up access from the home office then has to be handled by the company’s own IT, which is not infrequently a challenge.
Cloud installations are the more modern option. Due to their positive characteristics, cloud solutions are increasingly being used by companies and are experiencing a real hype. The flexibility, individual scalability and extensive cost advantages of a cloud solution outweigh the security of in-house control, so many companies prefer a cloud-based DMS to an on premise solution. Users have browser-based access to documents and other content, giving them the ability to access their desired records regardless of work time or location. Since documents are stored centrally on external secure servers, multiple users can easily work on a shared document. Small and medium-sized companies in particular save a lot of money with a cloud solution and can better calculate and budget their costs. The IT landscape does not have to be regularly renewed, updated and maintained. From now on, the cloud providers will take care of that. The main obstacle in a cloud decision is the issue of security.
On the subject of security: cloud providers (such as t-systems) specialize in managing sensitive data and can only exist if security is a top priority. Reputable cloud providers therefore always have well-secured and regularly monitored data centers, infrastructures and operating processes. Trained and dedicated cybersecurity experts monitor corporate data around the clock to actively protect corporate resources and data.
How do I successfully implement document management software?
The introduction of digital document management does not happen overnight and should be planned. Once a decision has been made in favor of a provider, things usually have to move quickly and go live as soon as possible. Solid and well thought-out planning as well as organizational preparation are the decisive success factors during the introduction in order to ensure a smooth and sustainable deployment.
If you want to optimize your business processes and map them digitally in the future, you should first describe, document and review your internal processes. Evaluate your processes with a critical eye. Merely digitizing an analog process will not satisfy you; potentials remain untapped. Look for inefficient workflows to streamline digital processes and make them more efficient. Think about which work steps can be done or made more efficient through document management in a digital and (partially) automated way. Many companies have internal process experts who specialize in this. If you do not have this, it will pay off for you to call in a consultant.
When implementing a DMS, you should not only think about the present, but also about the future: How will your organization develop in the medium and long term and how could a DMS support you in meeting your goals? Where do you need the DMS immediately, and where might it add value at a later date?
You should plan internal resources for the specific project and not let it run alongside everyday business. Experience shows that this leads to stress and is not conducive to project success.
ShakeSpeare® in Cloud is available from 149€ / Month and includes 10GB storage space as well as licenses for 10 users.
If you want to read more about Documentmanagement in general and various use-cases, please expand following section
When organizations decide that they will implement a DMS Software it is usually a very complex procedure to first understand what they actually want to have from a document management software. There is an extensive offer of DMS solutions on the market and each is special in its own way. As a basic DMS solution, maybe the most known system would be Dropbox, which is use for storing and sharing documents. But storing and sharing documents is only a scratch at the surface of what a DMS solution usually is. In the modern world there is a wide list of requirements based on what the organization needs to do with the solution and why they are implementing it.
Usually the main reasons and functionalities of a document management in companies and institutions are the following:
A revision-safe archiving is needed on the company level for financial and contractual documents. In addition quite often there is a need to search documents effectively and fast based on their content, classification, creation or modification date and versions of documents should be stored to be able to revert back to previous versions.
Most organizations also have a very clear picture of who can see what and also these users should have a similar access level to documents and data of the company as well. This meaning if a user is on a management level she or he may access more documents and data than someone who just joined the company in a specific department as a trainee. Of course many documents should be shared to all employees, as for example quality policy, rules on how to manage vacations, sick-leave, company newsletters, etc. A good enterprise grade document management solution offers the possibility to publish and update documents on an organization (or sub-organization) level, thus enabling information to flow effectively in the organization.
Collaboration with clients and external parties is another category that is important for many, from manufacturing companies, to smaller or larger law firms or even banks – there is a need to be able to open up parts of the system to external collaborators or clients in order to share working documents, track access to them and also keep the documents safe and not send them via e-mail without encryption or control. Nobody wants their contracts or confidential information floating freely in the internet without control.
The demands in larger companies are often also related to implementing an on-premise OCR solution (to keep data safe but processed for searching) or including a data capture solution together with that so that received documents (and post) are processed and data is extracted automatically. Adding this with workflows a document and data may automatically be distributed within the company to the appropriate people, shortening times in which information and documents reach the right people and adding a layer of control and security as well.
When implementing a DMS it is always good to know the needs well – best is to start talks with the solution provider and many mid to large companies also involve external consultants and their IT departments when implementing DMS solutions. A DMS implementation always has many questions that need answering and often the ideas for improvements and optimal use come after the testing has already started on a deployed solution.
We as a software provider are always happy to provide consultancy and best-practice cases from various business fields related on our experience. For mid to large size companies or specific fields (like healthcare, legal, financial or insurance) we also work closely with the consultants, respective compliance and legal departments as well as IT.
Another important factor of how companies work with their digital data and documents is what kind of user interfaces are available and for which levels of use. ShakeSpeare® offers a web-browser based user interface as well as a windows interface to be installed. The Web interface allows for remote work and offers a bit more light-weight user experience, whereas the windows interface is mostly in use in complex use-cases as the detailed functionalities for use in legal, financial and healthcare industry are many and are relevant only for a specific client-set.
Most companies will be happy with the standard ShakeSpeare® DMS solution offering as a cloud for use in manufacturing and service industry for management of contracts, personnel files, invoices, purchase orders and similar. There is a high degree of automation that can be achieved on those which is why the combination of the DMS and BPM parts of ShakeSpeare Technology is such a big value add to many companies. Workflow and document generation automation are of immense value to quality, compliance, financial and controlling departments as well as HR in many cases. There are also use-cases where management level creates (and manages) the tasks and minutes of meetings via the Workflow part of ShakeSpeare which adds an important level of efficiency and understanding within the organization itself.
We are looking forward to talking with you about your use case.