Document management system

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A system (based on computer programs in the case of the management of digital documents) used to track and store documents ( Wikipedia)


Document management systems (DMS), as the name implies, are systems that help publish, store, index and retrieve documents. Although such systems deal almost exclusively with explicit knowledge, the sheer volume of documents that an organization has to deal with makes them useful and in some cases even mandatory. Often they are a part of content management systems (described later in this lesson). Usually a DMS will include the following functions:

  • Capturing: In order for paper documents to be useable by the document management system, they must be scanned in. For companies that need to carry out this process and who have numerous paper documents this may be time consuming and expensive.
  • Classification using metadata: Metadata is used to identify the document so that it can be retrieved later. It can include keywords, date, author, etc. The user is often asked to input this metadata or the system may extract it from the document. Optical character recognition may be used to identify text on scanned images.
  • Indexing: There are many different forms and a good indexing system is crucial. The index function will use metadata.
  • Searching & retrieval: The DMS' search function is one of its most important elements. Search functions can be more or less sophisticated, allowing searches that use elements of the document's metadata, key words/phrases or semantic analysis to determine relevance.
  • Versioning: Storage and management of different versions of documents - useful for documents that require frequent updating. Allows authorized users to return to earlier versions.
  • Administration & security: Any IT system needs to be regulated and secured. Users require different levels of authorization, with certain more sensitive functions/documents being available only to selected users/administrators. DMSes will also have backup systems in place in case of mishaps.

Apart from the above, they may include a whole host of possible features, including multiple platform support, multiple/customizable interfaces, workflow modules, file/format conversions, etc. Prices vary accordingly and solutions should be carefully matched to organizational requirements. There is also an open source system called OpenKM that, despite its somewhat misleading use of the term 'knowledge management', seems to have gathered a significant degree of popularity. Compared to non-electronic systems, DMSes offer reduced operational costs and improved efficiency, speed of retrieval, consistency and safety (both in terms of file backups and security measures). There are hundreds of systems out there, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The points to consider are: purchasing/set-up costs, types of features, training, upkeep, ease of use etc. Be sure to assess each one in light of your specific needs and your organizational processes.

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