Every organization in every industry uses documents of some kind to transfer information. But documents, document sharing, document retrieval, and more can fall behind or slip through the cracks without strategic management. In the world of information management, a Document Management Workflow, Workflow Management Software (WMS), and Document Management Software (DMS) are key. While designed with different applications in mind, WMS and DMS offer complimentary functionality that can be used together for powerful results.

In this article we will discuss in detail what a document management workflow is, how both WMS and DMS software systems can be used, explore their overlapping functionality, and discover how a well-planned document management workflow used with WMS and DMS can be used together to achieve strategic business goals.


What Is Document Management Workflow? 

Documents are an important part of most work processes. From HR documents to finance reports to project proposals, documents are part of every industry and nearly every workplace. A document management workflow is the process used to store, edit, share, delete, and organize documents in your organization. 

A workflow can be described as the sequential progression of documents, tasks, or work activities involved in a business process or as a complex set of processes each taking place concurrently. By definition, a workflow always involves more than one person and shows how processes impact each other according to a set of rules, routes, and roles. Most document management workflows have a few basic stages: 

  • Document creation. How are documents created? What steps are taken to create documents? 
  • Document approvals. What’s the process of approving a new document? How do the documents get to those who need to approve them? 
  • File sharing. How are documents shared within the organization? Is everyone able to share documents effectively and efficiently? 
  • Document retrieval. Is there a way to retrieve documents that are accidentally deleted? 

An organization’s document management workflow can be adjusted to fit what works best for the structure and needs of the teams and individuals involved. The essence of a document management workflow is a system and process that helps documents travel smoothly through an organization to reach the right people.

Why Do Organizations Need Document Management Workflow? 

A smooth document management workflow can benefit an organization and keep collaboration on track. These are some of the benefits of a document management workflow: 

  • Reducing productivity loss. Being unsure of where to locate documents or how to have them efficiently approved can cut into work time and decrease productivity. Establishing a workflow can help reduce that productivity loss and help employees effectively access, share, edit, and retrieve documents. 
  • Increase transparency. With everyone clear on how to manage documents, the organization will be more transparent, and more people will be on the same page. 
  • Improve training. When new employees are onboarded, the training process can be more difficult without an easy way for the new employees to access the documents they need. But an effective workflow will help make that process easier and smoother for everyone involved. A document management workflow can also be beneficial when employees switch departments or positions—it will make sure they always still have access to what they need. 
  • Find and solve problems faster. When a problem arises, a good workflow will help you identify where the problem arose and how to solve it quicker than before. For example, if a document gets accidentally deleted, a smooth document workflow will help the right team to quickly retrieve it and move the project back on track. 

Overall, a document management workflow can help keep projects, ideas, and processes on track while also helping to reduce organizational inefficiency and loss of productivity. But how does an organization implement a document management workflow? 

Creating a Document Management Workflow

There are several ways to create a document management workflow, but one is to use Workflow Management Software (WMS). Part of what goes wrong in document systems is a lack of a clear workflow, so using workflow management tools can help make managing documents a smooth process. Another way to create an effective workflow is Document Management Software (DMS). Very often a paper document system lets important aspects fall through the cracks, so transitioning to digital software can help keep workflows moving smoothly. Combining WMS and DMS can be an effective way to establish a clear document management workflow.

Defining Workflow Management Software

Workflow Management Software (WMS) provides the foundation and infrastructure in order to successfully define, control, implement, and execute the various activities as defined in a workflow. Most workflow software can be integrated with other information management software such as document management software, databases, email, office automation products, geographic information systems, product applications, and more. This integration provides structure to a process which would otherwise be composed of separate systems.

Some of the features of a WMS are as follows:

  • Process Definition Tool—The process definition tool is a graphical or textual tool used for defining the various work processes.
  • Rule-Based Decision-Making—This is the ability to create rules to determine how workflow-related data will be processed, routed, tracked, and controlled.
  • Document Routing Capabilities—This involves the passing of a file or folder from one recipient to another.
  • Event Notification Functionality—This entails the ability to notify staff and managers when specific milestones in the workflow process occurs.
  • Task Automation—This includes automatically performing computerized tasks such as letter writing, emailing notices, or the execution of specific applications.

Popular workflow management systems include KiSSFLOW, Process Street, ProcessMaker Workflow Software, Bitrix24, and Salesforce.


Defining Document Management Software

DMS is a system (i.e., software or Cloud-based app) that is used to track, manage, organize, and store documents. It does this by applying a predetermined set of policies and rules to how documents are created, persisted, and expired within an organization. In other words, DMS gives users the ability to actively monitor and control the entire life cycle of the document from creation to archive or deletion.

DMS is most effective for dealing with structured file formats such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDFs, and other popular file formats. Documents stored in DMS such as workflow diagrams, office procedures, and policy statements are easily retrievable and highly secure, reducing time spent on meeting compliance standards and industry regulations.

Some of the notable features of DMS are as follows:

  • Check-In and Check-Out Features—These are used to control simultaneous edits from multiple users to a particular document.
  • Powerful Security Features—A good DMS will include several security measures, such as advanced access rights, user- and role-based security, encryption, indexing, SSL certificates, and ownership modification. This ensures that files remain secure, private, and confidential.
  • Version Control—This prevents wrongful use of superseded documents and enables users to easily track version changes.
  • Audit Trail Capabilities—Having an audit trail is essential to meeting compliance and industry regulatory standards. This function tracks and monitors the life cycle of the document in the system permitting users to easily identify various user interaction with files and folders including uploading, editing, and deleting.

Popular document management systems include our very own eFileCabinet, Bentley ProjectWise, M-Files DMS, and PaperPort Professional.


Creating a Document Management Workflow Using WMS and DMS Together

We already know that DMS and WMS are different systems that cater to different needs. However, the two have overlapping functionality. In fact, a high-value DMS system will include a built-in workflow function because workflows are largely a part of the document management process. Together, both can be used to create a document management workflow that will help productivity and clarity in your organization. One document management workflow solution is to use a system that combines WMS and DMS software.

A perfect example of this is the integration of eFileCabinet with Salesforce. Typically, users who work with Salesforce would have documents (contracts, invoices, purchase orders, etc.) stored in multiple locations, resulting in alternating between the Salesforce user interface and the actual document location. With the eFileCabinet, however, all documents stored in the DMS can be accessed, viewed, and shared with customers directly in Salesforce.

The eFileCabinet Salesforce integrations allows users to view online drawers within Salesforce and vice versa, resulting in a truly synergistic relationship. Furthermore, files and folders in both locations are continuously updated once both accounts are synced. With eFileCabinet, you never have to leave the Salesforce interface to access your files and folders. Using eFileCabinet and Salesforce together can be used to create a better document management workflow.

Document Workflow Management with Rubex

In addition to combining WMS and DMS, there is an additional solution to managing your document workflow. Document management workflow is an important part of keeping your organization efficient. Using an online software workflow management system increases productivity and reduces the chances that documents get lost, delayed, or forgotten. Using a document management system is one of the best ways to establish a clear workflow. Whatever your industry, Rubex from eFileCabinet can provide your document management workflow solution. Manage your documents using the Rubex system to establish a smooth workflow and efficient process. Request a product tour to see how Rubex can help your organization today.