A Good Document Management System: What Should It Have?

A good document management system will save your organization hours of time and hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars in expenses. The tools that you need to have in a document management system can be classified into Store, Organize, Find, Share, Save, and Regulate tools.


Storing Tools

These include the ability print directly into the program and convert any document type into a PDF. You should be able to grab multiple documents and bring them in simultaneously. Drag-and-drop abilities should be included, as well as a scanning interface. For most organizations, an integration with Microsoft is another requirement.

In addition to printing a Word, Excel, or Outlook document to a good document management system (DMS) and converting it to a PDF, the Microsoft integration allows you to save the documents in their native format. This allows you to have Word, Excel, and Outlook documents that open up in their respective programs. That being said, one of the most important ‘import tools’ that needs to be available is an interface to your scanner.

Traditional scanners automatically deposit a document on your desktop or email a PDF to you. This means that when you are bringing in multiple documents, you have 2 choices. 1) Waste your time at the scanner separating out individual documents and scanning them. If there are documents that have a few pages, then you wait on the scanner before placing your next document down for scanning.

This is a complete loss of productivity and effectiveness. 2) Scan the entire amount of pages that you need to scan. After the large document is deposited on your computer, you then open it and break the PDF into individual documents. This wastes additional time at your computer instead of waiting on the scanner.

Instead, a good document management system will interface with a TWAIN scanner and will bring in your pages into a preview screen. From the interface, you have the ability to split, combine, reorganize, and make other adjustments to your document before you save it. This allows you to continue working while you are scanning and eliminates the necessity of duplicate tasks when you save your documents.

Without an interface, you will spend 3 times longer scanning your documents, naming them, and bringing them into the system or your folder structure. The scanning interface will allow you to bring in scanned documents without all the repetitive tasks and will eliminate the need to separate your documents before scanning them. This saves roughly half the time typically spent scanning and saving documents.


Organizational Tools

These save you time by eliminating the repetitive tasks of organizing files. Some of these tools include template folder structures, auto or predefined naming conventions, and automatic storage of indexing or metadata.

Note: eFileCabinet has DMS that has redefined this niche of tools. Zonal OCR allows for scanned or stored documents to be automatically saved and indexed from templates. If a document needs to be saved under a specific organization and that organizational structure hasn’t been created in your folders, then Zonal OCR will create the organization for you. This is new technology that redefines organizational tools in every good document management system.


Searching and Finding Tools

These are essential to electronic document storage. After the initial few documents, your filing structure will become more robust and include more layers. Searching for files takes the majority of an employee’s time in regard to documents. In DMS programs, the ability to find documents is separated into 2 main functions: Folder and sub-folder organization and meta data organization.


Folder and Sub-folder Organization

Allows for traditional storage. It imitates a physical cabinet where there are a few top folders and then sub-folders. The folders allows for an indefinite amount of sub-folder layers. Metadata organization requires a few categories to be associated to a document when it is saved and require that the document be pulled in reference to those fields. If used solely (and without folder and sub-folder organization), it often confuses employees and ads to the amount of time it takes to organize documents.


Search tools come in 3 basic layers:  index, regular, and OCR.

  • Index

    searching utilizes metadata fields to pull document data when searched. Data-entering metadata can be time consuming; when paired with the search capability, it can add more time than it saves. However, when DMS has the features to store documents and automatically save metadata, then this search capability is highly effective and efficient. Zonal OCR is a tool that combines the ease of automatic storing and increases search accuracy and effectiveness. Index searching is a necessity for businesses that deal in testing and high amounts of closely repeated data. Some examples of industries that typically need index searching include drug testing companies, hospitals, insurance providers, transportation, and oil drilling industries. Often these industries sort and organize their documents by numbers and sequences.


  • Regular

    searching is the most popular search function because it requires no additional tasks to find a document. Regular searching allows for partial data from a folder structure to bring forth the applicable document. For example, if you are searching “purchase contracts,” a regular search will pull all the purchase contracts in your cabinet. If, however, you search “purchase Smith,” then the search will return all the purchase contracts associated with any Smiths and will omit all other purchase contracts. This type of search is highly effective for mid-sized businesses. Regular searches particularly benefit any HR departments, accounting and finance departments, individual insurance agent offices, doctor’s offices, and other organizations that sort and name by word or name categories. A good document management system has more advanced features.


  • Zonal OCR

    This stands for Zonal Optical Character Recognition. Typically when documents are scanned or converted into a PDF, your computer cannot continue to recognize the individual characters within the document. The document shows as an entire image for the page. OCR breaks the image and allows the software to read the words within a page. This establishes a way to search based on the context of your documents. If you have 1,000 documents named the same name, but containing separate data within the document, an OCR search will allow you to specify the internal information and find the correct document. This is especially useful for organizations that do not have a uniform naming and organizational structure or to find documents saved by rouge employees.


Sharing  Tools

These allow for the sharing of your documents internally or externally. Basic tools include the ability to email directly out of the DMS, download or save documents to a particular location, and print. Although these tools are very important, they don’t reflect the newest and fastest way to share documents.

A portal allows for secure two-way sharing of documents. Email is not considered safe, but when you share a document through a portal, the data is deeply encrypted and considered highly secure.

The recipient receives an email and a link to view the document. They log in through the portal and are able to view, download, print, or save the document. They can also share a document back to your organization. A portal is a must for most business organizations.


Compliance and Regulation Facilitating Tools

These are industry specific. They include tools like audit logs, retention, restriction, workflow, security, and backup. Retention allows you to permanently protect a document or to track documents for deletion automatically. Restriction allows you to set permissions based on individual employees or job functions and locks your cabinet layers based on a need-to-know basis. There are specific industry related regulations such as HIPPA, the SEC, and ISO.