Electronic document management systems have come a long way in the past 30+ years. What began as methods of tethering proprietary files types to a single computer evolved into document imaging technology, which allowed businesses to scan paper files into computer systems and index them in a searchable format.
As time has gone on, electronic document management has continued to evolve, adding features for document security and encryption, more sophisticated text searching and overall organization, online access and file sharing, team collaboration, and more. Some principles of document management software (DMS) have even made their way past the enterprise border and into personal-use software like Dropbox and Google Docs.
The Growing Universality of DMS
Today, DMS hasn’t quite reached the universal use stage in the business world, though it’s getting closer to reaching that mark. In the 1990s, the government enacted the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, a law that made it possible for financial institutions to merge and become larger and more powerful than ever before. The extra power came with extra responsibility, with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act also requiring financial institutions to think up smarter methods for securing, protecting, and organizing sensitive customer information. These document security rules ranged from difficult to impractical with traditional paper filing methods, and the result was a growing demand for sophisticated DMS.
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was enacted in 1999, and since then similar trends have continued to push electronic document management closer and closer to universality. Increasingly, regulatory agencies and laws in diverse industries—from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)—are imposing rules and guidelines for electronic document management. These policies typically include requirements related to secure data transfer, document retention and destruction, document security, and more.
Unsurprisingly, document management systems have evolved to meet these requirements, including secure client portals for easy data transfers, automated features for scheduling document archival or deletion, user-based permissions to limit the number of people who can see specific files, and more. These features are attractive to companies that have to make sure their document management policies are compliant with regulatory benchmarks, and as a result, DMS is becoming increasingly common in the enterprise space.
As more industries make moves to regulate electronic document management—an inevitable increase given the amount of business that is done online these days—DMS systems will continue to add new features to make life easier for companies everywhere. In turn, document management software will only become more common—eventually reaching a point when it is as essential for the average organization as email is today.
The Appeal of Going Paperless
Regulatory guidelines are just one factor driving the rise of DMS. Another is the fact that many companies are just interested in going paperless. The old method of document management—maintaining paper filing systems—is not only inefficient but also expensive and unfriendly to the environment. Digging around in filing cabinets for a single file—whether because it is needed for reference or because it has passed its retention date and needs to be destroyed—takes forever and impairs office productivity. Files can also be mislabeled, misfiled, or lost entirely.
Add the fact that many modern offices are interested in adopting “green” initiatives that waste less paper and fewer resources, and it’s no surprise that so many companies are making the switch to DMS. By not printing out or copying documents ad nauseam, businesses can save a great deal of money on paper, ink, toner, and filing storage systems. Not having a file room also preserves space—a valuable commodity, particularly in bigger cities where office space is priced at a premium.
Perhaps the biggest boundary keeping businesses from moving from paper filing systems to DMS systems today is the daunting task of having to digitize old paper files. While scanning documents into the computer still takes time, document management software like eFileCabinet has even found a way to make that easier, adding a feature called OCR (or optical character recognition). OCR reads and recognizes the text in your document scans, making a digital copy of the file in question. In other words, with DMS technology like eFileCabinet, you aren’t just storing PDF scans of your paper files but are in fact storing digital versions of those files that can be easily located with a text-based search.
Try Out eFileCabinet Today
Are you interested in learning more about the many DMS features that are convincing companies everywhere to take the leap and make the switch to electronic document management? We invite you to try out a demo version of eFileCabinet, free of charge!