Nowadays, it seems like there is a piece of software, an app, or a service designed to meet every need—from the personal to the business-related and back again. Rather fascinatingly, though, we also are in an age where the so-called “DIY aesthetic”—or the idea of “do-it-yourself”—has turned into its own kind of cultural phenomenon. As with apps, services, and software, there are DIY guides for everything, from replacing the screen on your iPhone to doing drywall.

Rather unsurprisingly, the do-it-yourself tech wave has been especially embraced by independent contractors, self-employed individuals, work-from-home consultants, entrepreneurs, and other professionals. In particular, office technology has been pulled into the world of do-it-yourself, with complex software systems typically found in enterprise environments—electronic document management systems, for instance—being repurposed and rebuilt from the ground up as DIY projects.

Though document management systems are meant to make offices more efficient, independent workers often misappropriate the concepts of DMS into manual processes that take a long time to set up and never work intuitively. In other words, by trying to adopt a do-it-yourself approach to document management, some independent professionals may be inadvertently rendering themselves inefficient.\


The Functions of Enterprise-Grade Document Management Software

To understand why a “home-brewed” DIY document management system would be more of a liability than an asset, we need to take a look at the functions that enterprise-grade DMS software might serve in an office environment.

Part of the reason that many independent professionals think DIY document management makes sense is that they think of DMS in too-simple terms. Some think of electronic document management systems primarily as file repositories, digitized filing cabinets where they can store their files and paperwork in an easily accessible fashion. Others latch on to the collaboration and accessibility of DMS, mistaking cloud services like Dropbox and Google Docs as natural (and free) substitutes for true document management software.

The thing is, DMS is both of these things, but it is also much more: A good document management system is an electronic filing cabinet, with smart organization that corresponds with your existing paper filing system; a good DMS is also a program that allows team members to easily access files (often via the cloud) and edit them independently, in a collaborative fashion. These are two key features that every DMS should offer.

However, sophisticated document management systems also offer much more than just those two features. The best DMS programs will also include features for file versioning, audit trails, role-based securities to limit who can access files, advanced file encryption, mobile access, document imaging with OCR (optical character recognition), full-text search, file retention features (to allow for automated deletion or archival of old files), secure client portal technology, and more.


Why a DIY Document Management System is an Exercise in Futility

As you can see, enterprise-grade software in the document management realm tends to pack quite the slew of different features into a single program. These features are meant to make an enterprise’s file management system as organized, intuitive, multi-functional, secure, and easy-to-use as possible. Trying to design a “DIY document management system” using common software and programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, Dropbox, Google Docs, and other cloud storage mediums is an exercise in futility. There is no real way to imitate all of the features that a true enterprise-grade DMS can bring to the table.

It’s not that no one has tried to build a do-it-yourself DMS. This post talks about David Sparks, the author of a book called Paperless and an advocate for DIY document management. According to the blog article, Sparks starts by creating “a nested directory structure that would mimic what a DMS would provide behind the scenes.” Using a DMS like eFileCabinet, directory structures are easy to customize based on the unique characteristics of your personal filing system. Building your own directory structure from scratch—especially if you aren’t very experienced with computers and desktop utilities—would be a frustrating, time-consuming process, and that’s only the first step to a DIY document management system. After the directory is established, Sparks still says you have to install utilities to simplify the processes behind moving files, adhering to file-naming conventions, making the directory searchable, and more. And even with all of that done, you still wouldn’t have cloud storage, adequate security, file versioning, audit trails, collaboration tools, file retention automation, OCR, or a client portal.

The “do-it-yourself” tech wave is possible because it promotes cost savings and self-sufficiency. But from private practice accountants and lawyers to independent real estate agents, most self-employed professionals or small business owners would actually incur more costs by trying to construct a DIY document management system, versus investing in enterprise-grade software. So skip the lengthy and inefficient DIY project, and start shopping for a high-quality DMS instead. At eFileCabinet, we invite you to try out a 15-minute demo for our software by visiting us on the web at and clicking the “Free Demo” tab at the left-hand side of the screen.