Nearly every organization is using or needs to be using some form of document management software. But it can be challenging to find the right solution — or confirm you’re already using the right one. So we’ve answered all your questions about document management solutions right here, so you have the most up-to-date information. Here’s everything you need to know about document management software and tools in 2024.

document management software

What Is Document Management?

Document management is the process of storing, organizing, managing, and tracking digital documents in a systematic manner. Using specialized software and tools, businesses can manage the entire lifecycle of documents from creation and collaboration to storage, retrieval, and disposal. The primary goal of document management is to ensure that documents are easily accessible, secure, and up to date.

What Is Document Management Software?

Document management software (also known as DMS) is a specialized platform designed to facilitate the electronic storage, organization, retrieval, sharing, and management of digital documents within an organization. It provides a centralized and structured approach to handling documents, replacing traditional paper-based filing systems with efficient, secure, and scalable digital solutions. Document management software typically includes a range of features and functionalities to enhance document-related workflows and collaboration.

What Are the Benefits of Document Management Software?

Document management software can benefit an organization in many ways. It improves document organization and accessibility, enhances collaboration and version control, streamlines workflows, increases productivity, contributes to sustainability initiatives, and enhances security and data protection.

What Is Document Management Software Best For?

Given that we’re living in an increasingly digital world, nearly every organization can benefit from documents management software. But it is especially useful for businesses that deal with a significant volume of documents such as law firms or construction and engineering firms. Document management software might be right for your organization if you need:

  • Centralized document storage: Organizations that need a secure repository to store documents will find document management software valuable
  • Document collaboration: Businesses with teams that need to collaborate in real-time or businesses that work with contractors who need to access company documents can benefit from document management software.
  • Document version control: Companies that need to frequently update documents will find the version control features of document management software useful.
  • Document workflow automation: Organizations with complex document workflows, approvals, and routing processes can automate these tasks using document management software.
  • Compliance and regulatory requirements: Businesses in industries with stringent regulatory requirements, such as healthcare, finance, and legal sectors, can benefit from the audit trails, access controls, and document retention capabilities of document management solutions.
  • Paperless office initiatives: Companies seeking to reduce paper usage and move toward a more sustainable office environment can use document management software to digitize, store, and manage documents electronically.
  • Document archiving and retention: Organizations with document archiving needs, such as legal documents, historical records, or regulatory compliance, can benefit from document management software's capabilities to manage document-retention and archival policies.
  • Collaboration across locations: Companies with multiple offices or remote teams can leverage cloud-based document management solutions for seamless collaboration.

What Is the Best Way to Manage Documents?

The process by which a business manages its documents is often dictated by the organization’s unique needs. But there are a few best practices business can follow, including:

  • Implement a document management system: Consider using a reliable document management software or system to centralize document storage, retrieval, and collaboration.
  • Establish clear naming conventions: Develop a consistent and intuitive means of naming files to make them easily identifiable and searchable. Consider including information such as date, project name, version number, and author.
  • Categorize documents with metadata: Take advantage of metadata and tagging features to classify and categorize documents based on attributes like content type, author, department, or project. This aids in efficient document retrieval and organization.
  • Set access controls and permissions: Determine who can access, view, edit, and share specific documents to ensure that sensitive information is only accessible to authorized personnel.
  • Establish document retention policies: Define document retention and disposal policies to comply with legal and regulatory requirements. This will also help you reduce clutter.
  • Train employees on document management policies: Provide training and support for employees to ensure they understand the document management processes and the proper use of your document management software.
  • Audit and monitor document activities: Track document activities, access, and changes through audit logs to maintain security and compliance.
  • Embrace secure cloud storage: Consider using secure cloud-based storage to enhance accessibility, collaboration, and disaster recovery capabilities.

Types of Document Management Systems

When it comes to electronic document management solutions, there are a variety of options to choose from. Below are several types of document management systems, but there is some crossover between categories.

  • On-premises: An on-premises document management system is installed and maintained locally on the organization's servers or data centers. This type of system is suitable for organizations with strict data security and compliance requirements.
  • Cloud-based: Cloud-based document management software is hosted and managed by third-party providers on their servers. Users access the system and their documents through the internet. Cloud-based DMS offers flexibility, scalability, and accessibility from any device and location.
  • Open-source: Open-source document management solutions include software with publicly available source code that can be modified and distributed by developers to meet their specific needs and budget constraints.
  • Enterprise: Enterprise solutions are designed for large organizations with complex document management needs. This type of document management software typically offers advanced features like workflow automation, document retention policies, and integration with other enterprise systems.
  • Small business: Tailored to the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises, this provides essential document storage, retrieval, and collaboration features at a more affordable price point.
  • Departmental: This software is designed for specific departments within an organization, such as finance, human resources, engineering, or legal. It allows departments to manage their documents independently while adhering to overall organizational guidelines.
  • Compliance-focused: This document management solution is designed to meet regulatory and industry-specific compliance requirements such as HIPAA or GDPR.

What Is an Example of a Document Management Tool?

There are numerous document management tools available in the market, each with unique features and capabilities. Microsoft SharePoint is a widely used document management and collaboration platform that integrates with Microsoft Office. And Google Workspace is also popular, providing cloud-based document management tools. These systems, however, are fairly high level and might not provide the specific features needed by a given industry. Engineering firms, for example, might need to invest in document management software like Meridian or RedEye, which offer features specific to the field.

Accruent Document Management Software and Solutions

Accruent’s cloud-based engineering document management software, RedEye, and on-premises EDMS, Meridian, provide real-time collaboration and a single source of truth. They streamline document change management, foster seamless collaboration between key stakeholders, and integrate with other critical business systems. Learn more or watch a product demo of our document management solutions today.