Document management enables businesses to efficiently store, organize, and retrieve documents, and it serves as a foundation managing risk. Document management software offers a comprehensive way to safeguard sensitive data and ensure regulatory compliance.

Here, we look at the nuts and bolts of document management, why it’s so important, and how a comprehensive document management system helps to streamline the process and protect your bottom line.

document management solutions

What is Document Management?

Document management is the process of creating, organizing, and retrieving documents in both electronic and physical formats. The process encompasses the whole document lifecycle and can be applied at any stage in a document's existence.  

Writing an official memo, retrieving a service contract, scanning checks to be placed in a customer record, or archiving an outdated policy reminder are all examples of document management in action.

What are Document Management Systems (DMS)?

A document management system (DMS) is software that facilitates the organization and control of business documents. These platforms help businesses streamline document-related processes, enhance accessibility, and ensure regulatory compliance.

They provide tools for capturing, indexing, storing, and retrieving documents while also supporting activities such as version control, collaboration, and workflow management. Document control systems (DCS) operate much the same way, except they also offer document creation and editing tools.

Accruent's Meridian EDMS facilitates the management and control of valuable documents such as technical designs and drawings. Meridian integrates seamlessly with other enterprise systems and efficiently manages large quantities of critical engineering content.

What Are the Key Functions of Document Management?

The document control process includes a number of crucial steps. Depending on which industry requirements apply to your business, you may need to fulfill some or all of these roles.

Document Capturing

Document capturing is the action of acquiring a document, whether it's physical or digital content. For physical business documents, document capture is the process of sorting relevant pieces and storing them away in a physical location such as a filing cabinet.

In computerized document capturing, this function involves converting physical documents into a digital format. DMS software can extract relevant data and information is stored digitally.

Indexing and Metadata Management

Indexing is the process of sorting documents in such a way as to be efficiently accessed later. In physical document management, alphabetization is the most common form of indexing.

With electronic document management systems, users are able to add metadata tags to materials with specific information — such as location information, business department, or document type. Users are then able to search by tag keywords to quickly find the specific document they're trying to access.

Document Search and Retrieval

As the name implies, document search and retrieval is the action of looking for a specific document and obtaining it for use. With physical documents, this typically involves going to the correct filing cabinet and searching for the document alphabetically.

Computerized document management enables users to search the digital document storage system based on specific criteria such as document type, client name, or content parameters for efficient retrieval.

Document Retention and Archiving

Retention and archiving are slightly different. Document retention refers to storing material for future use and regulatory compliance. Archiving is the process of storing older and less crucial documents at an out-of-the-way location, to be retrieved only when absolutely necessary.

When it comes to physical documents, archiving is necessary to make room for newer, more relevant records. This usually entails taking boxes of old records to a basement storage area or sending them to an off-site location for long-term storage.

Digital retention doesn't suffer from overfull filing cabinets, but the information does take up computer storage space, which still has its limits. Archiving involves compressing the digital information into smaller file sizes, making it unreadable until it's decompressed, which frees up computer storage for more recent and relevant records.

Why is Document Management Important?

Recordkeeping is essential for future reference and regulatory compliance. The best document management processes provide a “paper” trail that gives auditors a clear and comprehensive picture of a business's dealings and strategic outcomes.

Many industries such as financial and investment services and pharmaceutical production require thorough document retention. An organization may risk legal repercussions if a regulatory agency isn't able to confirm certain information, such as shipment or financial records.

Proper document management ensures that records are in order and that necessary parties are easily able to access the information they need. This kind of management is especially important in an engineering document management system to keep records secure and confidential, ensuring that only authorized people can view sensitive information.

What are the Benefits of Document Management Systems?

Regardless of the industry, any business can benefit from implementing sound document management practices. A robust document management solution can help organizations achieve many strategic goals.

1. Efficiency and Productivity

Automation enables document management systems to reduce manual work, streamlining every step of the document management process. Workflow enhancements boost productivity by giving users quick and easy access to documents and collaboration features, empowering employees to complete tasks faster.

2. Version Control

Document management software offers version control features that ensure users are working on the most up-to-date iteration of a project or business document.

3. Collaboration Tools

Multi-user capabilities in document management software allow multiple people to operate in a single document. Users can work together to edit, provide comments, and offer suggestions, all within the same work item. This feature helps alleviate confusion that can occur when dealing with multiple versions of the same document.

4. Document Security

A robust DCS provides numerous features to ensure that only authorized users can access or view sensitive information. Access controls such as permission levels, authentication requirements, and encryption protocols see to it that nobody is operating in documents they shouldn't be.

5. Regulatory Compliance

With many industries working under the authority of a regulatory body, document retention is critical. The archiving features, audit trails, and indexing capabilities that a good document management system provides ensure that businesses are able to demonstrate compliance during audits or legal proceedings.

6. Space and Cost Savings

Digitization and storage empower organizations to free up valuable office space that might otherwise be used for document storage. Keeping digital copies over physical documents also reduces costs associated with printing, such as paper and ink cartridges.

7. Knowledge Management

Document management systems enable businesses to organize their digital knowledge base. In-house training materials, policy manuals, and lessons learned can be kept for posterity and shared among all employees. These capabilities make it possible to pass on critical knowledge and understanding to future employees, leading to better decision-making and improved organizational learning.

8. Digital Conversion for Sustainability

With document capturing, organizations can easily transition from paper-based to digital document management, reducing their environmental impact and promoting sustainable business processes.

Accruent’s Meridian: Best Document Management Software

Accruent’s Meridian is a comprehensive document repository solution designed to optimize the management, security, and accessibility of documents throughout their lifecycle. The robust features focus on security, convenience, and compliance. With benefits such as streamlined workflows to improved data protection, Meridian is a choice for numerous industry leaders. It provides the tools necessary to manage vast volumes of documents.

Accruent's Meridian Dashboard, displaying project data and document control system information.

Below are the key features that position Meridian as a top choice:

  • Advanced Version Control: All document changes are tracked which allows for easy reversion to previous versions and historical integrity.  
  • Access Restrictions: Detailed control over who can view, edit, or delete documents.  
  • Powerful Search Capabilities: Quick retrieval of documents through smart search tools that can locate files based on keywords, metadata, or content.  
  • Multiple File Types: Accommodates a wide range of document formats which makes it versatile for various industry needs.
  • Seamless System Integration and Scalability: Integrates easily with existing systems while scaling to meet growing document management needs or demands.

Meridian excels in certain industries. For the manufacturing sector, it improves project management through seamless integration with industry-standard tools. It is easier to maintain high production standards of operations.

In oil and gas, Meridian details site plans, safety procedures, and compliance records. Further, for pharmaceutical companies, document management software helps navigate tricky regulatory compliance with clinical trials, research findings, and drug formulations.

For a real-life example, the global biopharmaceutical company AbbVie faced a restructuring challenge of engineering IT application use after splitting from its parent company. They needed an engineering document management system that could be rolled out quickly and globally while being standardized. They chose Meridian, and now over 625 AbbVie employees across departments use Meridian to manage more than 300,000 CAD (Computer Aided Design) drawings and other files.

Meridian manages our critical asset information for plant locations worldwide, allowing us to standardize and consolidate applications globally. This helps us to maintain consistent business processes and lowers the costs involved in having separate infrastructures around the world.”
Brady Peterson, Project Manager at AbbVie

Document Management FAQs

What is considered a document?

In the context of document management, documents typically refer to written or drawn information resources that need to be retained for official purposes, such as legal contracts or trade secrets outlining business processes. For example, a financial report.

Does all written communication require document management?

Typically, information that's relevant to an organization's operations, management, and financial transactions requires data management. An email inviting coworkers to a party wouldn't need to be managed as official documentation. An email memo that informs staff of a policy change may require documentation management.

What industries use document management?

Any organization that has a tax status or must adhere to government regulations utilizes documentation management practices. The extent of documentation management practices typically scales with the amount of paperwork and documentation an organization handles and retains as a function of its operation.