The Universe of Document Management
Document Management System is a very broad term and it encompasses many types of solutions. Each solution is meant to solve a specific problem but the features available in the various products within each type of solution are overlapping and adds to the confusion.
Let us understand the various terms that we regularly come across when we search for the phrase Document Management on the internet.
Document Management System/Software/Solution:
In the most basic terms a DMS is a software application which helps you to store and manage various types of documents through its entire life-cycle. A DMS has various features related to security, encryption, compression, retrieval etc apart from the features required for managing the documents which include structures for storage (e.g. folders), version control, indexing, downloading, printing etc.
Records Management Systems:
Records management is the activity of archival and filing of records. Records are documents that do not change. Records are a subset of documents and not all documents are records. A record is a document consciously retained as evidence of an action. Records management system can be of two types:
Management System for Electronic Records: These systems are used for storing digital documents for archival purposes. Essentially a DMS can act as a records management system for electronic records. Certain documents have to be explicitly identified as records so that such records can be managed in the DMS as per the policy defined by the organisation. Certain industries e.g. health care, insurance, banking, legal, law enforcement agencies etc. must maintain records of certain activities as mandated by the regulatory authorities.
Management System for Physical Records: Many organisations are required to maintain physical documents for compliance purposes as mandated by regulatory authorities. Software systems that are used for keeping track of the physical documents are also called Records Management Systems. The records room activities are similar to warehousing activities which are managed using bar-code or RFID systems.
Workflow / Business Process Management (BPM):
Every organisation has several processes related to various functions. Workflow is the definition, execution and automation of business processes where tasks, information or documents are passed from one participant to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules. Workflow or BPM systems allow configuration of the process along with the rules. Users can be assigned to each step in the process. User actions can be limited as defined in the access control module. The rules drive the movement of the document or information from one step to another till the completion. The system also has tools (dashboards, reports) for monitoring the process so that authorized users can take necessary action proactively to prevent process failure.
Content Management Systems:
As the name suggests a Content Management System (CMS) is used for creating, managing, editing and presenting digital content. A CMS usually has two components:
Content Management Application (CMA) which provides the interface for creating, managing and editing the content. This interface provides easy-to-use tools for the tasks mentioned. CMA provides indexing, tracking and easy retrieval of the content.
Content Delivery Application (CDA) which provides tools for publishing and updating the website. The website is the presentation layer using which the authorized users can consume the content published.
CMS players: Acquia (Drupal), Automattic (WordPress), Adobe, Oracle, Sitecore etc.
Enterprise Content Management Systems:
Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is a special type of CMS that is used by enterprises or organisations as the name suggests. ECM allows organisations to create processes (using Business Process Management /or Workflow Management tools) that control the content creation, approval and distribution.
An ECM consists of following components:
- DM or Document Management
- Collaboration (of supporting systems, groupware)
- WCM or Web Content Management (including portals)
- RM or Records Management (archive and filing management systems)
- Workflow / BPM or Business Process Management
Essentially ECM systems are a collection of all the systems described earlier. The components work together seamlessly to give one comprehensive system to manage the content for the enterprise.