A document management system (DMS) is a system (based on computer programs in the case of the management of digital documents) used to track and store documents. It is usually also capable of keeping track of the different versions modified by different users (history tracking).
The term has some overlap with the concepts of content management systems. It is often viewed as a component of enterprise content management (ECM) systems and related to digital asset management, document imaging, workflow systems and records management systems.
Document management is one of the precursor technologies to content management, and not all that long ago was available solely on a stand-alone basis like its imaging, workflow, and archiving brethren. It provides some of the most basic functionality to content management, imposing controls and management capabilities onto otherwise “dumb” documents. This makes it so that when you have documents and need to use them, you are able to do so. Some of the key features in document management include:
- Check-in/check-out and locking, to coordinate the simultaneous editing of a document so one person’s changes don’t overwrite another’s
- Version control, so tabs can be kept on how the current document came to be, and how it differs from the versions that came before
- Roll-back, to “activate” a prior version in case of an error or premature release
- Audit trail, to permit the reconstruction of who did what to a document during the course of its life in the system
- Annotation and Stamps
Document management eventually was subsumed into content management in no small measure because there is more information available to us today than ever before, and most of it is not being created by us. Thanks to the mainstreaming of a whole range of sources like the Web, thumb drives, smartphones, etc., the need has accelerated to deal with information of all kinds: not just in terms of more media types like text vs. images vs. voice files, but also in terms of how structured – and thus how readily managed – it all is.
Document management systems today range in size and scope from small, standalone systems to large scale enterprise-wide configurations serving a global audience. Many document management systems provide a means to incorporate standard physical document filing practices electronically. These include:
- Storage location
- Security and access control
- Version control
- Audit trails
- Check-in/check-out and document lock down.