Document management, often referred to as Document Management Systems (DMS), is the use of a computer system and software to store, manage and track electronic documents and electronic images of paper based information captured through the use of a document scanner. DMS is how your organization stores, manages and tracks its electronic documents.


Document management is the process of applying policies and rules to how documents are created, persisted, and expired within an organization. Document collaboration is merely the process of checking out, checking in, and versioning a document before it is published. Windows SharePoint Services gives you document collaboration, whereas SharePoint Server gives you document management.


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 lockdown.


Generally speaking, the main aspects of managing documents through a life cycle include the following:


  • Creation These are the methods for envisioning, initiating, and collaborating on a new document’s development.


  • Location There must be a physical location where documents will be stored and accessed. Usually, most DMS systems require single instance storage (SIS) of a document so that there is only one version of the truth.


  • Authentication/Approval These are the stated methods of ensuring that a document is fully vetted and approved before it is considered to be official, compliant communication from the company.


  • Workflow This describes the series of steps needed to pass documents from one person to another for various purposes, such as to gain approval to publish the document or to collect signatures on a document.


  • Filing In a traditional sense, we’d discuss into which filing cabinet the hard copy was placed. For electronic systems, we file a document by placing it in the physical location and then attaching metadata to the document. The metadata files the document logically by allowing the document to be found based on the metadata values assigned to the document.


  • Distribution This describes the methods of getting the document into the hands of the intended readers.


  • Retrieval This refers to the methods used to find the documents, such as querying the index for keywords or using search alerts to find new content that meets the query keywords.