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Alfresco One
Vendor Name: Alfresco
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Box
Vendor Name: Box
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Contentverse
Vendor Name: Computhink
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Docufree Cloud
Vendor Name: Docufree
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Document Locator
Vendor Name: ColumbiaSoft
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Dokmee
Vendor Name: Office Gemini LLC
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Dropbox Business
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Evernote Business
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FileCenter
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FileHold
Vendor Name: FileHold Systems, Inc.
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Fluix
Vendor Name: Readdle Inc.
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GoCanvas
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Google Drive
Vendor Name: Google
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ViewCenter
Vendor Name: ICM Doc. Solutions
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PaperPort
Vendor Name: Kofax
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LogicalDOC
Vendor Name: LogicalDOC
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M-Files
Vendor Name: M-Files
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Mi-Forms
Vendor Name: Mi-Corporation
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OpenKM
Vendor Name: OpenKM
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pCloud Business
Vendor Name: pCloud
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Perceptive Content
Vendor Name: Hyland
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Questys
Vendor Name: Questys Solutions
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GlobalSearch
Vendor Name: Square 9 Softworks
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Workflow AnyWare
Vendor Name: Kerr Consulting
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Zoho Docs
Vendor Name: Zoho
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Document Management Software Buyer’s Guide 

Introduction 

Handling paper documents can be risky, tedious and expensive. When users can’t find important information quickly, it leads to lost productivity and poor customer service. Businesses need to keep documents organized, which is where document management software (DMS) comes in. 

This guide details the features, benefits and challenges of DMS solutions. We’ll also provide advice on choosing the right software. 

DMS Statistics

  • The DMS market is expected to grow to $11 billion by 2028 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.9%. Source: MarketWatch 
  • For companies that don’t use a DMS, 21% of daily productivity loss is due to document issues. Source: Tech Crunchies 
  • Companies spend an average of $25K filling a single file cabinet and an additional $2,000 a year just to maintain that cabinet. Source: Ademero 
  • eSignature, whether it’s a feature in DMS or its own software, reduces document turnaround time by 80%. Source: Ademero 
  • By investing in a DMS, companies lower their document-related expenses by 40%. Source: Laserfiche 
  • Only 31% of HR professionals report that they used a combination of software and manual processes in assigning and tracking tasks. Source: DocuSign/HR Daily Advisor survey 
  • 24% of HR professionals use a human resources management system (HRMS) to store documents, but only 9% use a dedicated DMS. Source: DocuSign/HR Daily Advisor survey 
  • 62% of HR administrators say their company currently doesn’t have a DMS, but 19% of them do plan to implement one within 12 to 18 months. Source: DocuSign/HR Daily Advisor survey 

What is a DMS? 

A DMS is an electronic solution dedicated to storing, tracking and archiving documents. 

Document management isn’t a new concept – as far back as the 1980s, vendors developed software to help businesses manage paper-based documents. Items were once only stored on a user’s local file system, but DMS has evolved to where documents can be stored on a network server, in a web browser or in the cloud – where they can be accessed, shared and edited by anyone on your team. 

Differences Between DMS, ECM and CMS 

DMS tends to overlap with two other terms: content management systems (CMS) and enterprise content management (ECM). While DMS focuses on the entire lifecycle of a document from scanning and storing to sharing and publishing (a digital file cabinet of sorts), an ECM or a CMS manages all types of content such as videos, images, rich media, email, web pages and more. ECM systems provide an end-to-end lifecycle management for content, and they tend to specifically focus on collaboration and compliance. 

Who Uses DMS? 

Everyone can benefit from a DMS, no matter the job role, company size or industry. A small business could use a DMS if it’s looking to go paperless or wants to save space and money. An accounting department may use a DMS to help manage invoices. Roles that focus heavily on collaboration (e.g., marketing or publishing) would also benefit. 

One industry that especially benefits from a DMS is health care. By using a DMS or electronic medical records (EMR) system, healthcare providers achieve improved patient care. Patients can see their doctors faster (because it’s easier to look up patient and insurance information) and get their prescriptions quickly (since scripts are directly sent to the pharmacy through the system). 

Note that the healthcare industry requires specific restrictions on data storage and access. This may not be the case for all other industries. 

The legal industry also relies heavily on DMS, as it has an overwhelming amount of paperwork to deal with and must adhere to records management compliance. 

Common DMS Features 

Here are some common features found in most document management software. 

Document storage: The document storage feature allows users to collect a variety of electronic documents (e.g., PDFs, images and other media) while intelligently indexing them with folder hierarchies, metadata or tags. 

Workflow management: To manage workflows, a shared repository (such as a calendar or dashboard) allows users to track tasks or coordinate schedules related to a document’s lifecycle. 

Imaging/capture: Some document management software integrates with scanners or multifunction printers so users can scan paper-based documents directly into the software. Other software allows for mobile capture, where users can transfer an image, email or other content into the DMS from their mobile devices. 

Indexing: Indexing refers to the process of tagging documents with different search terms to find specific documents. For example, if users need to look up a specific client’s input order, they can search by project number or date of entry. 

Metadata: Metadata is data that provides a description of other data. With a DMS, a document’s metadata would be the type of file, the author of the document, the date/time the file was created and other descriptive information needed to track it. Some vendors let users group their documents by metadata rather than by folders. 

Collaboration: The collaboration feature allows users to communicate within the content (e.g., in-app chat services, notes or comments within a document). Users can also work simultaneously within a file. 

Version control: This feature keeps everyone on the same page with shared documents. There’s usually a master copy that references previous versions of the document, so a user can easily check edit history. Any edits or comments within the copy can be dated or time-stamped and referenced by a user. Check-in/check-out is also a key component of version control. 

Security features: Security is critical in document management software, especially in industries like finance and health care. A few common security features include user access authentication, password encryption, audit reports (e.g., how frequently a file is accessed or name/date/time of file access), notifications of any unusual activity and single sign-on (SSO). 

Top Benefits of DMS  

There are many benefits of using a DMS, including: 

Reduced expenses: Businesses can cut the cost of having to purchase paper, postage, additional file cabinets or storage space. 

Saved time/improved productivity: A DMS saves time and improves employee productivity since information is more readily accessible. 

Enhanced collaboration among users: Users can provide comments or even make edits within a single document. Most systems provide version control and check-in/check-out functionality, so users can see a date/time stamp and the name of the person who made the edits. 

Better customer service: If a customer or client has a question about an order or a project, employees can easily find the records online rather than having to search for any paperwork. 

Improved disaster recovery: In the case of a fire or other natural disaster, companies won’t have to worry about replacing lost paperwork, since files are stored electronically. 

Ability to comply with federal, health and any other regulatory or legal mandates: Regardless of industry, complying with federal or other regulatory guidelines is critical. A DMS helps boost compliance by keeping data accessible and more organized. 

How to Choose a DMS 

There are many DMS solutions out there that vary in features and pricing. It’s key to research all of your options before making a purchase. We’ve listed four important steps below. 

1.) Knowing your company’s needs 

Before researching any vendors, you’ll need to consider your needs and requirements. Do you have a lot of paper that will need to be scanned into a DMS? What are your workflow processes and how would a DMS automate them? How many users will access the software? 

You’ll also want to ensure that your IT staff, top executives and other key users are onboard with implementing a DMS. 

2.) Creating a shortlist 

Once you’ve established your objectives for a DMS, create a shortlist of vendors that best fit your needs. We recommend listing out the must-have features, as well as the nice-to-have ones, to help determine the type of solution you’re looking for. 

In addition to features, you’ll need to consider the vendor’s deployment options (e.g., on-premise, cloud), implementation processes and customer support. 

3.) Contacting vendors 

After making a shortlist of vendors, it’s time to reach out to them. Explain your objectives and the features you require in a solution. You’ll also want to request a demo of the software with real-data scenarios, if possible. Vendors offer virtual demonstrations, but it can also be useful to ask if a vendor is willing to meet with you at your office. Another way to test the software is to participate in a free trial, if available. Most vendors offer a 14-day or 30-day free trial. 

It’s also key to compare different price quotes you received. We explain more on pricing in a separate section below. 

4.) Conducting due diligence 

When you’ve selected your top two or three vendors, ask for references from their current or previous clients. While vendors tend to give you the clients with the most glowing recommendations or experiences, ask to speak to clients that are in the same industry or are the same size as your company. You’ll want to see not just the positives of the solution or vendor, but any issues the client has experienced as well. 

Pricing 

DMS vendors use two popular pricing models: subscription hosting plans (cloud) or perpetual licensing (on-premise). Here’s a look at each. 

Subscription plans: When the vendor hosts the software on its servers (also known as Software-as-a-Service), the company typically pays a monthly or annual subscription fee. This is beneficial for companies that don’t want to host and maintain their data. The standard pricing structure is per user, per month, and is usually based on the number of employees who access the software. Most document management software vendors offer scalable subscription plans that are based on the number of users and the types of features that are included in each plan. 

Perpetual licensing: With perpetual licensing, the company hosts the data on its own servers, so it only needs to pay for the software upfront. It may pay a recurring cost, typically annually, for maintenance or support. Perpetual licensing is an attractive option for businesses that are concerned with data security or have complex needs (e.g., large organizations). 

For more specific vendor pricing, head over to our pricing guide. 

Challenges of DMS 

Along with the benefits, there are also challenges that come with a DMS, including: 

Resistance from vital employees: IT or top executives can be resistant to using a DMS, especially if the proposed solution is cloud-based and they’re concerned about security.  On the flip side, IT may prefer a cloud-based solution to an on-premise one, as there may not be enough staff or resources to handle data and server maintenance. 

Resistance to adoption by users: Users who are accustomed to working with paper or have their own way of managing paperwork can be resistant to the idea of a document management system. 

Unnecessary features in the software: Some businesses may not need all of the features that are included with a DMS. For example, a small business that’s mostly interested in just storing documents may not have a need for collaboration features. 

The labor involved in scanning paper-based documents: This can be a challenge for companies that haven’t used a DMS before and may have a lot of paperwork that must be scanned. It’s especially true for smaller businesses that need their employees to focus on their main jobs. One way to overcome this challenge is to look at vendors that offer scanning services. 

Concern of implementation timeline: The time it takes to implement the solution can be a challenge, even more so if a new client needs a lot of paperwork to be scanned (if the vendor offers this service) or data needs to be migrated from another DMS solution. 

Market Trends 

The DMS market has experienced several changes in recent years, such as cloud-based deployment and increased focus on collaboration. Better Buys asked a few DMS vendors for their thoughts on the market’s key trends. We’ve summarized their responses below. 

Document management transitions from “paperless” to “born digital”: Rather than scan paper files into document management software, the trend will shift to offices never having to work with paper in the first place. Companies will integrate their DMS with their other systems, which will help them create electronic forms and use automated business processes. 

Mobile functionality as a standard feature: Many offices have employees who work remotely or travel to meet clients/customers. These employees want to not only be able to look up documents from their mobile devices, but make edits, collaborate on files and even create documents. More vendors are offering mobile functionality as a standard feature now. Some document management systems also allow users to take images or documents from their mobile devices and upload them to the system. 

Document management software will have more intuitive and intelligent features: DMS vendors have gradually begun offering artificial intelligence (AI) and other intelligent features, especially for storing and extracting data. One example is M-Files. Its Intelligent Metadata Layer feature helps users find specific content based on metadata rather than where the content is stored. 

Recent DMS Blog Posts 

To stay up to date on what’s happening in our DMS market, check out our most recent blog posts.