Types Document Management Systems

With the creation of the Federal government’s Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) cloud-first initiative in 2011, many departments, agencies, and companies in and around Washington, D.C. are implementing document management systems in the cloud. To help guide agencies in their move to the cloud, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is tasked with defining and annually updating the government’s cloud computing standards roadmap. In that report, NIST mentions that organizations should consider both technical needs and business needs when choosing what to put in the cloud. This applies to the specific vendor and features, but also the specific type of document management system.

Document Management is a Broad Term

“Document management system” is a term that is actually a broad classification of systems that encompasses other, more specific types. The more specific types of document management systems are:

a)     content management systems
b)     enterprise content management systems
c)      records management systems
d)     workflow systems
e)     document imaging systems

While some people may use these terms interchangeably, they are, in fact different.

Content Management Systems (CMS) are a slightly more specific type of document management system. CMSs manage documents, images, videos and other media and allow users to upload, edit, remove, and publish said content. Often, CMSs are used to manage personal or corporate websites and blogs. WordPress and Drupal are two examples of CMSs.

Enterprise Content Management Systems are a specific type of CMSs that organize the managed files around processes and principles of the company or organization that uses it. These systems incorporate business knowledge and logic into their structure and workflows.

Document Imaging Systems are designed to capture, store, and reprint document images. These are a form of enterprise content management, but are typically less complex as they only manage document images.

Records Management Systems focus on the lifecycle of an organization’s most important data records. They are often put in place to ensure regulatory compliance. These systems are very common in law enforcement to manage officers, incidents, arrests, and detained persons.

Workflow Management Systems exist to control and shepherd documents to the right people or systems at the right time depending on the current step in the workflow. They are used to automate, codify, and enforce an organization’s workflow processes. Naturally, these systems are very specific for the industry and company.

These five types of document management systems all serve similar, but ultimately, different purposes. The distinctions between the system types are important to any organization, not just those in Washington, D.C., that wants to implement a document management system. Choosing the wrong type of system will end up costing more in time and money, and may eventually have to be abandoned or redone from scratch. Choosing the right type of system, however, will improve efficiency and lower costs.