Whether you are looking to start an online business or your existing business processes a lot of data (think publishing firms, media companies, tax and legal consultants, etc.) managing business documents and finding them can quickly become a chore.
Having to go through endless tacks of folders just to find one form can be painful and time-wasting. In fact, document issues account for more than 21% of daily productivity loss.
Thankfully, the days of having to keep cabinet after cabinet of files and documents are nearing their end.
Today, because of technology and the internet you can enjoy the luxury of going paperless and storing all your critical documents in digital forms and Document Management Software help you to do exactly this.
Document Management Software (DMS) provides functionalities that let you store, edit, organize, and back up critical data related to your business securely. They provide solutions for collaboration, limiting access, and streamlining workflows too.
In our post today, we’ll review the top document management software based on their features, price points, and ease of use. Let’s get started!
What Is The Best Document Management Software?
Before you use any document management software, you’ll need to consider your business needs. Do you need cloud storage? Added data protection? Third-party app integrations? What about collaboration and electronic signatures?
By keeping your business’ unique needs in mind, you’ll be able to choose a software that fits easily into your workflow and boosts efficiency. Below are our top picks for document management software systems.
Best All-Round File Management System for Small to Medium-Sized Businesses.
As the proud winner of the Expert’s Choice Awards 2019, Rubex by eFileCabinet stands tall amongst its competitors. It’s got rave reviews (4.5 stars) on both Capterra and G2 Crowd which just proves how popular it is within the business community.
Rubex is designed to fit businesses of all sizes, from small to medium-sized enterprises and lets you access your documents either via a web browser, desktop, or mobile app. It makes organization and file storage simple and hassle-free.
Simply upload your documents from PC or its phone app to the software and it will automatically organize and file them. It even goes a step further to give a quick access panel where you can easily find your most frequently accessed docs.
In terms of features, Rubex shines when it comes to collaboration. It makes it easy to collaborate with anyone on your team to edit and modify documents from anywhere. You can also limit access and grant permissions where necessary.
Worried about sensitive information in your files? Rubex comes with extra encryption with file sharing and requests so you don’t have to worry.
On top of that, it provides two-factor authentication and allows you to set IP or location-based authentication for added security.
A few other noteworthy features include
- Scan or a take a photo to create and upload docs directly to the platform
- Secure electronic signature using one-time-passwords
- File versioning to aid tracking document changes and edits
- Email imports including integration with Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive
Rubex by eFileCabinet comes with three pricing plans. All plans come with unlimited guest users, free mobile app, e-signatures, secure file sharing, file versioning, and full-text recognition.
The Advantage Plan starts at $55 per user monthly and provides 1 TB of storage.
The Business Plan starts from $99/user/month which gives you 5 TB of storage with custom branding and dual preview for your documents.
The Unlimited Plan starts from $199/month per user and gives you unlimited storage plus free integration with SalesForce and email imports.
- Free demos available for all plans
- Both Cloud and premise-based options available
- Allows for easy collaboration
- Easy scalability
- OCR support(optical character recognition) for scan to upload documents
- Unlimited guest users
- Third-party service integrations
- Not budget-friendly especially for multiple users
Try out Rubex by eFileCabinet with a free demo today
Best Document Management Software for Customization and Remote Team Collaboration.
Templafy’s slogan is to support “perfect business document creation no matter where employees work”. Safe to say, their comprehensive suite of document management tools do all that plus much more.
Started in 2014, Templafy’s goal was to be an all-in-one document management solution for large companies. Today it provides solutions to well-known brands like KPMG, Ikea, and Pandora.
The software provides eight modules that allow you to pick which features will best suit your business needs, making it one of the most customizable options on our list.
You can choose to have the Library module that gives you one-click access to all company documents directly from document creation applications. Basically meaning you have one place for all things like letterheads, invoices, forms, receipts, etc.
Or the validator and Productivity Plus modules that are designed for super PowerPoint users to keep all slides updated as well as tools to shorten how much time it takes to prepare presentations.
The Email Signature manager module makes sure all emails are compliant and that there is no rerouting of emails through external servers. It also makes management of multiple signatures for individual users easy.
A unique feature is Templafy’s Intelligence software. It automatically shows the most relevant content to each employee based on their roles. This means accounting documents don’t get seen by HR and vice versa.
Again, instead of having to comb through many files to create a complex document, the software automates that process by pulling up-to-date company details and any other needed info directly into the document.
Other added functionalities include:
- Easy one-click font distribution to all your employees.
- Add any app or service you use in creating documents to create a unified hub for document creation, management, and storage via third-party integrations.
- Additional security to keep all files encrypted and limit access based on user roles.
Templafy offers custom pricing based on your company’s needs meaning you can choose for exactly what you want. But free trials are available if you get in touch with their sales team.
- A unified solution for creating, sharing, managing and storing documents in one place
- Cloud-based storage available
- Suite of unique tools for PowerPoint
- A.I based document builder
- Mobile app with OCR capability
- Not for small or medium businesses
- Features may be overwhelming for some businesses
Get started with Templafy for FREE today.
Best Option for Budget-Friendly Choice for Creatives and Sharing Large Files.
If you’re looking for a simple, easy-to-use budget-friendly document management software, Opentext’s Hightail is the perfect choice. Hightail provides streamlined features that are simple and good for small to medium-sized businesses.
While most document management platforms offer some level of sharing and collaboration, Hightail takes it a step further by making it easy to share large files. You can send documents as large as 500GB to a specific recipient.
Once your file is sent, you will be notified when it is accessed and how much of it has been downloaded too.
This is especially useful if you share a lot of video and audio content. Apart from easy file sharing, you can also add passwords and expiration periods to each file for added security.
Hightail is also unique because it is one of the few document management platforms that offer integration with Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps. This means if you work with either Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop you can share and collaborate on projects.
Apart from supporting creative collaboration, you also get in-built project management functionality. This allows you to add deadlines, assign tasks and have discussions all in one place within the software for maximum productivity
- Their free plan, called the Lite Plan, limits you to sending files no larger than 100MB with 2GB storage with limited file previews.
- The Pro Plan is billed at $12 per month (annually) and has a file send size limit of 25 GB. You also get message tracking, configurable file expiration, unlimited storage and file previews.
- The Teams plan bills at $24/per user per month (billed annually). File send size limit is 50GB plus integration with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator plugins.
- The Business Plan starts at $36 per user per month (billed annually) and allows you to send up to 500GB per file.
You can also sign up for a free-trial 14-day trial on their Business plan to take Hightail for a test drive.
- Free plan and 14-day free trial available
- Built-in project management for easy collaboration
- Large file sharing limits
- Mobile app available
- Simple and easy-to-use features
- Tutorials available
- Limited third party integration
- Doesn’t do much in terms of file organization
Sign up for Hightail’s FREE plan here.
Best Readily Customizable Document Management Choice for Small to Medium Businesses.
When it comes to workflow automation, DocuWare is truly brilliant. This document management software provides a sturdy set of features that make it easy for you and your employees to work together from anywhere.
This cloud-based solution serves 12,000+ businesses and enterprises including known brands like Levi’s and Kellog’s. Regardless of its enterprise-level capabilities, it provides custom solutions for small and medium-sized businesses to go paperless.
What sets DocuWare apart is how it offers customized solutions for nearly every document-based function of your business.
It provides solutions for invoice processing, HR and employee management, sales, and marketing as well as document management too. So not only does it help you keep your files organized, but it helps your departments run smoothly.
For example, it automates invoice creation meaning less time spent on data entry and while it allows collaboration and group edits on proposals, contracts, and presentations for a more efficient sales team.
Again, Docuware has free tools meant to boost your productivity whether or not you use their software.
The free DocuWare Process Planner App is almost like a mind-mapping tool that allows you to map out all necessary steps or plans you’ll need to achieve your business goals.
Because the software offers multiple sets of features, you’ll need to get in touch with their customer support team in order to get a custom quote. Nonetheless, they’re still a strong choice for businesses of all sizes looking to go paperless.
Other key features include
- Electronic signature support
- Email imports
- A.I based intelligent indexing of documents
- Barcode recognition
- Versioning to keep track of document edits
- Mobile access
- Forms for data capture
- Connect with any scanning hardware to capture incoming paper documents such as invoices and delivery slips
- Integration with 500+ apps including QuickBooks, Outlook, Oracle, etc.
- Custom pricing solutions to fit all business
- Unique solutions for HR, invoicing, sales, and document management
- Free personalized demo available on request
- Free document and productivity apps
- No integration with third party apps
Get started with a FREE DocuWare demo today.
Best Option for Contract Document Management and Compliance Automation.
PaperTracer does more than just manage your documents. It provides an entire suite of business process management features aimed at automating your workflow and business processes.
The first way it does this is by integrating your digital and paper documents into a central database, making it easier to automate things like contracts, invoices, and legal documents.
It also reduces your compliance burden because they are HIPAA compliant and further simplify audit procedures needed to support the creation of compliant documents.
What makes PaperTracer unique is how it has specialized solutions for health-based businesses or institutions. With over 50 years of experience in Healthcare management, the software is designed to reduce the risk of errors with health compliance issues.
Legal-based businesses are not left out either. PaperTracer provides custom solutions including document templates, billable hours aggregations, client intake forms, and other solutions to streamline your workflow and save you both time and money.
Like some of its competitors, you can enjoy cloud-based implementation as well as electronic signatures, searchable database, OCR, scan to upload/pdf, custom contract authoring, etc.
PaperTracer offers custom pricing solutions for all businesses, so whether your business is small, medium, or enterprise-level, you’re sure to find something that works for you. They also offer free-trials upon consultation with their sales team too.
Nonetheless, they give you a fair idea of which plan will work for your business size and needs in the packages below.
For Small Businesses
- Up to 10 users
- Upload/scan to PDF
- Advanced reports and dashboard
- Forms for all data inputs
For Mid-Sized Businesses
All features in Small business plan plus
- Up to 100 users
- Contract automation and authorization
- Custom fields
- Workflow customization
All features in small and medium business plan plus
- Unlimited users
- Unlimited forms
- Single sign-on
While PaperTracer has solutions for enterprise-level businesses, it is better suited for small to medium-sized businesses than enterprises. There are better enterprise-level solutions on our list.
- Free-trial available upon request
- Custom pricing to suit your business size
- HIPAA compliant
- Easy usability
- Custom solutions for health and legal businesses
- Not enough functionality for enterprise-level solutions
- No third party integrations
Get started on PaperTracer with a FREE trial today.
Best Document Control Software for Security and Strict Industry Compliance.
MasterControl offers a wide array of software meant to improve overall quality management and business output, but we’ll focus mainly on their document control software.
This software was designed with the aim of automating business processes and speeding up the time to market for product-driven businesses. The goal is to eliminate errors, improve decision making, document management, and collaboration.
MasterControl is focused on highly-regulated industries like science, pharmaceutical, and research-based industries. Its tools are meant to make it easier for businesses in these industries to keep up with compliance, regulations, and standard protocols.
Their document control software provides tools for simplifying data collection, audits and collaboration. It also takes document security to the next level with added layers of protection.
For example, it is 21 CFR Part 11 compliant. This means anytime you edit a document, there will be a time-stamped audit trail, as well as e-sign functionality that complies with federal regulations.
It also helps you comply with FDA and ISO requirements in documentation so you don’t lose business due to errors in data entry or processing.
Another outstanding feature is its vast learning centre that is packed with lots of videos and tutorials so you can make the most of the software.
MasterControl offers custom pricing based on your business needs and profile. A quick consultation with their sales team will help them create a unique plan that works for your business goals.
- Multiple layers of security for sensitive data
- Easy business process automation for consistent quality control
- Tutorials available
- Meets FDA and ISO compliance requirements
- Time-stamped audit trail for easy auditing
- Can be accessed both by users and non-users
- Custom pricing available.
- Not beginner-friendly
- Features may be overwhelming
To get started with Master Control, reach out to their customer care team via phone or fill out their contact form.
Best Document Sharing Platform For Team Collaboration, Workflow Management, and Increased Productivity.
Microsoft SharePoint is your all-in-one document management and team collaboration powerhouse. It combines Microsoft’s document creation technology and is built to work perfectly with Office 365.
Apart from making it easy to find documents, SharePoint helps you to create content hubs or organize
For example, it works seamlessly within your intranet to help boost your organization’s efficiency by sharing common resources and apps on home portals.
Office 365 SharePoint is highly customizable meaning you can let it do much more than organize and manage your company documents.
You can keep everyone on your team updated with personalized, targeted news on the web and SharePoint’s mobile apps. Again, the software makes it easy to automate complex workflows and improve productivity using SharePoint’s lists and libraries, Microsoft Flow and Power apps.
Their tools let you gather and manage files within your organization for easy access and distribution, automate repetitive tasks, integrate data sources and so much more.
In case you are not tech-inclined, you can tap into the Microsoft SharePoint Tech community for tips and advice or take advantage of their well-resourced fast-track productivity library or the SharePoint training for tutorials.
SharePoint Online offers three pricing plans starting from $5/user/month billed annually up to $20/user/month also billed annually. All plans allow you to move content between OneDrive and SharePoint and come with storage.
The SharePoint Online 1 plan ($5/per person/month) gives you 1TB storage per user and allows sharing info via intranets and portals. This plan is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses.
The SharePoint Online 2 plan ($10 per user/month) gives you unlimited storage and added security for sensitive information and for audit purposes.
Whereas the Office 365 E3 plan gives you access to the entire Office 365 suite and apps plus private business email hosting with custom emails for $20/user/month. This plan also comes with a free trial.
SharePoint is a flexible and easily scalable platform if you’re looking to organize your documents and collaborate on creation and editing.
- Works seamlessly with Microsoft office for easy document creation
- Well-resourced library and training for fast onboarding
- Create custom workflows and apps
- Good for collaboration and information sharing
- No option to pay monthly
- Features may be overwhelming
Sign up for a Microsoft SharePoint Online free-trial today.
Good Digital Asset Management Platform for Creatives and Marketing Based Businesses.
Bynder’s cloud-based digital asset management platform caters to 1800+ big brands including Puma, Lacoste, Spotify, and KLM. Its unique selling point is having tools and features that make saving and create on-brand marketing content a breeze.
The software provides a hub for you to keep all your branding and marketing related guidelines as well as other documents. House all your digital content in one hub, know who sees what when with its access controls, so your users only see what you want them to see.
Need to share files? Bynder lets you share your content both internally and externally with the option to add expiration dates and watermarks to protect your content. You can also mark files as free to use, available internally, or only upon request.
Another thing that can become a big issue is file formats, especially in relation to marketing content. Bynder gives you the option to download your files or make them accessible in multiple formats and even allows you to custom size your files.
If you run a blog (or are looking to start one), a news site, or any data-heavy website, you’ll have no need to manually do everything as Bynder takes the hassle out of your marketing strategy and publishing marketing materials or any digital content.
Bynder gives you the option to create workflows that automate publishing content to your webpages or any other web pages for that matter.
To make it even better, the software comes with other products that can equally automate and manage your video content assets just like it would to text-based content. Thus no matter what kind of files or documents your business handles, Bynder has a product solution for you.
- Easy to use and learn
- Responsive customer support team
- Intuitive and user-friendly interface
- Easy to customize based on your needs
- Overwhelming for admins and backend users
- Issues with large file sizes (>25GB) and strange file types
Bynder’s pricing plans are based on the number of users, amount of storage, and modules your business will need, hence their custom pricing plans. You can however book a free demo to get started.
9. Dot Compliance.
Best Choice For Integrated Quality Management and Document Management.
Established in 2016 with a focus on life sciences, Dot Compliance aims to breach the gap in electronic quality management for strictly regulated industries like healthcare and pharmaceutics.
Document management is a critical part of quality management in every business. That’s why Dot Compliance offers document management software that helps you combine both quality and document management without stress.
The software allows you to effectively manage and control your organizations’ documents. It simplifies drafting, reviewing, approving, storing, and tracking documents while ensuring that they match industry standards.
A key feature of the software is its added security and regulatory standards readiness. If your business is subject to government regulations like FDA 21 CFR, ISO 9001, GAMP 5, EU MDR, etc, you’ll need to work with controlled documents.
Dot Compliance already has the framework or critical documents that cover procedures, work instructions, and policy statements. This means your documents are created and handled in a controlled system that meets industry requirements.
Apart from added security and meeting international document standards, Dot Compliance also helps you store records of the different versions of your files. You’ll be able to track changes and easily switch between document versions especially during collaboration.
If you have a large team, it makes it easy to give and restrict file access to various users depending on their specific roles in your organization. These can always be further modified to your needs via the DMS privacy settings.
- Integrated quality and document control management
- International compliance standards certified
- Added security for sensitive information
- Track multiple file versions and edits
- 90-Day free trial available
- Most functionalities are limited to health-based businesses.
- No third party apps/services can be used with the software
Sign up for a free 90-Day trial of Dot Compliance now.
A Good, User-Friendly, Collaborative File Management Solution for Small and Medium-sized Businesses.
While Planio doesn’t exactly fit your typical document management software set up, it still does a fine job of offering the basic tools and functionality you’ll need to keep your documents organized and readily accessible online.
Designed primarily as a project management software, Planio helps you and your team to stay on track with meeting all your business goals and stay up to date by streamlining communications on projects via built-in team chats and boards.
Nonetheless, Planio’s file management system is still a high-performing management software for documents. You get a centralized hub that securely stores all your files and documents while still making them accessible to everyone on the team.
You can even further organize your files by projects or conversations making it easy to find all resources in relation to an ongoing project. The extra layers of security mean that everyone gets access to only what they are allowed to see so anything classified stays classified.
In case your team is working remotely or even offline, Planio will keep you productive simply by storing whatever you’re working on in Planio storage. Once you get back online it will automatically sync your edits with all copies while keeping versions intact.
Another unique feature is the wide variety of document file formats Planio supports.
Be it CAD files, vector graphics, or even video edits, Planio supports sharing these files and many more. No need to convert your work to another format just to save space. You also have nearly no size restrictions when sending files.
On top of supporting multiple file formats, the file preview feature lets you preview documents without having to download them before you share them. So whether they are pictures or you just want to have custom thumbnails, Planio has got a solution for you.
You can even view your images as a slideshow or with a simple preview in your dashboard, Planio has got you sorted.
Planio has five pricing plans, all of which come with SSL encryption, continuous updates, backups, and maintenance, unlimited issues and incidents, free imports of existing data, and super-friendly support via email and phone.
- The Silver Plan gives you 5 active users, 5GB storage, and 3 active projects all at approx. $23/month.
- The Gold Plan gives you 7 active projects, 10 active users and 20GB storage for approx. $47/month
- The Diamond Plan gives you 15 projects, 20 users and 40GB storage for about $89/month
- The Platinum Plan gives you 40 active projects, 45 users and 80GB storage.
- The Enterprise Plan designed for large businesses with big needs and provides 100+ users, 100+ projects, 100+ GB as well as custom branding, domains and software customizations all for $356/month.
Whatever the size of your business or budget, Planio has a plan for you. That in addition to their easy-to-use software makes it a great choice for managing your paperwork.
- Allows multiple users even on basic plans
- Responsive customer support team
- Allows document previews without having to download
- Works both offline and online
- 30-Day free trial available
- No third-party app integrations
Get Started with Planio’s free 30-Day trial today.
What is Document Management Software?
Document Management Software (DMS) is simply a kind of software or system (cloud or premise-based) that allows you to receive, track, manage, organize and store documents or files and reduce paper use.
The software may or may not allow editing and creating documents directly within its framework. Some platforms may give you the option to integrate with your existing document creation and editing apps to make it easier to upload content.
Apart from giving you the basic functionality to manage your files, some DMS may take it a step further by allowing you to restrict file access, backup and track file versions, protect your business data, and streamline your workflow from one place.
Document Management Software is sometimes considered part of Enterprise Content Management solutions (ECM) simply because documents are the foundation of a business’s content.
ECM simply takes business content pieces like Word Docs, PDFs, spreadsheets, letterheads, etc. and makes them available to the right user at the right time. A good DMS on its own pretty much does the same too.
Benefits of Using Document Management Software and File Management Systems
Whether your business is looking to be more eco-friendly, cut down wastage or simply save space by going paperless, using a Document Management Software for your business comes with lots of benefits.
1. It saves you time and money
The number one reason why many business owners try to avoid paperwork is that it can be a timewaster.
Going through file after file just to find one piece of paper or a document can be a drag and reduce your output for the day.
A document management software helps you organize, store, and manage all your files easily.
No need to dig through stacks and stacks of files looking for that last invoice or letter.
Simply type in the document reference no or title and you are good to go!
2. It makes it easy to collaborate
With the steady rise of work-from-home jobs and businesses, it has never been more critical to have quick access to company docs and info from anywhere.
A DMS makes it easy to share and collaborate on documents and other data-driven projects.
It provides a solution for your ‘deskless’ workforce to maximize their productivity, share updates on projects and ask questions where necessary for maximum clarity.
3. Find documents quickly and easily
As we mentioned earlier, looking for one piece of paper in a pile of documents can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. DMS offers indexing and filing solutions to help you find what you’re looking for within seconds.
Just type in your search query and watch your screen light up with options. Apart from easily retrieving documents, it also gives you options to label and tag your docs for easy organization.
4. It allows your business to grow quickly
As your business is growing, so will the data you collect grow with it. If you were using a traditional cabinet filing system, you’ll pretty soon run out of space. Worse still, as the papers continue to pile, you may end up losing track of small details.
Having a DMS will prevent such trouble. Because everything is digitized, you’ll simply need to upgrade your storage to make room for more.
Again, you’ll never miss a detail because anything you need will be available at the touch of a button.
5. Maximize business data security
Business data is sensitive. That’s why every business needs some level of data security. This security is not only against external threats to the business and its security, but also internally to keep the wrong info away from the wrong eyes.
A good DMS will allow you to restrict file access based on user roles and function. You can also make sure that department information stays within a department’s users so that there is no info leakage. For example, your marketing department doesn’t see what accounting is working on.
6. Simplify business compliance
Certain businesses have stringent and complex compliance protocols which can be both confusing and demanding. Without the right tools to simplify the process, you are prone to making costly data entry mistakes in your business documents too.
Having a DMS can help you avoid fines, license-related troubles or even criminal liability by automating document creation to follow any necessary compliance guidelines.
For example, the Sarbanes-Oxley anti-fraud law comes with strict security and policy regulations regarding documents and records.There are other laws like the GDPR law and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Your DMS can be programmed to automatically follow those protocols so you don’t have to sweat it out editing and analyzing your documents yourself.
7. Improves productivity
Whether your team is working remotely, on multiple projects at a time, or simply looking to reduce paper at work, good file management software will increase overall productivity.
In fact, a survey reports a potential 36% increase revenue and a 30% cost reduction if a proper document management system is implemented.
By providing a centralized point of access, organization, and storage for all your documents, everyone will be able to quickly find what they are looking for to run more efficiently.
It also means if there is a need for real-time collaboration on documents and versioning, you can do it quickly and with zero hitches. Sharing and tracking file sends, edits, and views are made simple, ultimately saving you time and allowing you to do more.
How to Choose the Best Document Management Software?
Often the goal of using document management software is to reduce paper and make it easy to organize, find and share your documents when necessary. You may also be looking for extra security for sensitive information.
Perhaps you’re simply looking to automate some of the more painstaking tasks like checking records and doing taxes. Whatever your reason for deciding to invest in a DMS, you’ll need some pointers to help you choose an option that fits your business, your team, and your budget.
With lots of options out there that can be customized to suit your business needs, it’s easy to get a little confused as to which option is the best fit. You may find yourself asking questions like
- Do you need an industry-specific solution or you can make do with something that’s more general?
- What about third-party services? Do you need to have third party integrations with specific service providers?
- Would you like to be able to create your documents within the software or you don’t mind creating elsewhere and upload to the platform?
- Cloud-based vs location-based software installation and set up?
All these are very critical questions you’ll need to answer before settling on document management software especially since they don’t always come free. Remember to keep your unique business needs in mind before committing to any software.
The points below will give you more insight into the general things to look out for before choosing a document management system.
1. Ease of Use and Set-Up
Regardless of how many features any software has, it would be useless if the software is difficult to use. One of the most important elements of any software is usability. Ease of use is a huge part of the software experience and its efficiency.
If you’re working with a team, your team should also be able to use the software easily and make the most of all its features, regardless of their individual levels of tech-savvy. Because of this, be sure to take advantage of free trials where possible and let your team use the software.
This way you’ll be able to get a better feel of how well the software works for you and your team. Ask your team for feedback on what they like and don’t like about the software before making any commitments.
Apart from easy usability, you should also consider set-up and software installation. Some software have a complex set-up process and may even come with added set-up and installation fees. Others are simple enough for you to do by yourself.
Reach out and interact with the customer support team of any software you are considering to find out more about how to get set up and also how easy it is to do software updates and maintenance.
The last thing you want is something that ends up taking more time to keep up and running compared to how much time it saves.
2. Document Sharing and User Access Limits
Another key aspect of good document management software is how it allows for ready file sharing and permissions.
The basic function of a DMS may be reducing paper and making things easy to find, but it should also allow you to readily share files and restrict content where necessary. This is especially important when your team is collaborating on editing a document or a project.
Do you tend to have large file sizes to share? Or perhaps you handle more photo and video content than text documents? Some software comes with restrictions and limits on the kinds of files you can send and their size.
For example, Hightail lets you share files up to 500GB in size whereas other software may limit you to just 25GB or even less. Choose software with file sharing features that best suit the kind of documents you share.
Again, if it’s important knowing whether or not your recipient has received and viewed your content, be sure to ask if that customization is possible from the sales team before you subscribe to any service.
Pay attention to details like file previews, document size limits, file expiration and download notifications.
Do you need to work on a document with multiple users simultaneously? Be sure to check if your software allows multiple users to edit a document at the same time or limit the number of users by check-ins/check-outs as some software only allow one user at a time.
3. Versioning and Tracking Edits
In line with collaborating on documents is being able to track all changes made to a document at different points in time. This feature sometimes called version control or ‘versioning’ is important especially when multiple people are working on a document.
As much as 83% of employees deal with versioning issues daily. That means this is a serious productivity block in most workplaces.
A good document management software will allow you to track all edits and changes done to documents.
With many people making changes and edits to a document, it is possible that a big chunk of important information will get lost in the process or simply lose its meaning.
That’s why versioning comes in handy. You can simply go back to the exact point in time where the change was done and pick up from there. You may even realize that you simply don’t want the edits but you may want to compare changes side by side.
In this case, you’ll want to have access to not just the original version of the document but older versions, especially if it would save time compared to rolling back all the changes done to recent edits.
MasterControl for example, takes versioning to another level by including time-stamped audit trails, which allows reconstruction of all events in the creation, modification and deletion of an electronic study record.
4. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Scan to Upload
Sometimes you may not have time to get your paper records to a scanner to scan and upload. Other times you may not even be close to a scanner in the first place. This is where OCR and scan to upload functions come in handy.
Scanning lets you convert your paper document into a digital format that is readily shareable or uploadable without needing to type it out. It is the first step in digitizing any hard copy document. Your document management software should allow you to do this easily via an app.
There are already tons of apps on both the Google Play Store and App Store that let you quickly convert documents to pdfs, jpegs or soft copies simply by taking a photo.
Some document management software come with mobile apps that have this added functionality, e.g SharePoint online.
Apart from easily uploading your documents to the system, your software should also be able to read the text in an image and make that content editable and searchable.
This functionality is called Optical Character Recognition (OCR).The best document management systems use OCR to create metadata that will help you search for and find your documents easily later on.
5. Electronic Signatures
If your business does a lot of paper invoicing and contracts, chances are you do a lot of signing. It’s not uncommon to also have letters and other official communication signed. Signatures are an important way of authenticating documents and transactions.
Thus, a good document management software should have an electronic signature tool.
Be it a native e-signature feature or a third party app like DocuSign, a good software should allow you to digitally sign your documents before sending eliminating the need for printing.
You should also have the option to share or send a document to another party for them to sign using the software.
6. Automation of Document Creation and Workflow
The whole point of a document management software is to improve efficiency and save time. One way of doing this will be reduce how much time it takes to create new documents by using templates.
For files that will be used repeatedly like invoices, contracts and proposals, your software should automatically create these documents based on previous documents so that all you will have to do is just edit a few details, rather than type it from scratch.
Apart from helping you create documents quicker, your workflow should also be more automated. A workflow is simply a repeated process or pattern that helps you achieve needed outcomes in your business.
For example, every invoice may need to go through accounts for approval and signatures after which it must then go to operations for follow up.
Your DMS should allow you to create an automation that lets any new invoice automatically go to the accounts manager for authorization after which the operations manager gets a notification to follow up. This eliminates down-time and speeds up processes in your business.
Be sure to take into account what your team needs and the normal processes that paperwork has to go through in your organization, so you can pick a software with the right level of customization for your business.
The best business management systems allow you to customize workflows to suit the way your business operates easily and fits into your operations seamlessly.
7. User Access and Document Security
Sometimes certain information is simply off limits to some of your employees. Perhaps, you want to keep department info within a department. Your DMS should help you limit user access to sensitive information based on their roles.
Ideally, there should be an admin panel on the backend that allows you to give individual users permissions to access certain files based on their roles. Permissions allow some users to view or edit files only, while others won’t be allowed to see those documents in the system.
Also in line with document security is making sure that your software helps you meet any necessary document compliance or requirements. Consider all necessary regulations and compliance needs for your business and see if your software makes provisions for them.
Other security features that may be helpful to look out for include file expiration dates, password protection and download notifications. This is especially useful if you’re looking to limit the number of times a document is viewed or is accessible to others.
From an IT perspective, a good DMS should also come with added layers of security and encryption to protect all your uploads and defend against malicious attacks. This means things like a secure encryption and other layers of security to keep your data safe.
The best document management software allows administrators to set permissions by specific groups, as well as to change permissions on the fly if you need to make an exception while keeping the default permissions settings the same.
8. Easy Access on Mobile and Mobile-Friendliness
More than 80% of email users open their emails on a mobile device and a majority of business communication happens via email. Thus it is important for your document management software to support and work seamlessly on mobile devices.
Apart from emails, the ability to work remotely and get quick access to documents and collaborate on projects while on the go is important to the growth and well-being of any online business. Hence the need for mobile-friendly software that makes access on the go easy.
Some business management software may provide mobile apps that give quick access, allow editing and collaboration on documents or files, while others may just give limited functionality on mobile. Either way, your software should make provision for a good mobile experience.
Whether you use the software mainly through a web browser or an online portal, it should be as easy to use and access on mobile as on PC. Apart from ease of use and access, you should also look into how smoothly an app runs on mobile as all apps are not created equal.
Check if your software’s app has bugs or is glitchy from reviews before subscribing fully to their service. You’ll want a smooth-running app and mobile experience especially if you’ll have a lot of members on your team using it.
Testing out the software with a free trial will help clear any doubts about what exactly you and your team are getting in terms of mobile functionality.
While we have touched on some features which we think are great, this list isn’t exhaustive.
Again not all the software mentioned here have all these features baked into them out of the box. But like we mentioned earlier, your industry, the kind of business you do and how large your team is will determine how much feature power you need.
By focusing on your core goals when choosing a DMS, you’re sure to pick a choice that will indeed increase productivity and fit into your work’s ecosystem like a glove.
Tips and Strategies for Using Document Management Software?
From making it easy for anyone in your company to find the files they need to getting rid of expensive and bulky physical storage units or simply saving you time by automating document creation, a DMS is a worthwhile investment for your business.
The question now is how do you maximize and get the most out of it? How do you let it really boost overall productivity and efficiency in a way that is tangible and measurable?
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of automation and expect your software to do literally everything for you. But any software is only as good as the one who is using it and how that person maximizes its output.
Thus it’s important to migrate from paper documents to your DMS with an existing system for operation in place so that you set yourself up for success and make it easy for everyone to find anything as and when they need it.
Also remember that consistency is key to effectively managing your business data using a document management system. Entering and saving all documents following a standard protocol will save you from having to overhaul the entire system a few months down the line.
1. Your Folders Will Still Need Organizing
If you’ve never used a DMS before, it’s easy to get excited by the idea of the software doing all the hard work for you, and all you need to do is create your new files. But don’t let yourself fall in that trap!
Remember the software is just a tool, which is only as good as how well it is used. Try to focus on what specific problems need solving with your current document management methods.
Do you struggle to retrieve old documents? Or have problems tracking versions? What about invoicing and marketing materials? Your software can only solve these kinds of problems if you show it how to.
If you just create folders without properly creating a structure for naming and saving folders, you’ll still have problems with locating files and content when you or someone else on your team needs it.
Apart from folders, also pay attention to which files need to have restricted access based on roles and be sure to save those in a way that makes it easy to restrict user access when needed.
2. Think Twice About Filenames
When you’re migrating your entire existing database to a DMS, you may easily overlook filenames because of the sheer amount of work involved. But filenames can make all the difference between a cluttered, confusing system and a seamless one.
To get the best out of your DMS, take time to plan out the kind of folder naming system you’d like to use and let everyone on the team agree to the formula. It may be a lot of work upfront but it will save you a lot of time later down the line when you’re looking for documents.
Make sure you create differentiators that are covered in a document’s metadata either automatically or manually (data that describes the document’s nature and content).
The simple reason being you don’t want to have many similar files come up for the same search results. Creating and indexing metadata is something you will have to consciously do, so that your software can more readily organize your files and make them easier to retrieve.
Saving electronic files for the first time takes almost as much time as filing paper. The huge payoff comes when you need that file again and don’t have to search for long or dig to find it.
Real document management is only efficient when you properly index metadata which helps with document organization and retrieval.
3. Don’t Wait To Automate
Workflow automation is a known perk of using document management software, but getting a workflow that works perfectly for your organization right out of the box is not as straightforward as you’d think.
Like we have mentioned earlier, any software is only as good as the way it is put to use. This principle applies to automation too. It’s easy to assume your software should magically figure out what kind of automated workflows will work best for your organization.
Only you understand how your teams interact with each other and collaborate on shared projects. You also know how your business communicates with clients and potential business partners.
Thus it would be ideal to create your own pilot system of workflow automations as soon as you start using your document management system. Then fine-tune and tweak it little by little as you go along for improved efficiency and performance.
If you’re not sure which workflows will work best, you could sit with your team and examine which tasks are repetitive, which ones cut across departments and which ones don’t need multiple steps.
For example, in one environment, you may require manual workflow whereas another will do fine with a rules-based workflow.
This way everyone will be onboard with the new system and can adjust quickly. You’ll also get timely feedback which can help you improve your system fast or know if you need to scrap it altogether and create a new one.
4. Save Your Files In One Place Only
A document management system unifies your entire organization’s operational info and data. The whole team now operates using data from the same storage and hard drive rather than that on private machines so everyone has to save things in the same place.
Using shared folders and multiple filenames to try to distinguish edits or file versions is a recipe for disaster. How will you know which version has which info and if it’s the one to use? Version control is critical to getting the most out of your DMS.
No one can take liberties to save files as and how they please because if another person in the organization needs to access and perhaps edit the same file, it will become a challenge. This is where it helps to come up with a generally accepted file saving convention amongst the team.
Once everyone knows how to name and where to save which kind of files, the software can easily automate and figure out which kinds of documents need to go where.
There are different ways you can do this, either by separating the documents into file types and saving by dates or by perhaps document batch numbers.
Either way once everyone understands and begins to use the naming system you all agree on, your software will become much more efficient. This also helps with versioning and tracking file changes especially.
The earlier you implement a system for saving and tracking file versions, the sooner you can begin to reap the full benefits of your document management system.
5. Using A DMS By Itself Doesn’t Solve Much
Document management systems are great additions to productivity, but on their own they can only do so much. One key thing to always remember is that it is a system. And a system usually only works best when it is run well and works together with other systems.
Your DMS is a standalone tool that by itself will not solve all your document filing and organization issues. It won’t be able to tell where you need the most help in terms of efficiency. It will only work best when it is integrated into your existing system of running your business.
For example, your DMS may automate creating new contracts or invoices, but that won’t truly be efficient if you don’t create a workflow that sends newly created invoices straight to any necessary signatories or department heads.
Another example is your DMS by itself can’t fix the issue of tracking client communications and proposals for follow-up. You would first need to create the folders into which all client communications should go, according to time and each unique client.
Before you set up your DMS, take time to narrow down which specific aspects of your business operations critically need the boost from the software and plan to build pilot systems that could work .
6. Never Stop Learning
Whether you’ve started using a DMS or are yet to get started with one, knowing which exact areas of your operations need a boost helps. This will give you a headstart in improving your productivity using your document management system.
Apart from anticipating what you are trying to fix, you’ll also need your team to understand and learn how to use the new software in line with your company’s efficiency and productivity goals.
Make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to how to save and name files. Initially, it may be a little tricky since people may have to change how they currently handle business data. But in the long run the pay off will be worth it.
Types of Document Management Systems
From our list, you can tell that document management systems can function in different ways and even as part of larger business management systems, like quality control for example.
Document Management systems are used mainly to organize files and data in an organization. While it may seem the focus is usually paper or text-based documents, there are a wide range of software products that can come under the document management system umbrella.
There are two ways to classify a DMS. It can be classified based on where the data is stored, i.e cloud-based or location based or it can be classified based on the kind of data that the system primarily handles e.g images, content etc.
Ultimately, most software incorporate some aspects of each system to help it provide a well-rounded solution to organizing and managing all your business data.
Let’s look at systems based on location. One of the most popular options when it comes to location based systems is cloud storage. Cloud storage simply means that any information uploaded into the system is stored remotely and securely on a shared server.
Cloud storage is cheaper and needs less technical know-how to manage since most of the heavy lifting is done by the hosting company. Hence cloud-based services are usually cheaper.
The other alternative is premise-based document management which means the software is uploaded on your company server which may be within the company premises or privately hosted elsewhere.
The benefit here is you don’t need the internet to use the software since it’s already on the company’s server. While this option offers better customization and flexibility, it may be more demanding in terms of technical expertise to run and maintain.
Another way to classify document management systems is based on the type of data they handle.
Content Management Systems are systems designed to organize and deliver a wide range of content and media to web users, site visitors and anyone publicly accessing content online . Some such popular examples include WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.
Document Imaging Systems (DIS) are more centered on image collection and management and are designed to work with scanners to scan, store and preserve images of documents from different sources and help convert paper documents into digital format.
Records Management Systems are meant to maintain records and make them easily retrievable especially in highly regulated industries such as healthcare, legal, and government agencies.
Enterprise Content Management Systems (ECMS) have a much broader scope and may include two or more other document management systems. For example, a DIS and Content Management System may both be part of an ECMS for a company.
The goal of ECMS is to move content from creation to approval as efficiently as possible taking into account the specifics of the business using it e.g workflows, processes, and rules of the enterprise.
And finally workflow systems that are designed to automate repetitive processes to help streamline work and maximize efficiency.
Document Management Software FAQ
With all the talk about document management software, some of the simpler questions may have slipped. This FAQ will help you get a basic and fair understanding of what a DMS actually is and how it works including price point options as well.
Document control software is designed to help you organize, manage, track and automate your business information and records especially when going paperless. It saves you time and money by making it easy to collaborate on records, track versions and have file security.
Other document management system benefits include automation of the entire process of organizing, tagging, storing, and accessing your business-related documents and files especially for your team.
It is also a way to control permissions throughout your organization and also remain compliant with standards like FDA, ISO, HIPAA etc.
The pricing when it comes to good document management software varies widely. While most service providers offer custom pricing upon consultation, others have pricing plans that range anywhere from $15 per user per month to almost $350+ per month.
Pricing plans may vary based on how much storage is made available or how many users can be given access at a time. You can get started with a free trial where possible to take each software for a test-run before you decide on which one works for your business.
Statistics show that generally over 5 years, businesses make a 404% ROI from using document management software.
In order to calculate the ROI of your document management software, you’ll first need to know your costs of using physical storage and paper. So things like how much is spent on paper, files, cabinets and paper-based equipment all need to be summed up.
The next cost you’ll need to sum up is how much time is spent on handling paper. So by determining how much time the average employee spends handling paper out of their billable hours, you can come up with a rough estimate of how much it costs to keep using paper.
Finally you’ll need to also know how much it’s going to cost to get you started on a document management software and any additional fees in terms of tech support and onboarding time.
By comparing the total cost in terms of time and money used in maintaining a paper filing system to a document management system, you’ll be able to better determine how much you can save and gain by investing in a DMS.
For small businesses that don’t have a lot of employees or very large storage needs, Planio’s Gold Plan or the Hightail Team plan both offer great value for money. Their software is simple to use, handles all the basics of document management and allows large file sharing.
If you’re looking for an option with multiple integrations especially with Office 365 then MicroSoft’s SharePoint Online also has plans that suit businesses of all sizes.
Document Management Software Comparison
Document management software(DMS) is a great way to save time, boost your productivity and go paperless while still keeping important business data organized and readily accessible.
From preventing data entry errors, saving on physical storage space and keeping up with compliance standards, it is worth looking into investing into a document management software to keep your business running smoothly and your team working seamlessly.
Before choosing a DMS you definitely need to consider your business goals and unique processes so you can pick the best choice for your goals.
Do you need lots of storage or do you have lots of people on the team who need file access? Does your team collaborate on a lot of projects and documents together? What about their experience with tech?
- For small to medium sized businesses, Planio, Hightail and SharePoint Online offer varying plans with lots of storage and easy team collaboration, even on creative projects
- For businesses that have growing needs and need more advanced systems, Rubex by eFileCabinet and DocuWare offer many custom options to serve different aspects of running your business and automate workflows easily.
- If you’re in a highly regulated industry or have stringent compliance needs, Dot Compliance and PaperTracer both offer custom plans based on your specifications.
Which document management software have you tried out?