What Is Document Control Software, and Do You Need It?

By Skye Schooley,
business.com writer
|
Feb 18, 2020
Image Credit: kasto80 / Getty Images

Find out if you need document control software and how it can benefit your business.

  • Document control software not only stores and manages business documents, it helps your company comply with federal, state, and industry regulations governing information security, sharing, and storage.
  • Three primary features of document control software are high-end security, version control and document lifecycle retention.
  • Companies in highly regulated industries, such as construction, energy, engineering, finance, food, government, healthcare, immigration, legal and medical, can face severe penalties if their document control processes don't comply with federal and state laws. 

It is important for every business to have a proper management system in place for document creation as well as document workflow. Properly managing current and archived electronic documents is essential for quality control management, increased efficiency in business processes, and regulatory compliance. Some industries, though, require a software solution that is more advanced in its tracking abilities. 

Document control software can be essential in ensuring regulatory compliance for your business, and for some industries, it is legally required. There are several document control software options that are available, but how do you choose the right software for your business? We spoke with industry experts to explore the types of businesses that need this software, and we've listed several viable software providers at the end of this article.

 

Editor's note: Looking for document management software for your business? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs. 

 

What is document control software?

Document control software, not to be confused with document management software, stores and manages business documents in adherence to regulations mandated by federal (and/or state) agencies and/or standards issued by organizations such as the International Organization for Standardization that are required in certain industries. Companies in heavily regulated industries benefit from the advanced features that a document control solution offers. 

Nikhil Koranne, assistant vice president of operations at Chetu, listed three benefits that a good document control solution offers: 

  1. Security: Document control software has improved security, which provides businesses the ability to encrypt and transfer documents both internally and externally.

  2. Version control: Version control helps businesses not only save previous versions of documents for posterity purposes but also ensures that work is being done to the most up-to-date version.

  3. Document lifecycle retention: Document control software provides businesses with an easy audit trail, which allows employees and auditors to see an entire lifecycle of a document to ensure authenticity and regulatory compliance.  

Document control software vs. document management software

Choosing a solution for your business documents can seem inconsequential, but the right system can greatly impact your business workflow. In some cases, the right system can be the difference between maintaining industry standards or falling victim to a damaging audit. 

Because of the high stakes involved, business owners need to know the difference between document management software and document control software, and there are a few key differences. Jared Weitz, CEO and founder of United Capital Source, said that document control systems are essentially more mature than document management systems and have a higher level of oversight. 

Koranne added that although the two systems have similar features (e.g., file sharing, storage, indexing, etc.), document control software integrates compliance protocols that many businesses need to ensure their documents are secure and transparent.  

Some document management systems have compliance features, but they are often restricted and not comprehensive enough for businesses that need to maintain a record of every version of an electronic document. 

"The main difference lies in the capabilities a document control software carries around lifecycle models and supporting actions such as revision and approval processes," Weitz told business.com. "In the event of an audit, there must be a clear audit trail and a full history of the documentation process." 

Knowing whether you need a document management solution or document control software lies largely in which industry you operating in. 

Who needs document control software?

If you work in any of the following industries, you may be legally required to have document control software to manage and maintain your business documents: 

  • Construction
  • Energy and environmental
  • Engineering
  • Financial services
  • Food safety
  • Government
  • Healthcare
  • Immigration
  • Legal
  • Medical devices
  • Payments
  • Pharmaceuticals 

"Nearly every major company will have departments within their own organization that face compliance and regulation restrictions, and can, therefore, benefit from document control software," said Koranne. 

If you undergo any type of auditing, your business will benefit from document control software. 

How much does document control software cost?

Software costs vary, depending on your business and factors like the industry you operate in, the size of your business, the number of users and which features you need. 

Another element to consider that will affect your total costs is whether the software is compatible with other business applications you use; you may need to estimate the potential cost of integrating all of your business platforms together.  

Businesses can expect to pay an average of roughly $1,000 per user for an on-premises solution, according to the experts we spoke with. So, for example, a company with 50 employees should budget at least $50,000 for their document control software. 

Employers can choose a hosted solution as well. According to Koranne, hosted software runs anywhere from $400 to $3,000 per year for smaller companies and up to $24,000 for larger organizations. 

Are there free solutions?

In short, kind of, but not really. Users can find free document management systems that have some document control features; however, experts warn against using any free application, since security can be lacking, and the support is not always reliable. 

This type of software is not something you want to skimp on. A data breach or an audit that uncovers major deficiencies can be catastrophic for your business; a good document control solution can help you avoid that. 

"You are better off going with more premium software due to the nature of sensitivity the documents hold," said Weitz. "When it comes to regulations, you want everything to be solid and secure." 

Document control software for engineering and construction industries 

There are several software options that are available; the best one for your business depends on the industry you're in and which features you need. If you are in the engineering or construction industry, for example, the best application is one that is custom made for engineering and construction firms. To find the best industry-specific software for your business, ask other companies in your industry which programs they use. 

Two document control software options designed for the engineering and construction industries are ASSAI and PULZ Project Document Control System by AGTIV. 

"With engineering documentation, revision control is critical, and ensuring [that] all documentation that stems from drawings matches is mandatory," said Weitz. "Without this, a PDF drawing could be sent to manufacturing, and millions of parts end up being produced from an old design ... Autodesk Vault Collaboration tracks revisions, manages documentation and ensures that 2D documentation is published alongside the release of engineering files." 

Outside of engineering-specific document control software, Koranne said Synergis Adept information management platform is a top-performing tool. It helps engineers expertly manage and control CAD, compliance and engineering business information. 

For construction projects, the ability to track documentation and manage project milestones in one place is essential.   

"RedTeam has managed to support managing and controlling versions of all drawings while also enabling Gantt schedules," said Weitz. "Timing is key in construction, and being able to ensure everything is updated when it needs to be is a big perk." 

Parting advice on choosing a document control solution

Depending on the industry you operate in, find document control software that secures your documents according to your industry's regulations. As a final piece of advice for choosing document control software, Koranne said the software your company uses is only as good as the software it integrates with. 

"If programs cannot interact with each other, then data silos form, which creates problems in industries that rely on security, compliance and frequent audits," said Koranne. "To best optimize any document control software, companies should turn to custom software developers that specialize in their specific industry. These developers can certify that a company's latest solution works in lockstep with the current software suite to ensure that there are no bugs, hiccups or data silos within an organization."

Skye Schooley is an Arizona native, based in New York City. She received a business communication degree from Arizona State University and spent a few years traveling internationally, before finally settling down in the greater New York City area. She currently writes for business.com and Business News Daily, primarily contributing articles about business technology and the workplace, and reviewing categories such as remote PC access software, collection agencies, background check services, web hosting, reputation management services, cloud storage, and website design software and services.
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