Learn about Microsoft document management software and how to choose the best application for your business.
- Microsoft devices and software are highly compatible with most document management systems.
- Look for other important features like version control, document imaging, collaboration tools, intuitive user interfaces and application integration.
- Microsoft Office Suite and Microsoft SharePoint are not document management systems on their own, but they have many DMS functionalities.
Finding the right management solution to file and organize business documents is important for every small business. A document management system (DMS) not only streamlines your business workflow but can save you time and money. There are several competitive solutions on the market, so it is important to evaluate their features and capabilities before selecting one for your business.
If your office is predominantly operating on Microsoft devices and software, then you need a DMS that can integrate accordingly. Since Microsoft platforms are commonly used in business, you have several solutions to pick from. The best Microsoft software for your business primarily depends on which features you need.
To help you choose a Microsoft DMS, we spoke with technology and operation experts about what software and features you should look for.
Editor's note: Looking for the right document management system for your business? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.
Is Microsoft Office Suite a document management system?
Although it is often confused as one, Microsoft Office Suite (MS Office) is not a complete DMS. Many companies use MS Office in tandem with a DMS to create a comprehensive, scalable way to manage electronic documents.
Microsoft Office Suite
If it's not considered a DMS, what is Microsoft Office Suite? MS Office Suite is a combined set of programs that companies of all sizes can use for basic business productivity tasks. You can buy the software as a one-time purchase for use on a single PC or Mac device, or you can choose a SaaS plan and pay a monthly subscription fee.
"Due to its proliferation and holistic approach, it [MS Office Suite] is normally the de facto business software package that is leveraged by companies both large and small," Pravin Vazirani, assistant vice president of operations at Chetu, told business.com. "The collective nature of the MS Office experience enables office productivity and helps facilitate what we can consider as the lifecycle of documentation."
MS Office Suite includes access to document creation capabilities like word processing (Word), spreadsheet generation (Excel) and presentation production (PowerPoint).
Document management systems
The main difference between MS Office and DMS is the basic functionality. While MS Office focuses on document creation, DMS addresses the organization and maintenance of documents. Vazirani elaborated on each use case, providing examples of when a business might use one or the other solution.
"With DMS, companies can properly store documents and rapidly recall them for later use to advance business operations and decision-making," said Vazirani. "MS Office offers several components that feature DMS, but it also features document generation and sharing capabilities as well."
Vazirani said business owners should remember that just because MS Office has DMS features doesn't mean that alternative DMS platforms are not worth considering. Your business's document creation and storage needs will determine whether you will need one or both solutions.
Is Microsoft SharePoint a DMS?
Although Microsoft SharePoint can serve document management purposes for some businesses, it is not a DMS on its own. SharePoint has many use cases, primarily servicing enterprise content management and intranet building – this makes it a better option for large enterprises, as opposed to small businesses looking for Microsoft document management.
"It [SharePoint] is a flexible and customizable platform used for building multiple types of solutions, such as intranets, learning management systems, ticketing software, and more," said Sergey Golubenko, head of SharePoint department in ScienceSoft. "However, this platform is best suited for building document management systems, as it offers rich capabilities for this particular use case."
Golubenko added that SharePoint provides easy creation, structured and secure storage, fast search and retrieval of documents, real-time collaboration, versioning, audit trail, compliance support, and other relevant capabilities.
The best document management systems that integrate with Office 365
Office 365 is the cloud-based subscription version of the MS Office Suite. In addition to MS Office features (Word, Excel and PowerPoint), it includes calendar and email management (Outlook), database management for PC (Access), publishing for PC (Publisher), note-taking capabilities (OneNote), online storage (OneDrive), and regular software updates. It is available for use across multiple PCs, Macs, Android and iOS devices.
Since most document management systems easily integrate with MS Office and Office 365, closely examine which features come with each platform. This will help you choose a DMS that best fits your needs.
We spoke with industry professionals to get their take on the best options.
Vazirani recommended the following four DMS apps for Microsoft Office 365 integration:
In addition to eFileCabinet, Golubenko recommended the following three DMS solutions that integrate with Office 365:
Besides robust document management features, Golubenko said these platforms also offer extensive collaboration and project management capabilities.
How to choose a DMS that works on Microsoft devices
Microsoft users are at an advantage when looking for a DMS that is compatible across platforms – most document management software can be used on Microsoft devices. Although Microsoft compatibility is something you want to verify before purchasing a DMS, there are other capabilities you need to look for too.
"Microsoft's greatest benefit is its ubiquity in that it is used by countless businesses in nearly every industry," said Vazirani. "While this ubiquity is excellent for uniform document sharing, the needs of a business for document management can be more industry- and even business-specific."
Since your industry and business needs play a major role in which document management software is the best for your business, analyze the following elements of your business:
- Industry and business type. Identify which industry- or business-specific regulations are applicable to you. This will help determine the purpose of your DMS and which needs it will satisfy.
- Security. Arguably one of the most important things to scrutinize is security. What will you store in your DMS? Do you need varying levels of file-sharing permissions? The scope of security you need helps determine which DMS is best for your Microsoft devices.
- Features. A DMS can do a lot for your business. Many companies benefit from features like document creation, version control, document imaging, single sign-on access, collaboration tools, mobile app capabilities, an intuitive user interface and seamless integration with other applications; however, if you are a small startup that just needs basic document management tools, you can opt for a less comprehensive DMS. Every business, regardless of size or industry, should choose a DMS that can grow with their business. For example, if you anticipate that you will eventually acquire non-Microsoft devices, look for an option that is compatible across several platforms.
- Budget. Create a realistic budget for your Microsoft DMS. Be sure to assess the cost of advanced versions. If your business grows and you need to scale your DMS, you want to be able to afford the comprehensive version, instead of switching to a completely different solution.
- Usability. How tech savvy is your team? It is important to choose a platform that can be easily implemented and learned across your organization. This helps ensure that it is being properly utilized. Vazirani suggests looking for a program that offers a demo or free trial so you can test it out before purchasing.
Although there are several great systems that are compatible with Microsoft devices, that is not the only compatibility to look for. Vazirani said to verify that your chosen DMS is compatible with other systems your business currently leverages (outside of the MS Office suite). Integration across multiple business systems can simplify several workplace processes.
"For instance, if you are looking to manage financial data, then it is imperative that the DMS you use is able to communicate with your accounting and finance software," said Vazirani. "This will allow for improved process automation and remove data silos. To ensure that a platform is compatible, leverage custom software developers to create company-specific patches and programs to help these systems all interconnect and communicate."