When the future of business is digital, why are so many businesses still buried under a mountain of paperwork? Bringing your business into the 21st century and digitizing your paper records might seem like a gargantuan task. However, with document management software, it's not only manageable, but it could vastly improve the way your business operates. Most document management systems allow you to scan paper documents into digital versions, which are then stored on the platform. But the very best improve your team's ability to collaborate remotely and around the clock.
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When choosing a document management system, it's important to know what you need. Are you simply looking for a digital archive that can be periodically updated, or do you require software that enables daily creation and editing of new documents? Do you prefer a locally hosted, on-premises solution, or do you prefer a cloud-based solution managed by your vendor partner or a third-party?
This guide will help you answer these questions and more to ensure you select the best document management system for your business. Read our recommendations, including the best overall document management system, the best system for small businesses, the best platform for workflow automation, the best application for optical character recognition, and the best document management system for security.
In addition, our list includes digital asset management software. These applications are similar to document management software insofar as they are record-keeping and organization tools; however, they are specifically designed to track inventory, purchases, work orders and multimedia assets, such as images and video files.
What Should I Expect from DMS Software?
Document management systems offer tools to help you create and manage a paperless office. Rather than using multiple programs to handle the various stages of a paperless workflow, this software delivers all the functionality you need in a single interface.
Most applications include imaging tools that interface with your scanner to convert paper documents to digital files, enabling you to scan and import documents directly into a central document repository. Many software programs include customizable document-creation templates and associated tools that automatically format newly scanned files to match formatting standards for your office or to comply with industry standards.
In addition to scanning paper documents, many systems let you import most types of digital documents: PDFs, word processing files, spreadsheets, image files and many other file formats. Once a document is imported into the system, it's stored in a data repository that can be made accessible to others in your office and, in many cases, individuals outside your office.
The best document management software gives you the ability to grant access to individuals to specific documents in the repository as needed. With many applications, you store your documents in the cloud, allowing individuals with permission to access any file from anywhere in the world using a web browser and an internet connection.
Document management software can also provide an array of collaboration and workflow automation tools that help your team work harmoniously, making it easy to create, edit, review, and approve any and all documents necessary to keep your business running smoothly.
Pricing for document management systems varies greatly depending on several factors. For example, the hosting method you choose can impact the pricing significantly.
Cloud-based software is generally based on a monthly subscription rate, while on-premises solutions tend to require a one-time fee upfront, plus an annual subscription for software updates and technical support. Some companies offer a hybrid model that blends on-premises and cloud-based solutions.
- Cloud-based solutions typically range from about $30 to $250 per month.
- On-premises solutions generally average $1,000 per user, plus setup fees and an annual service subscription for software updates and technical support, which is generally about 20 percent of the initial cost.
Monthly subscriptions generally are based on a per user, per month model, so the number of users greatly influences the total cost. Many document management systems also offer multiple tiers of service with different features for organizations with differing levels of need. Simpler tiers are cheaper, while more comprehensive tiers cost more.
Document management is a crowded field, so choosing a vendor can be difficult. The most basic software serves as digitization software and centralized document storage, while more complex systems allow for built-in collaboration and task management among team members.
Pinpointing what you're looking for is half the battle, and asking the right questions will help you determine which system is really right for your business.
Some questions to ask suppliers include:
- What operating systems support this software?
- Is document imaging and digitization included?
- Are there any collaboration tools, workflow automation or project management tools?
- How many file types does the software support?
- Is there a versioning feature for tracking changes to documents?
- How many users can access a document at once?
- What third-party software can the system integrate with?
- What level of technical support can I expect to receive?
As always, closely review any legal documents, including contracts, before signing. The vendor should put everything you've discussed on paper and specify which features you are getting for your money. Always have an exit strategy in writing as well, in case things don't go as expected. If the service you're considering won't allow you to cut ties without paying cancellation fees, consider it a red flag.
To determine the best document management systems, we started with a pool that included all the vendors on the list below. After preliminary research, including examining other best-picks lists and researching each system, we interviewed small business owners and discovered more vendors to add to our list.
Next, we researched each provider by investigating its services, watching tutorials and how-to videos, testing the system when possible, and reading user comments. We also considered the pricing listed on these services' websites. After narrowing down the list of contenders, we contacted each company's customer service department by phone, or live chat if possible, posing as new business owners to gauge the type of support each provider offers.
Our process involves putting ourselves in the mindset of a small business owner and gathering the data that would be readily available to such an individual. We analyzed each service based on the following factors:
- Ease of use
- Hosting options
- File cabinet structure
- Search capabilities
- Scanning options
- Collaboration tools
- Workflow abilities
- Mobile access
- Customer service
Features: Regulatory Compliance Support Is Not Universally Available
Many businesses operating in regulated industries are required by law to track, maintain and audit business documents.
Among the document management systems on our list, slightly more than half provide a document control system that supports the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Sarbanes-Oxley, Good Manufacturing Practices required by the FDA, or ISO 9000/9001 regulatory compliance requirements.
This is a critical capability that many businesses cannot afford to do without. If your business is required to comply with certain regulations, the document management software you choose should offer regulatory compliance support.
Tools: Version Control Is Critical
Version control, or versioning, is critical to safeguarding and tracking editable documents within a document management system.
Versioning ensures that all new edits are properly saved and old versions are retained in the system for reference. Versioning capabilities are especially important when multiple people in the office maintain editing permissions on the same documents.
In most systems, version control limits editing access of a given file to a single person at a time, forcing other users into read-only status until editing is completed to prevent confusion. In some systems, you can set a notification to alert specific users when a file has been edited.
Integration: CRM and ERP Integration Are Uncommon
If your business utilizes a CRM application or an ERP database, limit your search to document management software that integrates seamlessly with the programs you use daily. While you can use software that doesn't integrate with your CRM or ERP program, choosing compatible software allows you to access, edit, back up, and monitor digital files and documents created within your CRM or ERP program, further increasing the efficiency of your office.
Another noteworthy fact is that most document control systems integrate with popular email clients, such as Microsoft Outlook, as well as business software suites like Microsoft Office.
Common Document Management Software Questions & Answers
Hello Kara, In our company, we are using BIZixx project management system to handle our daily activities. It includes: 1) Clients Management 2) Team Management 3) Projects Management 4) Invoice Management 5) Task management 6) Reporting 7) Announcements 8) Configuration Management The good thing is you can try BIZixx for free.. If you like you can choose premium package otherwise you can continue with basic package. Check pricing here: http://members.bizixx.com/pricing.php
I'm going to echo Eric's suggestion of Office365 (O365). As it is Microsoft's worldwide shared SharePoint environment, it can provide the collaboration and document management up to an enterprise level. Beyond that, there are MANY 3rd party products that provide an almost dizzying array of capabilities. Depending on your specific needs for "job booking", there is likely something that can work for you. If not, you may want to look at also subscribing to MS's hosted CRM (also through the...
Your to do list should comprise your most important things of the day at the top. Emails could be done before or after lunch and no more than thirty (30) minutes. Things that don't need your direct attention should be delegated to specific persons. Emergencies... should always be taken care of with personnel that can take over when the fire is out. Evernote, Wunderlist, & Asana are some helpers to make life easier and sync your day. Cheers, Jack Arnold Group, LLC
Have everyone using Google Calendar and make the each persons dog walking schedule collaborative back to you, with everything else kept private. This is just about a standard now, and with any SMS alerts or email reminders you may wish to setup you can't go wrong. Procedure would be: - Add event in your master calendar, but choose their calendar within yours in terms of where it will show up as well. You will own the event, but seen on their ones as well.
Understanding Document Management Software Infographic
What to Expect in 2019
The document management industry is relatively large. Last year, industry revenue totaled $5 billion, down from $6 billion in 2017. While there was a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.1 percent from 2012 through 2017, from 2013 through 2018, there was CAGR of 0.1 percent. All told, there are 1,738 businesses in the document management space, which employ nearly 59,000 people.
There are many new document management software trends that are predicted to take over in 2019. For instance, cloud computing, which allows users to access documents from any location and at any time, is crucial today. This also encourages better mobile-friendly software and seamless social integration.
Another growing trend is client portals, which allow customers or patients to sign into their accounts via your website for their information. For instance, most doctors use portals to post personal medical records, lab test results, diagnosis, current medications, etc. That way, the patient can log in and review their health data, send questions to their provider and even request medication refills.