Document Management Systems

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Careful planning pays off in most circumstances, but especially when it comes to document management systems and office operations. At the top of the list of less tangible benefits is less stress. More specifically, there's an end to the endless rows of filing cabinets and too much time in front of the copy machine. In board of director language, the benefits mean greater efficiency, heightened productivity, smoother operations, and lower operating costs.

How Document Management Systems Got Started

Originally developed to control and manage heavy information flows in corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations, document management systems focused on making data--whether legal documents, funding proposals, mail-merge documents, or white papers--readily accessible and easily archived. In essence the goal was to organize files. Early systems focused on adding information about a document to the computer file containing the document, organizing that information in a database, and defining relationships between documents. What you had was essentially a computerized library.

Documents were defined by certain set criteria, generally known as metadata indexing elements. These included document author, creation date, type of document, topics covered in the document, completion date, related documents, keywords, and the like. At the core of the system was the database that enabled users to find a document intuitively, that is, based on its content, not its physical location.

Over time, thanks in part to advances in related hardware and software technology, document management systems began to add features and functionality. Among the new capabilities were version tracking, electronic review, document security, and integrating documents into workflow schedules. These systems proved extremely successful. They've spawned a whole new generation of software programs designed to normalize systems to specialized professional applications.

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