| The market for Document Management
Systems (DMS) has grown exponentially over the last 20 years.
Hundreds of products were developed to address this growing
market niche. Many failed to deliver on their promises and some
were successful. The focus of the Document Management market
has also evolved, especially over the last 5 years. There is
increasing talk of Enterprise Content Management and Knowledge
Management. Basic Workflow Systems have been replaced with sophisticated
Business Process Management Systems. How can you decide which
system is for you?
The paperless office
Much has been written about the paperless office - a myth
started in the 1980’s. What we see today is an intelligent
use of electronic systems, according to the requirements of
today’s market. The paperless office is not and should
not be an end in itself. The main advantage of replacing paper
with electronic documents is to render an organisation more
efficient and more competitive. This means increasing the
speed of transactions, increasing an organisation’s
flexibility and reducing costs. The increased use of the Internet
and web-based applications has also driven the development
of electronic document and content management.
Document management systems
Document Management Systems enable the capture of information
currently residing in paper-based documents of all kinds.
Their use enables people to collaborate on the creation, production
and speedy delivery of these documents. Electronic archiving
and retrieval provides an accessible knowledge base and ensures
perpetuity of company information. However, DMS is a general
term used to describe a variety of applications. The DMS required
for the lifecycle management of a quality manual is one example.
It is different from one required to handle the flow of invoice
creation, approval, distribution and tracking.
Content management systems
Content Management Systems (CMS) are often regarded as being
logical successors to the DMS. This is not quite true. The
development of the CMS has an evolutionary aspect. However,
this is because a CMS focuses more on what is contained within
a document. Here, there is a focus on increasing levels of
detail (granularity). As with the DMS, there exists a variety
of CMS-related applications. Web Content Management is targeted
at supporting the creation and maintenance of dynamic websites.
Enterprise Content Management enables large organisations
to harness the wealth of content they produce and make it
Electronic forms management
Electronic forms may appear to be a small component of either
a DMS or a CMS. However in a business environment, they are
critical to the transactional capability and efficiency between
people and organisations. Examples of electronic forms are
payslips, invoices, tax returns, purchase orders and cheques.
They often have regulatory requirements such as an approved
signature and the maintenance of approved original copies.
They often require a secure exchange mechanism between organisations
(B2B) and the public (B2C).
Web based applications
Document-related web-based applications include web content
management systems and electronic catalogues. Web content
requires a fundamentally different approach from printed marketing
materials. Traditional document management systems do not
lend themselves to the maintaining of web sites. Nor does
the standard content management package. In the same way,
electronic catalogues have an entirely different structure
from standard paper-based catalogues. They also differ from
the standard website. It is important therefore to consider
your application before choosing a solution to support it.
Knowledge Management is the process through which organisations
generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based
assets. Individual organisations need to determine which of
these assets qualify as being valuable. Knowledge generally
falls into one of two categories. The first is explicit, meaning
it resides in an easily accessible form. This may be as a
database file or as a paper document. The second is tacit
and refers to the knowledge and experience we have in our
heads. This may or may not be recorded in some form (for example
information exchanged in an email). Some enterprise content
management systems claim to cover the area of knowledge management.
However it is unlikely that one application is currently capable
of handling all aspects.