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Document management system

Web Design & Development Guide

Document management system

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A document management system (DMS) is a computer system (or set of computer programs) used to track and store electronic documents and/or images of paper documents. The term has some overlap with the concepts of Content Management Systems and is often viewed as a component of Enterprise Content Management Systems and related to Digital Asset Management, Document imaging, Workflow systems and Records Management systems.


A document management system will typically address some or all of the following areas:

Location and Time
Retrieval Typically via a built in search engine. Some also allow documents to be retrieved using metadata (date, time, tags, document type, etc)
Filing Organization? Strategy?
Security Protection against loss, tampering or destruction of documents? How to deal with sensitive information?
Archival Readability? How can we protect our documents against fires, floods or natural disasters?
Retention What to retain? Length of retention? Removal?
Distribution People? Cost of distribution?
Workflow If documents need to pass from one person to another, what are the rules for how their work should flow?
Creation Number of people and logistics of collaboration?
Authentication/Approval How do we provide needed requirements for legal submission to government and private industry that the documents are original and meet their standards for authentication?


Beginning in the 1980s, a number of vendors began developing systems to manage paper-based documents. Initially designed to offer mainly document imaging-level capture, storage, indexing and retrieval capabilities, the applications grew to encompass electronic documents, collaboration tools, security, and auditing capabilities...

Document Management and Communication

Electronic document management is in particular worked out by Carzaniga and Wolf (2001) in their paper “Content-based networking: a new communication infrastructure”. The authors introduce content-based networking as a communication infrastructure where information is driven by the content throughout the network. The users express their interests, and the senders simply input the message into the network. From that point the network delivers all the information to the right people. Sprague (1995) delivers a more elaborate work in which he introduces document management through using IT. He calls it electronic document management: EDM. He defines managing of documents as the “creation, storage, organization, transmission, retrieval, manipulation, update, and eventual disposition of documents to fulfill an organizational purpose” (pp.32), and he further states that EDM improves communication among people and groups of people (pp 42-43).

There are several other examples from the literature for the link between EDM and communication. Hansen and Haas (2001) elaborate on the role of the suppliers and users of information in electronic documents. Another research with a very clear link between EDMS and communication is that of Thorpe and Mead (2000). They showed that an EDM system changes the communication patterns. Of the three case projects they researched, EDM acquired a central role in two of them, (the third project was abandoned after three months). A research of Howard and Pettersen (2001) about the way of communicating in a construction project had as result that EDM (Howard and Pettersen call it project web) was number three communication tool just after telephone and a meeting, leaving e-mail, paper-post and fax behind. Rene Brohm (2005) introduced in his dissertation the theater model. The theater model illustrates methaphorically how document management systems correspond with a stage in a theater. His argumentation is that the interaction in a play on the stage is similar with the functioning of a document system.

If all the data and information would be put in a central database/intranet, which can be used by everyone in the organization, there would be a clear link between IT and dissemination of information according to Marin & Poulter (2004). They argue that because of the easy access to the information, it would flow through the organization. The authors confirm this in their paper (2004) by stating that distribution of intelligence can be aided by technology.

There are different ways of improving this communication tool. Hansen and Haas (2001) see the electronic document management as a market, with competition. According to them suppliers should have a strategy about how to share information and how to persuade their clients (employees) to use the system?

One way to do this is introduced by Yan & Garcia-Molina (1999 pp.2) who use EDM to: “make long term profile consisting of a number of standing queries to represent his information needs”. Through this they state that dissemination of information is improved. Users receive information in their field of interest because of a profile that was submitted. Therefore search costs and search time for employees are decreased.


Document management systems commonly provide storage, versioning, metadata, security, as well as indexing and retrieval capabilities. Here is a description of these components.


Metadata is typically stored for each document. Metadata may, for example, include the date the document was stored and the identity of the user storing it. The DMS may also extract metadata from the document automatically or prompt the user to add metadata. Some systems also use optical character recognition on scanned images, or perform text extraction on electronic documents. The resulting extracted text can be used to assist users in locating documents by identifying probable keywords or providing for full text search capability, or can be used on its own. Extracted text can also be stored as a component of metadata, stored with the image, or separately as a source for searching document collections.


Many document management systems attempt to integrate document management directly into other applications, so that users may retrieve existing documents directly from the document management system repository, make changes, and save the changed document back to the repository as a new version, all without leaving the application. Such integration is commonly available for office suites and e-mail or collaboration/groupware software. Integration often uses open standards such as ODMA, LDAP, WebDAV and SOAP to allow integration with other software and compliance with internal controls.


Images of paper documents using scanners or multifunction printers. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software is often used, whether integrated into the hardware or as stand-alone software, in order to convert digital images into machine readable text.


Track electronic documents. Indexing may be as simple as keeping track of unique document identifiers; but often it takes a more complex form, providing classification through the documents' metadata or even through word indexes extracted from the documents' contents. Indexing exists mainly to support retrieval. One area of critical importance for rapid retrieval is the creation of an index topology.


Store electronic documents. Storage of the documents often includes management of those same documents; where they are stored, for how long, migration of the documents from one storage media to another (Hierarchical storage management) and eventual document destruction.


Retrieve the electronic documents from the storage. Although the notion of retrieving a particular document is simple, retrieval in the electronic context can be quite complex and powerful. Simple retrieval of individual documents can be supported by allowing the user to specify the unique document identifier, and having the system use the basic index (or a non-indexed query on its data store) to retrieve the document. More flexible retrieval allows the user to specify partial search terms involving the document identifier and/or parts of the expected metadata. This would typically return a list of documents which match the user's search terms. Some systems provide the capability to specify a Boolean expression containing multiple keywords or example phrases expected to exist within the documents' contents. The retrieval for this kind of query may be supported by previously-built indexes, or may perform more time-consuming searches through the documents' contents to return a list of the potentially relevant documents.


External links

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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