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What is document management software (DMS)?

Remember when the paperless office was billed as the solution to replacing unwieldy stacks of printed documents? Now, businesses are struggling to cope with unwieldy stacks of digitised documents, often lacking the tools to properly store and manage them. Fortunately, a document management software (DMS) can help you store your files without consigning them to the recycling bin.

By: Lydia Bird

You don’t hear people talk about a paperless office so much these days. Some businesses can’t get rid of physical files completely due to process or compliance requirements. But with a widespread move to email, PDFs and other 21st Century ways of doing things, any paper documents that do remain are often scanned so they can be stored digitally.

You’d think that a paperless or ‘paper-lite’ approach would solve the problem of document storage. Instead, it has created a number of new problems.

Life often isn’t simple for businesses who work with digital documents – managing invoices, receipts, reports, guides, copy blocks and other digital content can quickly get out of hand. Organising these files, storing them and ensuring that they’re available to use 24/7 can be challenging – especially when you work across locations or regions.

Fortunately, there’s a modern solution to what seems like an ancient problem. Document management software (DMS) can provide much needed structure and visibility, making digital documents easily accessible in a secure and centralised library. This is DMS in a nutshell. But who’s it for and how can improve business processes?

What is document management software?

Fundamentally, a document management system provides a centralised place for an organisation to store its valuable digital documents. However, it’s far more than a simple storage system. DMS platforms offer multiple features to make it easier to store and retrieve documents – and the information they contain. In addition, cloud-based platforms support modern distributed working practices with easy access from any location.

For organisations with a substantial library of files – for example, decades of correspondence, or statutory documents – a DMS solution can be integrated with a digitisation workflow designed to convert paper or microform records into files. In other words, documents can be scanned in bulk, ingested into the DMS, then securely destroyed – potentially freeing up space and slashing archival costs.

Storing documents as digital assets offers multiple benefits beyond saving time and money. Apart from massive space savings, digital assets don’t age, and they’re far easier to distribute. It’s quicker to find digital documents in general, but digitisation offers a further benefit… With optical character recognition, users can search within the content of documents, not just their filenames. A DMS can store documents in these searchable formats, making their content more findable, referenceable and reusable.


As with other specialised asset management platforms, DMS can be considered a sub-group of digital asset management (DAM) solutions. In fact, a fully featured DAM offers all of the same functions as a typical DMS, but supports the full range of assets that an organisation might want to work with. For creative and marketing teams these might include images, video, audio and other types of rich content.

what is brand asset management

What is digital asset management?

Digital Asset Management (DAM) platform – the essential way to stay on top of your business, sales and marketing collateral.

Why do you need document management software?

Documents are as relevant to doing business as ever, and the typical organisation is likely to have thousands of important ones. From everyday records such as employment or supplier contracts, through non-disclosure or licencing agreements, to legal and other articles, many documents are irreplaceable – and losing them could have big financial or legal repercussions.

In addition, documented data often falls under privacy regulation such as GDPR, or within the terms of private confidentiality agreements. It’s vital to keep documents safe and available for immediate access. But it’s also important to restrict access to authorised users only. It’s hard to do this with a physical archive that might not even be on site, even harder with digital assets that could be spread haphazardly across multiple computers, servers, or cloud-storage providers.

Document management systems help organisations solve both problems at a stroke. By bringing digital assets into a secure storage space, a cloud-based DMS ensures that documentation can’t be lost to fires, floods, theft or other threats. Equally, by hosting documents in a centrally managed archive, a DMS prevents the growth of ad-hoc file storage with little oversight or security.

A DMS can prove invaluable to organisations that need to share resources to regional teams, or among agencies, freelancers or other stakeholders. The benefit of a cloud-based system is that its documents can be accessed from anywhere, for example allowing a legal or HR team in head office to share vital records with their regional counterparts.

“With the Imagen platform we have now implemented best practice for digital asset management across the entire organisation.”

Stephen Gerrard, information programme manager, NatureScot

This easy access doesn’t translate to a lack of security, however. With the ability to grant access to individuals, teams or other organisational units, managers can ensure that documents are only available to the people or groups that need them.

More power to you

The case for a DMS becomes more compelling when you consider its ability to make information more accessible. With extensive support for metadata, a DMS supports rich tagging and commenting, helping users add notes and keywords that make documents easier to find. And by searching based on document content, teams can easily find mentions of a keyword in a Word document or searchable PDF.

By helping people retrieve data in this way, a DMS can turn a static document archive into a living resource of useful or reusable information. It’s easy to find agreements and study their terms for example, or to revisit creative ideas or content that might otherwise be consigned to history.

A DMS can be a powerful ally to marketers and comms professionals seeking to exert more control over brand identity, or to ensure the consistency of their campaigns and messaging. Centralised storage helps ensure that brand resources are readily available to everyone who needs them, while access controls ensure that only the right staff get to change them.

Additionally, advanced features such as version control and support for distributed, collaborative working ensure that style guides, copy blocks, bios, releases and other vital documents can be iterated without confusion or duplication. And with support for compliance or approval stages, a DMS helps prevent the accidental use of unfinished or off-brand documents.

Why stop at document management software?

There’s little doubt that a DMS can slash the costs of archiving, and extend the lifecycle and relevance of your documentation. But why stop there, when you could apply the same benefits and more across your other digital files? At Imagen, we support a range of formats – not just documents, but videos, audio files and images – allowing all your assets to work harder and deliver greater returns.

Want to extend the lifecycle and improve the return on all your assets? Discover how Imagen can transform the way you store and use your media: book a demo today.

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