document management system...

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.


Document management systems commonly provide storage, versioning, metadata, security, as well as indexing and retrieval capabilities.

Here is a description of these components.

  • Metadata

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.

  • Integration

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.

  • Capture

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.

  • Indexing

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.

  • Storage

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.

  • Retrieval

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. See also Document retrieval.

  • Distribution
  • Security
  • Workflow
  • Collaboration
  • Versioning


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

Location and Time
RetrievalMode? Time? Technology?
FilingOrganization? Strategy?
SecurityProtection against loss, tampering or destruction of documents? How to deal with sensitive information?
ArchivalReadability? How can we protect our documents against fires, floods or natural disasters?
RetentionWhat to retain? Length of retention? Removal?
DistributionPeople? Cost of distribution?
WorkflowIf documents need to pass from one person to another, what are the rules for how their work should flow?
CreationNumber of people and logistics of collaboration?
Authentication/ApprovalHow do we provide needed requirements for legal submission to government and private industry that the documents are original and meet their standards for authentication?