Document management systems can transform the way businesses create, sign, store and share documents. But how do they work and do you need one? Let's find out.
What is a document management system?
A document management system (DMS) is software used to help organizations create, track, store, and share their documents in a more secure and efficient way.
Rather than moving between multiple different tools to manage a document, document management systems streamline the process. A DMS enables businesses to create, edit, track, store and send their documents from one centralized workspace.
How do document management systems work?
Now you know what a document management system is. But how does it actually work? Well, each DMS is different, and each has its own features and workflows.
That said, there are a few important document management system features you should look out for. Let’s run through what they are and how they work.
1. Document creation
Most document management systems enable users to create documents quickly and at scale. This is achieved through automated templates and a robust document editor.
Some document management tools will provide access to a text editor for you to design and draft documents from scratch. Other document management systems will offer full document automation.
If you’re lucky enough to have a DMS that provides full document automation, your contracts will be populated automatically using the templates stored within the platform and any other details you provide.
Juro is a great example of a DMS that enables legal and business teams to fully automate their legal documents.
Legal teams create pre-approved document templates in Juro which can be populated in seconds either using a simple Q&A workflow or by pulling data in through integrations with other business tools. This data is used to populate the smart fields within the legal documents, removing the need for manual drafting processes.
This is a fantastic feature to have if document drafting is a slow and tedious process for your business.
2. Collaborative workspace
The best document management systems will also enable teams to collaborate on documents simultaneously and in real time.
Without this feature, users have to make edits on separate versions of a document and share these back and forth via email until all changes have been agreed. This becomes particularly tiresome when it comes to documents that require a lot of edits, like contracts during a negotiation.
A document management system with a collaborative workspace can streamline this process and make sure documents are shared and edited in the most efficient way possible.
For contracts, for example, this means allowing in-platform redlining and tracked changes that update in real-time. For other documents, it could involve live editing and the ability to leave comment threads on collaborative documents.
3. Version control
Most documents go through lots of iterations before they’re complete. When managed manually, this means there can be multiple versions of the same document floating around at one time. In fact, we’re all guilty of using lengthy file names to distinguish between the many versions in our shared drives (e.g SA-2023-standard-v23-final-finalfinal).
If you want to make sure you’re sending the correct and most up-to-date version of a file, version control is yet another important feature to look out for when selecting the best document management system.
“When choosing between document management tools, it’s worth considering how advanced you need your version control to be”
What this version control looks like can differ between tools. Some document management systems, like Juro, offer detailed audit trails and split versions. In other words, users can use a toggle to jump between internally-facing versions of a contract and externally-facing ones. This is ideal if you’re working with documents that you share with third parties for review.
But other document management systems will rely on naming conventions like the example above to understand when a document was edited and resaved.
When choosing between document management tools, it’s worth considering how advanced you need your version control to be. For higher-value documents, like business contracts, having split versions and an audit trail is non-negotiable. As is being able to revert back to old versions of a document with ease.
4. Secure storage
A document management system also provides a secure and customizable place to store your documents. What this looks like will depend on the structure of your organization and the type of documents you need to keep.
Imagine you’re part of the in-house legal team at a scaling business, for example. This will determine what you need from a document management system’s storage feature.
Firstly, you’ll need to find document management software with high-security credentials so that you can maintain confidentiality. When evaluating a DMS based on security, it’s worth considering:
- Their SOC2 status
- Where they store their data
- Whether data is encrypted and when
- Whether it offers granular access controls
This is because, while a platform like Juro offers a secure way to store legal agreements, other document management systems may not be equipped to store such sensitive documents.
You may also need a document management system that offers separate workspaces for other departments, like sales, HR, finance, and so on. That way you can keep your contracts separate and control who has access to them.
Another document management feature to look out for is intuitive foldering. If you store large volumes of documents then it’s important to be able to filter and folder these, making them easier to find.
5. Search functionality
Some document management systems make documents even easier to find through OCR technology. This feature enables teams to query thousands of documents for certain words, phrases, and even characters - all of which help you find documents faster.
This feature is particularly useful for businesses storing thousands of documents that don’t fit neatly into certain folders. Rather than spending hours searching for the right file, OCR technology enables you to search for information in your documents at scale.
But this can only be achieved when your document management system creates and stores documents as structured data. Otherwise, it can be challenging to find and extract the data with the files.
6. Document sharing
We touched upon document collaboration already but it’s also important to find a document management system that enables you to send and share documents easily.
This can be done in a variety of ways. Some document management tools, like Juro, invite users to collaborate on documents within the platform. Others will integrate with email providers to automatically send documents that way instead.
What’s important is that you find a system that enables you to share documents securely, quickly, and with minimal admin work.
7. Automated workflows
Automated workflows are another useful DMS feature.
It means that the software can automate routine administrative tasks, allowing you to focus on higher-value work. This can be simple tasks like saving, filing, sharing, and even creating documents when certain triggers occur.
Again, these workflows will vary depending on your needs and the documents you manage. However, it’s worth having in-depth discussions with a DMS provider about how the software can accommodate your existing workflows.
Most document management systems will integrate with other business applications to make managing your documents even easier. These integrations can include:
- CRMs: Salesforce, Hubspot, Pipedrive, Zoho CRM
- HR tools: Greenhouse, Workday, Workable
- Storage solutions: Dropbox, Sharepoint
- Project management systems: Monday.com
- Invoicing tools: Xero, Quickbooks
Who uses document management software?
Document management software is used by businesses of all sizes and across all industries. However, it’s particularly useful for businesses that are growing quickly and need a more efficient way to manage their documents as they scale.
After all, the more documents you have, the harder it becomes to manage them. That’s why it’s important to invest in a document management system before you lose control of your documents.
Benefits of document management software
Document management software can be a huge asset for businesses, and they often have a great ROI too.
A DMS can reduce the time legal and business teams spend laboring over document admin by streamlining an otherwise lengthy process. This enables them to focus on the higher-value tasks that they were trained for.
Document management systems also improve visibility and control over documents. This is because documents are created, edited, stored, and shared in one place, rather than being scattered across lots of different tools and shared drives.
It’s also far easier to make sure documents are standardized and compliant when using a document management tool. This can help to reduce risk and increase efficiency.
Overall, implementing a DMS is a great way to reduce the resources needed to manage documents in a secure and professional way. This means businesses can save money and focus on larger, more demanding projects as they grow.
Now onto the next question: which document management system is best?
Which is the best document management system?
The best document management system for you will depend on the needs of your business. However, the best way to determine which document management system is best for you is to consider the following things:
- Price. Document management systems can vary in price. It’s important to understand how much you’re willing to pay for document management and whether it will be a good ROI or not.
- Team size. Some document management tools are best suited to enterprise clients. Others are more scalable, so are better suited to fast-growing companies instead. It’s important to consider which tool is best for your team size and growth stage.
- Number of documents. The number of documents you need to manage will determine how much you pay for a document management system and which tools you can choose.
- Integrations. Document management platforms can integrate with a variety of tools to make populating, sending, and sharing documents much easier. Make sure you compare these integrations to find a solution that integrates with your existing tools.
- Type of documents. Different documents need to be managed in different ways. If you’re looking to manage legal documents, they need extra care. Plus, you’ll probably want a document management tool that supports negotiation and eSigning.
Need help managing legal documents?
As we just mentioned, not all document management systems are equipped for managing legal documents like contracts. If you’re looking for a tool to streamline contract management, it’s worth considering Juro instead.
Juro is the all-in-one contract automation platform that enables all teams to streamline the creation, execution, and management of routine contracts at scale.
Fill in the form below to find out more.