A laptop computer with document files coming out of the monitor
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Despite ongoing debate about what technology should and shouldn’t be in a digital workplace, the "old" traditional workplace technologies are still creating problems. In one of its research reports at the end of last year the Association for Image and Information Professionals (AIIM) pointed out that enterprises are still struggling with whether they need a document management system or an enterprise content management system.

Difference Between ECM, DMS

In the research titled ECM vs. DM - Rivalry by the Numbers (free after registration), AIIM describes ECM as neither a single technology, methodology, or process. Rather it is a concerted effort of strategies, methods, and tools used to capture, process, access, manage, measure, store, integrate, preserve, and deliver information supporting key organizational processes through its entire lifecycle. It enables searches within the structured and unstructured data of a document according to business rules established at the capture stage.

A document management system, however, is specifically designed to manage all enterprises documents that have been digitized and need to be used in various business processes across the enterprise, the report reads, are systems and software to capture, store, manage, and track digital documents and digitized paper-based information captured via a document scanner. Most often stored in an unsearchable format like a PDF requiring information searches at the document level.

Even though these systems have been around since the late 1990s many enterprises are still struggling with them even as they build new digital workplaces. The research found that 39 percent of organizations are still working on document management projects at the departmental level or are integrating document management capabilities across departments even though this has been priority for many for years.

Furthermore, 38 percent say their existing document management systems struggle to meet their organizational needs for overcoming information sprawl and data silos, process analytics/management (25 percent), and cloud support (24 percent) while 55 percent agree that email is their big untagged, ungoverned, high-risk content type. For those that are trying to build digital workplaces this is not good news. If enterprises are still struggling with document management, then adding new digital technologies into the mix is just going to make things worse.

The research concludes: “As your ECM/DM systems become more and more business-critical, be sure to keep them up-to-date, taking advantage of the latest capture capabilities and smart processes, especially workflow automation.”

Related Article: How Document Management and Content Management Differ

The Critical Role Of Document Management Systems

Chicago-based iManage builds work product management solutions for law firms, corporate legal departments, and other professional services firms such as accounting and financial services. According to Deniece Moxy, director of product marketing at iManage, a document management system still plays a critical role in today’s workforce. Today’s digitally savvy professionals have high expectations for the applications they use, simply because they grew up using consumer applications like Google, Facebook, and Amazon — in other words, applications that provide a consistent user interface across computers, mobile phones, tablets and other devices, as well as intuitive experience that requires little to no training. At the same time, these applications also include sophisticated features that seem to anticipate their needs, like Amazon suggesting a purchase based on a product you recently bought, or Netflix recommending shows you might like.

Given all of this, he argues, it’s no surprise that when new digitally savvy professionals join companies today, getting them to adopt many of these organizations’ existing document management systems can be a struggle. “Unless the applications provide the same mobile, intuitive, smart and collaborative user experience of the consumer applications today’s professionals have grown up with, they will most likely be hesitant to use them to their full potential, if at all,” she said.

Moxy said that as enterprises decide what DMS or other applications to invest in, here are three application capabilities they should consider:

  • Mobile - Anywhere, anytime access to critical work product is crucial. Today’s professionals work on-the-go, in the office and remotely, and so they expect easy mobile access to applications across all their devices. This includes speedy search and location of critical documents, taking fewer clicks to get to the information one wants.
  • Intuitive and Smart - Professionals look for their digital tools to be intuitive and reliable, and especially able to anticipate their needs. These tools should deliver powerful capabilities that allow them to work smarter. For example, DMS applications should remember previous search terms and suggest future queries based on that history and provide real-time tooltips relevant to the task at hand.
  • Collaborative and Secure - Today’s professionals are accustomed to collaborating through the apps they use, like Google Docs. They want their company’s DMS and other applications to operate the same way in order to support cross-collaboration and easy file sharing. Beyond ease of use, these tools should support secure document sharing with the ability to enable different user permissions and restrict access to documents when needed.

The system Moxy describes is a DMS for the digital workplace and not the proprietary systems of even five years ago that were cumbersome, difficult to deploy and responded to changing business realities very slowly. Michael Graham, CEO of Philadelphia-based Epilogue Systems added that the changing digital workplace is also forcing DMS to change too. Document management systems (DMS) should play the role of the “one source of truth” for organizations, but as the workplace has digitized, and more and more systems are capable of creating (and distributing) documents, the DMS' role as one source of truth has diminished, or at least become much more difficult to maintain. “DMS should communicate effectively with distributed content creation engines, specifically cloud applications, via API, making the DMS the hub, and the APIs the spokes out to the document creation engines. This is a more modular and scalable solution where the process serves the company, as opposed to having the company serve the process,” he said.

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Document Management Systems and Speech Recognition

Despite appearing to be at odds with the newer digital technologies in the digital workplace, Mark Geremia of Burlington, Mass.-based Nuance, which develops speech recognition technology, says document management sits nicely with, for example, voice recognition technologies. Since the launch of Siri and Alexa, the adoption of advanced speech recognition capabilities is growing, especially in industries that incorporate heavy documentation practices, enabling easier creation, editing of and management of documents. It's also reducing the amount of repetition involved when working with documents, such as filling out forms or filing reports, allowing them to develop new and innovative ways to work smarter increasing employee productivity and efficiency. “As more organizations and industries move toward paperless offices and open-source collaborative tools, many are being forced to reevaluate their documentation processes in order to implement successful digital transformation strategies,” he said.  In this respect he said Nuance is working with a few large organizations across a variety of industries to help implement these strategies, including education, financial services, healthcare, legal, and law enforcement among others.

The Bottom Line

Document management systems in digital workplaces should support the full array of document generation, sharing, interaction, and rights management. Some business leaders think that if a document opens as a PDF, then it's properly digitized and has served its purpose. However, digitized documents come fully loaded with a wealth of functions — or at least they should — with the right document management system.

True end-to-end document management starts with document generation, according to Doug Rybacki, chief product officer at Seattle, Wash.-based Conga. Through the support of AI and machine learning, organizations of all kinds — from universities to legal firms to hotels — can benefit from document management systems that predict language and clauses that should be used in each unique document. Document management systems must also facilitate business collaboration with tracking of those processes. The most important business documents are edited by multiple people within their own organization, shared internally, negotiated with a customer or supplier, shared with that customer or partner, and signed.

A department's productivity can be squashed when there are five to ten cycles reviewing different versions of an important document. When documents are cloud-based and collaborative, edits can be made and reviewed in real-time, allowing higher output in other core areas of the business. “Document management systems should make the final document or contract palatable to customers of all kinds. Whether through an electronic signature function for seamless approvals from multiple parties, or an option to red-line contracts and come back with a second offer, a key tenet of digitized documents is customer transparency,” Rybacki said.