NOTE: I decided to ask ChatGPT to help me out with some definitions, officially because it's emerging tech, but we all know that it's nice to have a co-author.
A document management system is a major step forward for organizations that are looking to grow effectively and/or reduce costs and inefficiencies. But moving away from paper documents or a simple file storage product is only the first step; integrating your document management system with your other business applications and tools brings a significant boost to your processes.
Here are a few of the more common examples of how integrations can boost the value of your document management system:
Most professional-level CRMs provide reliable contact workflows for account and even prospect management, and often have good integration with email systems.
One area that isn’t as well-integrated with CRMs is document handling; while CRMs like HubSpot may provide a file storage area that can support uploads, providing attachments such as marketing materials and training documents without more robust document control can result in the wrong version of the material being shared. Integrating your document management system with its more robust document control will help to ensure that the right documents are being shared with the right customers and prospects.
Similarly to your customer relationship management, your website’s content management system will have some file storage functionality, but versioning of documents, such as PDFs, as well as the classification of digital assets such as images and video files, could rely on your document management system for handling the original source content, and could also provide resized and optimized versions for your website or other applications.
Tools such as Google Drive and Office 365 can be integrated with your document management system, allowing you to add better document classification, discovery, and document control. If your document management system supports inline collaboration, you could make document changes within your DMS, possibly removing manual processes like downloading and re-uploading documents after editing.
Most applications that allow for project management do not offer robust document management; integration can allow linkage between a project or task and project documents stored in your DMS.
A key component of project management is providing deliverables, such as reports or other documents. This is not always a feature provided within the project management system itself, so an integrated DMS can provide better management of these deliverables.
Employee documents and complex workflows such as onboarding and offboarding can be improved upon by using a robust and customizable document management system as a document store and process automation tool.
A growing component of people management is compliance management, such as ensuring that all team members have read and accepted specific policies around security and acceptable use or behavior. When that is unavailable or unsuitable within an HRIS, a good document management system with process and approval workflows can provide this functionality.
Most organizations need a repository for Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and other Documentation, as they are a major component of scaling an organization as it grows. This can be combined with learning modules to provide a more robust training experience for team members. A document management system can serve as a documentation repository, or in the case of organizations that already have software for documentation, a DMS can integrate that documentation with an LMS or other training systems.
As with other systems that have rudimentary file handling functionality, integrating your more robust and centralized document management system can ensure that documents are handled consistently.
One common scenario is where an array of financial documents exist with different levels of sensitivity, but all documents exist only within financial software that is not generally provided to more than the finance team. Having the ability to share documents to other teams, when acceptable, while maintaining control over those documents is something that may require a document management solution.
Rather than relying on the different reporting provided by various applications and tools, combining data from various sources through importing into a report and analytics tool can create more robust metrics and visualizations. A flexible document management system can provide its own analytics to such a system, or can even assist in the integrations.
Ideally, the result isn’t just an integration between two systems. While integration between a given application and your document management system provides clear value, using your document management system as a coordinating, centralized system can provide a consistent mechanism for enforcing organizational standards around versioning, security and compliance, and classification. The end goal is a robust document management system that is designed to be integrated across departments and functions, while maintaining document control.
For every system listed, there are multiple other applications that could be used by an organization, such as enterprise resource planning, fleet management, inventory control, supply chain management, and information technology service management.
When the right document management system is employed, it can become the center of your organization. In essence, that is what separates document management from its more powerful version, enterprise content management. It’s all about the integrations.