There are many similarities and some differences between a DMS/EDMS and an ECM.

First off, a document management system and an electonic document management system are the same thing. They are also sometimes known as "EDM", for Electronic Document Management, but that term is not commonly used for document management systems due to more popular uses for the abbreviation.

Sometimes, enterprise content management is used interchangably with document management, but in reality, document management is a major component of enterprise content management.

What about CMS?

CMS is now often used to describe Website Content Management Systems, rather than a broader description of any content management system, such as for document management or other uses like digital asset management. For content management beyond websites, the more robust term Enterprise Content Management is popular.

What is a document management system (DMS)?

It's a software-based system that receives, tracks, manages and stores documents. In many cases, document management systems are used to reduce paper, whether that meant the ability to digitize documents for archival, or to reduce the need for paper to be used in the first place. But since many processes no longer expect a paper-based document, a document management system may also be used to classify and organize documents, as well as to centralize and standardize the storage of those electronic documents.

Document management usually involves a combination of components; at FormKiQ, we've organized these components into the four essential functions of a document management system. Here's a list of those components, along with our classification:

Document Capture Documents are generally collected through image capture, digital file upload, and data import. Many DMS solutions offer optical character recognition (OCR) to process documents that are collected via image capture, and validation and/or anti-malware scanning for documents collected from digital file upload or data import. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Collection and Storage
Document Storage Electronic document storage will usually include encryption, auditing, and the management of the document storage lifecycle as well, based on compliance and integration needs. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Collection and Storage
Document Security Security requirements usually include not only encryption and antivirus/anti-malware scanning, but access control and authorization. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Collection and Storage
Document Control and Versioning Many document management systems provide some level of version control, such as retaining previous versions of a document whenever it is updated; it may be necessary to recall or even revert to a previous version. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Collection and Storage
Document Indexing Indexing usually always includes providing unique document identifier, while most also use document metadata and/or document content to classify documents and organize them into different collections or indices. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Organization and Classification
Document Metadata Metadata is the information that accompanies the document itself in the document management system. This often includes creation and last modified dates, the user who created or last modified the document, as well as flexible metadata such as tag keys and values. Metadata can be created and maintained automatically by the system or manually by users. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Organization and Classification
Document Workflow Processes that may involve one or more steps, including conditional steps on actions like validation or user approvals, are often called workflows. Creating and maintaining workflows can be a major component of a document management system, with rules engines or external integrations, or it may be kept to a minimum with very simple workflows that do not allow for customization. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Organization and Classification
Document Data and Metadata Validation Validation usually means checking for required document content or metadata, such as a required content type or required tags, but it can also include processing and analyzing document content or metadata to find and offer correction actions. For example, a customer signature from a scanned document could require validation against a previously-recorded signature already stored in the system for that customer. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Processing and Transformation
Document Collaboration Some document management systems provide collaboration tools, sometimes even in realtime. Other systems provide a checkout process allowing a user to lock a file while changing and unlocking upon checking that file back into the system. Another common solution is to integrate with existing collaboration tools, such as Amazon WorkDocs, Microsoft Office, or Google Drive. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Processing and Transformation
Document Publishing Publishing a document can be meant in terms of proofreading, peer review, or publishing approval. This can be an important requirement for industries with legal regulations that require documents that prove that the expected procedure has been followed. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Processing and Transformation
Document Distribution Many document management systems provide for organizations that may have business process or regulatory requirements to distribute documents in a specific manner, often as unalterable copies. Document sharing often has document authorization and control requirements that may also be provided by the DMS. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Discovery, Presentation, and Integration
Document Integration Many document management systems provide or allow for document management functionality using external applications. This is often seen with document collaboration tools, content management systems, or workflow management software. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Discovery, Presentation, and Integration
Document Retrieval Retrieval of documents can be a complicated component within a DMS, drawing on unique identifiers, metadata, and classifications/indices to find and present documents on-demand, whether to the user or to an integration service. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Discovery, Presentation, and Integration
Document Search Searches are often provided based on metadata or document content, sometimes including fulltext search. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Discovery, Presentation, and Integration
Document Federated Search Some document management systems allow for searching across various document management stores or even across applications.
Document Hardcopy Reproduction Most electronic document management systems can provide a reproduction of the document for printing. FormKiQ's Essential Function: Document Discovery, Presentation, and Integration

There is a large variety of document management systems, as there are many ways to handle the components listed above, and some systems emphasize some of these components and minimize or ignore others. For instance, some personal DMS products focus on digitizing paper documents, with little to no functionality for dealing with electronic document processing or control, while some workflow-focused document management systems may not even allow for image-captured paper documents.

What is an enterprise content management system (ECM)?

An Enterprise Content Management System (ECM) describes the complete system of managing information within an enterprise. This differs from the narrower and more common use of the term "Content Management System", which is normally used to describe web content management as opposed to the wider scope that includes all information.

While Document Management can describe the simplest of systems for digitizing or organizing documents, Enterprise Content Management describes a system of managing content according to the processes and procedures of an enterprise. In essence, the collection, storage, and distribution of content occurs within the compliance, workflow, and security requirements of the organization. For some industries, regulations may require evidence that procedures and processes are being followed, and that evidence can be supplied by an Enterprise Content Management System.

According to the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), an ECM should consist of the following high-level components:

  • Capture: this includes imaging, forms processing, optical character recognition (OCR), data and content import, and indexing of the captured objects
  • Manage: this includes file and document management, collaboration, web content management, records management, archive management, and workflow and business process management
  • Store: this includes temporary storage, i.e., any storage that has a limited lifetime planned for its documents, such as content repositories like databases and file systems
  • Preserve: this differs from "Store" because the emphasis is on long-term storage, which focuses on long-term, safe storage and backup of unchanging information; a truly long-term strategy of preservation will include migration of data from legacy storage to newer technologies over time, to prevent data from becoming inaccessible due to obsolete methods of storage
  • Deliver: this includes the publishing and distribution of content, but also looks at the transformation of data to enable delivery, as well as the security around that delivery

Some of the major roadblocks to organizational adoption of a unified Enterprise Content Management System is the lack of integration, customization, and flexibility in many ECM products. Applications and procedures vary even within an organization, particularly for organizations with above-average diversity in geography, business units, or technologies employed.

This leads some organizations to a strategy of implementing their own proprietary ECM software, whether that means a solution created from scratch, or a solution that combines several products and services — possibly with some custom software — into a holistic federated content management system.

Is FormKiQ an EDMS or an ECM?

FormKiQ is both, or more specifically, FormKiQ Core is an EDMS, while FormKiQ Pro and Enterprise includes the features expected from an ECM.

As a system that allows for flexibility and customization, while providing excellent reliabilty and scalability, FormKiQ is ideally situated to be used as a universal document and content repository, which can then be integrated with other applications as needed. While it's possible for an organization to create custom solutions for ECM functionality internally, FormKiQ Pro and Enterprise meets organizational requirements for an ECM, with a significantly lower total cost of ownership than other solutions.

As FormKiQ is built on Amazon Web Services (AWS), all of its EDMS and ECM features use best-in-class AWS infrastructure and managed services. Every component of FormKiQ has been developed for reliability and redundancy, and is designed to provide the security, storage longevity, and scalability required for a full-feature enterprise content management system.

You can find out more about how FormKiQ Enterprise can meet your enterprise content management requirements by booking a demo.