Why Use Document Management Software?
The top performers in our review are M-Files DMS, the Gold Award Winner; eFileCabinet, the Silver Award winner; and Dokmee, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing software to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 software programs.
Document management software (DMS) combines scanning, storage and organizational tools into a single streamlined package designed to transform your office into a paperless work environment. Once a promise of the future, the paperless office is now a reality for businesses of all sizes.
Implementing a DMS solution not only delivers the benefits that come with going paperless, but it can increase employee productivity, improve your business's workflow processes and further enhance document security.
What Should I Expect from DMS Software?
Document management software comprises a comprehensive set of tools designed to help you create and manage a paperless office. Rather than using multiple programs to handle the various stages of a paperless workflow, this software delivers all of the functionality you need in a single interface.
Most DMS applications include imaging tools that interface with your scanner to convert paper documents into digital files, enabling you to scan and import documents directly into a central document repository. Many software packages also include customizable document-creation templates and associated tools that automatically format newly scanned files to match formatting standards for your office or that comply with industry standards.
In addition to scanning paper documents, many DMS applications let you import most types of digital documents: PDFs, word processing files, spreadsheets, image files and many other file formats. Once a document is imported into the system, it's stored in a data repository that can be made accessible to others in your office and, in many cases, outside your office.
The best DMS packages give you the ability to grant access to individuals to specific documents in the repository as needed. Many software packages also let you store your documents in the cloud, allowing individuals with permission access to any file from anywhere in the world using a web browser and an internet connection.
Depending on the program you choose, you either pay to own the software outright, sometimes referred to as a self-hosted model, or you make monthly payments for a subscription to the software, often referred to as a Software as a Service (SaaS) model.
Pricing varies within and between the two sales models. Among packages sold in a SaaS model, costs can range from roughly $10 per month to nearly $50 per month. Software packages for onsite installation cost anywhere from $30 to nearly $800. PinPoint is one of the few options available in both a SaaS version and as an outright purchase.
What Type of DMS Integrations Are Available?
Many applications are designed to integrate seamlessly with business productivity software such as Microsoft Office as well as customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. If you're looking to ramp up productivity, improve employee collaboration and rid your office space of filing cabinets and clutter, a DMS solution may be just what you're looking for.
DMS applications are typically designed to work with a standalone document scanner, which is used to create digital copies of physical documents. If you need to digitize a substantial number of documents, consider a document scanning service that collects your documents and does all the scanning for you under secure conditions.
Are There Other Options?
If you don't need the kind of comprehensive solution that DMS delivers, there are several standalone software products designed to handle individual steps in the paperless office workflow. Optical character recognition (OCR) software converts document scans, PDF files and other document image files into searchable text documents. Convert PDF software lets you create, modify, combine and split PDF files, a standard business document format. Cloud storage services for business allow you to store your documents securely online and make them accessible to employees, clients or other parties. We also have a number of articles about document management software and other related products to help you narrow your choices.
Document Management Software: What We Evaluated, What We Found
Top Ten Reviews' hands-on testing is designed to simulate typical, real-world experience with the software we evaluate. For our tests, we assessed the full-featured trial for each platform. The companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, and the results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
In assessing the best DMS platforms, we first examined the installation process to determine how challenging it is to install and then operate the software. Then we assessed the complexity of adding documents and manipulating existing documents already in the system.
Based on the results of our tests, we assigned each application an Ease of Use score from zero to 100 percent. The highest-scoring DMS systems feature intuitive tools, streamlined workflows and easy-to-learn procedures that make the transition to a paperless office quick and easy.
These programs are also flexible and feature varied technical support options, making them a solid choice for all kinds of businesses. Based on our research, below are the features you'll want to pay close attention to in order to find the best DMS system for your business.
Features: Regulatory Compliance Support Is Not Universally Available
Many businesses operating in regulated industries are required by law to track, maintain and audit business documents. Among the DMS applications on our list, slightly more than half provide a document control system that supports the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Sarbanes-Oxley, Good Manufacturing Practices required by the FDA, or ISO 9000/9001 regulatory compliance requirements.
This is a critical capability that many businesses cannot afford to do without. If your business operates under regulatory compliance requirements, you'll want to confirm this capability is included in the package you are considering with the software manufacturer.
Tools: Version Control Is Critical
Version control tools are critical to safeguarding and tracking editable documents within a DMS. They ensure that all new edits are properly saved and old versions are retained in the system for later access.
These capabilities are especially important when multiple people in the office have editing access to the same file. In most DMS systems, version control limits editing access to a given file to a single person at a time, forcing other users into read-only status until editing is completed. In some systems, you can set a notification to alert specific users when a particular file is edited.
Integration: CRM & ERP Integration Are Uncommon
If your business utilizes a CRM application or an ERP database, you will want to limit your search to DMS solutions that integrate seamlessly with the programs you use daily. While you can use software that doesn't integrate with your CRM or ERP program, choosing compatible software allows you to access, edit, back up and monitor digital files and documents created within your CRM or ERP program seamlessly, further increasing office efficiency.
Of the 10 products on our list, five are specifically designed to integrate with CRM and ERP platforms, so it's worth the time to identify compatible options during your initial software research (Check our review matrix for more detail).
Another noteworthy fact is that most document control systems are designed to integrate with popular email clients such as Microsoft Outlook and business software suites like Microsoft Office.
Document Management Software: Our Verdict & Recommendations
Our comprehensive evaluation of DMS software identified several standouts that provide all the features home and business users need to create and maintain a paperless office, in addition to advanced tools that let you manage user access controls.
- M-Files DMS 10, our Gold Award winner, has a comprehensive feature list and scored high in our Ease of Use evaluation, earning a perfect score of 100 percent. It was one of only two applications in our proprietary test to earn a perfect score. The software is a good solution for most businesses as it includes user access controls and document version-tracking tools. It also integrates with CRM and ERP software. M-Files DMS 10 includes regulatory compliance features, including special compliance workflows that comply with Sarbanes-Oxley and regulatory agencies like the IRS and the Securities and Exchange Commission. M-Files DMS 10 is available for Windows and Macs as well as Android and iOS tablets and phones.
- eFileCabinet Desktop Professional is the Top Ten Reviews Silver Award winner. This DMS software delivers all of the capabilities you need to efficiently convert all of your hard copy documents to cloud-based storage with ease. We found the interface and toolset intuitive and easy to use. While it falls somewhat short in our Ease of Use measure, primarily due to a complex set of administrator options, it serves as the best DMS with its rich feature set and extensive support options. eFileCabinet Desktop Professional is designed for both Mac and Windows operating systems.
- Dokmee, the Bronze Award winner, is a very good option for business and home users, and it has a well-rounded feature set. This DMS software falls into third place because it was more difficult to use than our top-rated software. This program is designed for Windows and Apple computers.