What Is an Electronic Document Management System?

An electronic document management system (EDMS) manages the creation, use and storage of documents in most, if not all formats. While electronic document management systems share similarities with enterprise content management (ECM) systems, it’s important to differentiate them, especially when shopping for solutions.

Most ECM systems can be considered EDMS platforms, but not the other way around. EDMS platforms lack some of the functionality of ECM systems, including intelligent content capture, business process automation and records management features.

However, even on its own, an electronic document management system offers a comprehensive solution to help knowledge workers efficiently organize and distribute documents across their organizations.

EDMS platforms contain tools for:

Scalable and centralized document storage
Versioning, markup and collaborative editing
Access control and tagging
Metadata management and full-text search
Federated searches across multiple resources and platforms
Managing document and record lifecycles
Internal and external file sharing
Tracking document history and system activity

Common Features of an EDMS

An electronic document management system offers a robust feature set aimed to promote information governance, transparency and collaboration across the enterprise.

Federated Search

Enable authorized employees to locate files across document folders and repositories, with the ability to search based on file name, metadata, document contents and more.

Document Metadata & Full-Text Search

Customizable metadata fields — which can include information such as creation dates, statuses and more — provide context for documents and makes them easier to search for. An electronic document management system also enables users to search a document’s full text for a search term when metadata isn’t enough.

Digital Vault Services

Organizations in highly regulated industries, such as wealth management, can retain records in an unalterable, write once, read many (WORM) format.

Document Markup

Add annotations, highlights, stamps, text boxes and more to your documents. Advanced EDMS systems also offer the ability to redact particularly sensitive information.

Version Control

Automatically track modifications to documents and metadata, creating a history of document use to maintain compliance with governance standards. Check-in and check-out features help ensure information integrity and streamline collaboration.

Mobile Application Access

Leverage easy-to-use mobile apps to securely retrieve and receive information from your repository, fostering collaboration between those in the office and out in the field.

Security & Audit Trails

Use robust security controls and document tags to ensure information is only available to authorized employees, roles or departments. Audit trails automatically track who is accessing information and when to support regulatory compliance.

Cloud Resiliency & Scalability

Minimize system downtime and be better prepare for increases in scale with a cloud-based EDMS that adapts to your needs with little-to-no IT infrastructure cost or maintenance.

External File Sharing

Secure hosting for individual files and public portals help ensure information can be shared with external parties safely and conveniently.

Records Management

Securely store records, connect them to retention schedules and apply legal holds as needed, simplifying how you comply with recordkeeping regulations and manage records throughout their lifecycles.

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Gain advice and insights on how to procure a document management system for your organization.

Who Uses EDMS?

Organizations typically start considering an electronic document management system when response times become too slow to meet customer expectations, departments don’t have bandwidth to solve recurring process bottlenecks, traditional archiving becomes too costly or when regulatory risks are exposed after a data breach or compliance fine.

For organizations that have defined but resource-intensive business processes, an EDMS is an ideal fit. Document management helps organizations across industries sidestep busywork by mitigating the need for manual document maintenance, opening up opportunities to reclaim valuable staff time and boost the bottom line.

Common pain points prior to using an EDMS:

Spiraling costs in physical and/or outsourced archiving and storage
Time-consuming document search and retrieval
Lengthy response times for client-facing requests
Increasing delays in core business processes
Siloed information across departments and working groups
Information governance issues and disaster recovery risks
Data entry errors due to manual document processing

Electronic document management system deployments are often initiated by IT to standardize information management practices between departments that had previously been inconsistent or varied. For example, if one department was storing content on cloud drives, and another was doing so on personal computers and unsecured shared drives, a savvy IT department could come in and implement an EDMS to standardize and protect this information.

Specifically, department managers that oversee back-office processes like HR management, accounting and contract management (or other repetitive processes with defined steps) also frequently catalyze the move towards an EDMS platform. Starting a small-scale document management project for a specific process pain point helps demonstrate initial gains that can be applied to other areas of business.

Implementing electronic document management software is also a recommended first step that a company can take to kickstart larger digital transformation projects. Moving from physical to digital storage opens up the possibilities for deploying process automation solutions and gaining insightful analytics into business operations.

Document Management Explained

See how your organization can keep its content more organized and secure with a document management system. An EDMS provides a centralized, protected repository that employees can access from almost anywhere, while increasing transparency and efficiency across the enterprise.

Benefits and ROI of EDMS

Companies that choose an EDMS platform to digitize paper archives see initial gains by reducing the volume of paper that needs to be stored and reallocating financial and employee resources previously spent managing paperwork.
However, there are many more benefits. Ultimately, a robust set of document management tools enables organizations to:

Provide a Single Point of Information Access

No more digging through multiple storage rooms or software systems to find what you need. Users can find exactly what they need, when they need it – across repositories, devices and document formats.

Foster Collaboration Between Teams

Extensive markup options, version control, simultaneous document editing and more enable employees to work together on document changes and make better, more informed business decisions.

Improve Document Security

Organizations can control information access in order to bolster their efforts to stay in compliance with regulations, mitigate data loss and prevent data breaches.

Ensure Resiliency in Times of Crisis

Choose a cloud-based EDMS and be ready for whatever comes your way, with your information always ready and backed up around-the-clock.

Increase Transparency in Document Use & Modification

Get a bird’s-eye view of how documents are being used throughout the organization and manage records using clearly defined retention schedules.

Process Customer & Public Service Requests Quickly

Provide instant and secure access to information for clients, customers or citizens with public portals, or share content on an individual basis using secure file sharing.

Typical ROI for Electronic Document Management


$1-5 savings per document

Cost Reduction

40% document-related cost reduction


Half of all companies using an EDMS system experience ROI within six months

5 Year ROI

404% ROI from an EDMS over 5 Year

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