What is an Electronic Document Management System?

An electronic document management system (EDMS) is a framework of tools for managing the creation, use, and storage of documents in multiple formats that are created throughout an organization.Typically, document management refers to a centralized software system that captures and manages both digital files and images of scanned paper documents. Electronic document management systems share many similar features with enterprise content management (ECM) systems; however, document management software systems focus on the use and optimization of active documents and structured data, such as Word documents, PDF files, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint, emails and other defined formats, whereas ECM systems also manage unstructured content and rich media formats.

However, electronic document management is much more than simply scanning and saving: it is a comprehensive system that enables knowledge workers to efficiently organize and distribute documents across the organization for better, integrated use within daily operations.

Electronic document management systems contain tools for:

  • Creating digital files and converting paper documents into digital assets.
  • Easily sharing digital documents with the right knowledge workers.
  • Centrally organizing documents in standardized file structures and formats.
  • Storing and accessing information for more efficient use.
  • Securing documents according to standardized compliance rules.

By centralizing information use and access, document management is the hub on which broader information management strategies like ECM, records management and business process automation can be connected and deployed.

Common Features of EDMS

Electronic document management systems contain tools that range from basic paper digitization and storage to comprehensive document automation and system integration.
  • Automated Information Capture

    EDMS transforms paper documents into digital files through high-volume scanning and OCR and can capture and store digital files at the point of creation from network folders and drives, Microsoft Office and other integrated systems, mobile devices and digital cameras. Data capture tools automatically add context and enhancements around imported files, such as image cleanup, metadata entry and file classification.

  • Federated Search & Retrieval

    EDMS enables authorized employees to locate files from across document folders and repositories, with searching capabilities usually including file name, metadata, document contents and more.

  • Collaboration Tools

    EDMS contains the ability to modify documents for streamlined collaboration. Annotations, redaction options for sensitive information, highlight tools, stamps, text boxes and other markup tools provide searchable context and decision points around the content contained in files.

  • Hierarchical File Indexing & Classification

    Digital documents are organized into a central repository built on folder structures that keep documents automatically organized by department, creation date or other information governance parameters.

  • Connected Archival Methods

    Electronic document management can include or connect to records retention schedules, making it easy to transform active documents into compliant records for full document lifecycle management.

  • Automated Workflows

    Back-end automation ranges from workflows that automatically create folders and file new documents to sophisticated notifications that loop in end users at critical steps of internal business processes.

  • Security & Audit Trails

    Document access configured by employee role or department puts information in the right hands. Audit trails automatically track exactly how information is being accessed for ongoing regulatory compliance.

  • Document Metadata

    EDMS provides critical context around document use with metadata that tracks everything from creation dates, review and approval statuses, last date of modification and other customizable data fields.

  • Version Control

    EDMS automatically tracks modifications to documents and metadata, forming a history of document use to maintain compliance with governance standards. Check-in and check-out features ensure information integrity and streamline collaboration.

  • System-Wide Integration

    Document management software pulls information from systems of record like CRM, ERP and HR databases to automatically capture, track or link to information created across the enterprise.

Who Uses EDMS?

Organizations typically start using electronic document management systems to transform paper-based operations after reaching an internal tipping point in which customer response times become too slow, departments don’t have enough bandwidth to solve recurring process bottlenecks, paper archiving becomes too costly or large-scale regulatory risks are exposed during a data breach or compliance fines.

For organizations that have defined but resource-intensive business processes, EDMS is an ideal fit. Document management helps organizations across industries side step this busy work entirely by eliminating manual document maintenance, reclaiming valuable staff time and boosting the bottom-line.

Common pain points prior to using 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
  • Exposed information security and disaster recovery risks
  • Too many data entry errors due to manual document processing

Document management projects are often initiated by IT departments as means to standardize information access when data practices vary greatly between departments. If one department is using its own imaging system and another team keeps files in uncontrolled shared drives, personal file folders or cloud storage solutions, IT leaders will look for a comprehensive EDMS system to provide one corporate standard for modernizing and managing document use while digitizing existing business rules for each department.

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 system. Starting a small-scale document management project for a specific process pain point helps demonstrate initial gains that can be applied across other areas of the business.

Implementing electronic document management software is also the recommended first step a company may take to kick-start larger digital transformation projects. Going paperless opens up the possibilities for more complex process automation and more insightful analytics into business operations.

Laserfiche Enables Digital Transformation in the North Carolina Division of Water Resources

See how the state’s water authority went from snail-mail documents to instant information access that reclaims staff time and improves public services.

Benefits and ROI of EDMS

Companies that choose to use an EDMS system to digitize and back-scan current paper archives see initial gains simply by reducing the volume of paper that needs to be stored and by reallocating budget and employee time spent on managing paperwork.

“Laserfiche continues to enhance tools for process automation, including capture, workflow and business process management, RPA, and case management, enabling users to offload routine tasks, automate when possible, and redirect resources to higher-value activities.” – Market Perspective: Laserfiche 10.3: Driving Digital Transformation with a Content-Centric Workflow Platform, IDC

By using EDMS for paper digitization, organizations can use document management to tackle process automation and transform business efficiency. Nucleus Research notes in its ECM Technology Value Matrix 2018 that simple file migration will fall by the wayside in the next five years as companies focus on leveraging EDMS systems to extract and leverage data within documents, no matter where documents are created or stored.

Companies that use EDMS benefit from having a powerful platform for building not just automated processes for defined business rules, but truly data-driven processes that aren’t constrained by specific document formats.

“Uniting metadata with repository-agnosticism allows the user to work with data and content at its source, eliminating the need for costly and time-consuming data migrations.” – ECM Technology Value Matrix 2018, Nucleus Research

Modern EDMS systems can offer a hybrid of on-premise and cloud-based solutions in order to cover all the bases of data extraction and use in core business processes. Process automation not only saves time but positions EDMS as a necessary tool for improving customer and client satisfaction.


20% Average time savings based on filing and retrieval efficiencies6,000 Hours Average time saves based on greater staff productivity


Taking advantage of the full range of document management tools ultimately enables organizations to refocus company-wide efforts from menial tasks to revenue-focused activities through:

  • Reduced archival and storage costs

    Eliminates the need to dedicate space, operational budgets and employee resources to maintaining file storage.

  • Faster turnaround time for invoicing, payroll, contracting and other core processes

    Reduce bottlenecks for defined internal processes by automating data extraction and implementing business workflow templates for common back-office transactions.

  • Fewer duplication and error-prone documents

    Automate document data completion and updates and ensure employees are only using the most current version of documents.

  • Single point of information access

    No more toggling between file cabinets and different software systems to find what you need. Users can find exactly what they need, when they need it, across repositories, devices and document formats.

  • More Efficient Collaboration

    Annotations, version control, automated approval and review and more provides employees with the ability to quickly work together on document changes and make better-informed business decisions.

  • Increased transparency in document use and modification

    Get a birds-eye view of how documents are being used throughout the organization and the overall efficiency of document-driven processes.

  • Improved document security

    Control information access and reduce the risk of data breaches, document loss and compliance infractions.

  • More efficient customer service and public service requests

    Answer questions from clients and coworkers with on-demand access to internal documents.

Typical ROI for Electronic Document Management


$1-5 Savings per document

Cost Reduction

40% document-related cost reduction


6 months ROI for half of all companies using document management

5 Year ROI

404% ROI For digital document management over 5 Years

See Laserfiche in Action!

Whether your organization is looking to go paperless, manage digital content or automate document-driven processes, Laserfiche has the right Enterprise Content Management system for your needs.