Document Management vs. Content Management: What to Know

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    Many businesses feel the pressure of “crunching the numbers” and finding ways to get more done with the same amount of resources and supplies – or with less. Document management and content management software (DM and CM, respectively) have been developed in order to securely store information and make it easily retrievable for the workforce. Without boring you with the details (as management systems have been around as early as the 1990s), the true question you’re probably asking here is “Which should I choose, and why?”


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    Both document management and content management involve organizing vast amounts of files into something easily digestible, which allows you to work more efficiently. HOW they accomplish this, however, differs. These differences stem from the types of files your business uses and from the functionality of the software itself.

    First, let’s briefly explain what each is, and then we’ll go into their similarities and differences:

    Document Management Explained

    For a variety of industries – accounting, manufacturing, and HR being among them – document management truly shines due to its automatic indexing, searchability functions, and workflow routing. Think of it as one big software repository that securely stores documents, where file types of all kinds can be archived or scanned in efficiently.

    A big value point for DM lies in its ability to integrate information between all of your programs. No one likes having to enter numbers into Excel, then having to do it in a separate Word document, only to have to do it again in an email. Not only is that repetitious, but it’s just plain inefficient.

    For companies lacking an all-around consensus and for those experiencing “not-being-on-the-same-page syndrome,” a DM system is extremely valuable because of the eliminated back and forth and the head-scratcher of “what version is this?” when you’re going to edit something sent in a long email chain.

    Now that you have a grasp on what DM is, let’s review content management.

    Content Management Explained

    Content management, commonly referred to as enterprise content management (or ECM), is another monster entirely. While DM and ECM do share some commonalities, such as accessibility and indexing, the latter is a more holistic approach that overhauls your business. Rather than just thinking about documents, content management covers many different file types – emails, videos, web content, and other media – and is able to store and convert that information easily.

    See Related: 3 Signs You Should Invest in Document Management

    Handling a plethora of unstructured data and alternative media is where an ECM thrives. That said, it takes considerable upfront investments to implement a content management system, because it’s the combined strategy and execution that can be overwhelming to many businesses. Simply put, droves of organizations are having a hard enough time as it is organizing and ascertaining the right solution to solve their time management and prioritization challenges.

    Also, not all solutions are created equal. You’ll need to shop around to see if the provider or vendor can meet your business’s needs – and the strategic initiatives? That could be completely on you.

    Similarities & Differences Between the Two

    As you’ve seen, the objective of a DM and CM are very similar: to house your data in a secure and easily-accessible way.

    Similarities include:

    • Quick retrieval of data and information
    • Secure permission-based access
    • Safe document backup in the event of an outage
    • Improved efficiency for processes

    There are some key differences:

    • DM is best for paper-based files, whereas CM houses videos, website pages, and other nonconventional file types
    • DM is better for version tracking and monitoring the entire lifecycle of a document; CM isn’t as agile about that
    • CM is better for email and business process management; DM thrives in audit trails, indexing, and searchability
    • CM is more agile for handling website page maintenance, and DM deals with invoices, work orders, and onboarding paperwork for new employees well

    Find What Works Best for You


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    Each business is different in what it needs for its customers, patients, vendors, and beyond. One thing to keep in mind is that you must understand your business needs in order to have a competitive advantage and to be efficient above the rest.

    If you’d like to delve further into what a document management solution can do for you, feel free to check out our newest eBook, “Not Your Mama’s Guide to Going Paperless!” You’ll be glad you got insights on the high cost of paper in the workplace – in both efficiency and employee satisfaction.

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