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What is Document Management (DMS)?

Document management is a system that moves the task of storing and organizing documents from traditional paper use to digital format. In the old method, people would send documents with written petitions, and storing them could be difficult. However, document management allows us to easily do these tasks over the internet with online forms and computers. It reduced paper use and made storing and sharing documents faster and simpler while protecting the environment.

This system also helped keep documents secure and allowed us to conduct business processes more orderly and without errors. In summary, document management offers a modern way to organize documents digitally instead of traditional document management and process them more efficiently.


Documents first turned into paperwork…

The newer generations, let alone the term paperwork, are even against the term document. Is there a form to fill out? An application to make? There must definitely be a website or page for it. New generations might not even know the term paperwork; ask them what a petition is, and maybe they could only define it. But older generations, we know the scribes who sat on their stools waiting for customers, whose job was to write petitions. The way to make a request was to write a petition, sign it, take it to the relevant institution, and “process the petition through paperwork.”

Yes, institutions had paperwork departments. Every document would receive a number. There would be required additional documents in the paperwork; even special institutions would carry a document obtained from one unit to another as an attachment to the petition or as 'missing paperwork'. The other department would review the documents, associate them with their supportive documents, and give them back to the petitioner or send them to the next department. It would go on like this. Even tracking paperwork was a profession. Phrases like 'go today, come back tomorrow' were used.

After computers entered our lives, typewriters first started to become nostalgic. The newer generations would only know about typewriters from Russian Classics if they read them. We would write on computers, print out, and sign. It was an important revolution; the cost of making a mistake on a typewriter was high. You would have to use correction fluid (new generation readers, please look it up in the dictionary).

Then word processors came out, the old ones knew there was “word perfect,” for example. The fax tradition should not be forgotten. It was revolutionary for its time. In fact, the importance of fax was so exaggerated that bakeries that took orders via fax started to emerge. Along with fax, scanners came into existence. Scanning provided significant operational benefits because it was difficult to store and find documents in files.

To cut it short, document and paperwork tasks acquired new systems with advancements in the software world: Document Management System (DMS). Documents are written, scanned, come through fax, and are included in a document management system. Then they are directed to whichever department they need to go to, versioned, merge with new documents in the relevant department, and then move to the other department. Even though electronic signature hasn’t completely replaced wet signatures, the functions of physical documents started to decrease once they turned digital. Both an environmental contribution and operational efficiency. We thought that the document management software was the final point. We even changed its name, from paperwork to document (document). The coming and going tasks became the coming and going documents. If a change is needed, for example, in a contract, the relevant change would go to the lawyers, that sentence would be approved, come back, and the process would continue like this.

Then the document turned into an attachment…

Of course, we’re exaggerating, a document is not just an attachment. We must give it its due, even for the paper savings it provides.

But digital transformation was continuing, both the quality and quantity of documents changed. Document flow turned into process flow.

Let’s look at it again from a historical perspective

Word processors developed quickly, they began to include so many new functions that we didn’t even expect from them. Word processors enriched and facilitated document content development tools so much that the functions of document management systems in this direction became partly redundant. Documents could be shared among individuals and institutions, even at the same time, seeing what the other did when, approving together, and could be developed jointly. Document management system remained slow and cumbersome.

However, the real significant change was that all operations of the institutions started to digitize from end to end. There was no longer a need to fill out a form, to prepare a document. We could convey our request from a web page of the relevant company or institution. Now, no need for a copy of the ID card, our national ID number is sufficient. Now, to become a dealer, we don’t need to fill out a form; we can apply online, receive a confirmation code, and approve it. Then, with the addition of electronic signature or SMS or email verification, mobile signature, the need to redefine documents began to emerge. In other words, as processes automated, the number of documents decreased.

Please remember, preparing a proposal was preparing a document. You would calculate from price lists, create the document. But now, business process applications that do the calculations can generate the offer. Again, there was no need for a document. Product prices started to be published on the website. The contract is also on the site. The order form too. So now, many documents have become just outputs of process management systems.

So, are there no documents now? Of course, there are. For example, technical drawings, for instance, valuable papers, for example, copies of old manuscripts, for example, e-book versions of books in the library.

To express the change differently, the mode of operation defined by the transformation and journey of the document has now turned into a process management. Documents don’t circulate anymore; mostly stations, information, and directives circulate. Traditional documents turned into outputs, attachments. Insisting on documents is like rejecting e-books and insisting on flipping the pages leaf by leaf. Maybe you can sustain it for another generation, but the future doesn’t look bright for institutions that don’t digitalize from end to end.

Many institutions, companies, feel the most important symptoms. Document management system cannot form the basis of all operations. We change it with continuous add-ons and updates, but it doesn’t work.

Workflow vs. BPM (Business Process Management)

We now automate our way of doing business and our processes not with a document management system but with a process management system.

Take note! Let’s not confuse workflow management with BPM.

Workflow management tools organize the flow of tasks, not the flow of information and documents. Workflow tools are platforms like a database, on which you need to write applications. On the other hand, process management is aimed at the automation of business processes. It encompasses everything related to the process. Interfaces, business rules, data structures, transitions, permissions, document management, and other structures related to the process. It allows rapid development of your corporate applications with no-code, low-code architecture. It includes a document management system within itself. As we say, an end-to-end business process management system.

Process management systems (BPM) can process, store, and provide documents to their users with access control if necessary. However, conversely, a document management system cannot be used for process management. Because process management is much larger and comprehensive, an automation tool that includes the elements of a document management system.

Thanks to end-to-end digitization, both the number of documents decreased, and all related elements were simplified since they were already being tracked in process management.

Paperwork turned into documents, and documents turned into an attachment. It’s an exaggeration but close to the truth.

Now let’s talk about the Document Management Features of Business Process Management Systems.

What is BPM Tools’ Document Management System (DMS)?

Wikipedia defines Document Management Systems as “a software system used to store, share, track, and manage files or documents.”

As understood from this definition, document management involves not only the digital archiving of physical documents but also sharing these documents with different users, enriching the information contained within, modifying, updating, commenting, allowing users to intervene simultaneously, and tracking the detailed history of documents through version update records.

Usually known as a component of Enterprise Content Management (ECM), document management integrates with digital asset management, document imaging applications.

Why are Document Management Systems Necessary?

It's not hard to guess that in today's modern businesses, no one likes to deal with 'paperwork.' This phrase is more commonly used to describe 'unnecessary bureaucracy.' However, we cannot ignore our obligation to work with documents to secure our business in every situation.

As a result of this situation, unfortunately, you would witness complaints about the pile of documents produced daily, the large volume of data generated but not added value, and the difficulty of accessing information due to disorganized filing mechanisms in any institution you touch today.

This is where systematic document management comes into play. The importance of DMS in BPM tools can be summarized under 5 main headings:

1. Efficiency:

With DMS, accessing a piece of information or document becomes exponentially easier and faster compared to conventional solutions. The reduction in time spent for this task increases overall efficiency. In addition, standard routine tasks are facilitated by automatic workflows, reducing manual effort to a minimum. Another factor reducing the time required to create documents is the use of document templates, which means creating document content is just about opening and updating a template.

2. Compliance with Legal Regulations:

A systemic document management solution is a must to fully meet the requirements of sectoral legislation. Tracking changes in documents and ensuring compliance with national and international standards requires all official and unofficial documents to be managed in a systemic structure.

3. Information-Document Security:

DMS ensures the security and confidentiality of sensitive documents and information with its access authorization structure, encryption, and audit tools. Especially in this era of increasing cyber threats, securing information and document security is acknowledged as critically important for a business.

4. Cost Advantage:

The direct cost advantage of DMS is far beyond just eliminating the cost of physical printed documents, i.e., paper costs. The cost of physically archiving a document, storing this archive under secure conditions, and accessing a document or information in this archive when needed is dramatically high. Digitalizing each of these tools, in addition to the other advantages it provides, is much more economical and permanent compared to traditional solutions.

5. Coordination and Collaboration:

DMSs allow collaboration on documents, enabling teams to work regardless of being physically bound to a location or space. Through these collaborative functions, simultaneous updates can be made by different users on the same documents, comments and annotations can be shared for exchange of ideas, and to prevent potential confusions, documents are automatically versioned and stored.

As seen, a DMS has numerous and critically important benefits. These benefits lead to results that go far beyond simply managing documents in a business. They even affect the foundation of business functions.

The benefits of a DMS affect a business in many ways, from information security to creating a more productive team through simultaneous collaboration and creating savings. Using a DMS is not just about managing documents; it’s about transforming your way of doing business entirely.

What are the Fundamental Components of a Document Management System as a Module of BPM?

Document management, fundamentally positioned on three main functions, is now used as a feature within BPM systems through direct integration with BPM systems. Thus, we can also consider automated workflows as a component of document management.

Firstly, the primary component for document management is the Document Recognition feature. This feature allows physical documents to be digitized and transferred to the DMS through scanning methods. In more advanced DMS, this process is performed through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scanners.

The second component of document management concerns the storage of digitized documents. Document storage must ensure that digital documents are stored in an archiving system, from which they can be easily and securely accessed at any time.

Another component is the capability to perform multi-dimensional searches on these archived digital documents and the data contained within them. Having the ability to search and access using keywords, metadata, and variable criteria is one of the most critical functions of a DMS.

The most critical component of document management used in a business is its ability to be utilized within workflows under process management discipline. Automation of document-based processes, such as approvals, evaluations, reviews, and redirections, is essential for facilitating these tasks.

Understanding and incorporating all these fundamental components is vital to leverage the real potential of a well-functioning DMS. Creating a seamless, orderly, and efficient ecosystem fed with your corporate documents requires these components to work holistically and integrally.

Below, you can find some of the basic concepts and definitions related to this field as a component of document management:

Metadata typically describes the systematic information of every document. For example, information such as the date a document was created and the user who created it or users who worked on the file is stored in the metadata. Today, most DMS can automatically detect metadata values in a document. Keywords and tags related to the document content are determined in the metadata field to take advantage of advanced search features.

Document Capture
This term is used to denote the process of digitizing paper documents by scanning their images through scanners. To convert digital images into text recognizable by computers, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software is used, either integrated into scanner hardware or as standalone software.

Indexing is the process of classifying electronic document contents through keywords. It is a schematic structure used for querying information, making searches, and easily accessing information.

After documents are created, this feature allows authorized users to view, process, modify, or comment on and explain a document simultaneously. While collaborative work is done on the document, access by other users should be blocked. The collaboration feature of document management systems ensures that operations performed by each user are automatically recorded, allowing for detailed tracking of document history.

Versioning is a process that involves recording documents in the document management system, updating them after changes are made, allowing users to access previous versions, and continuing work from a selected point. Versioning is used for documents that change over time and need to be updated. Especially when needed, it might be necessary to revert to a previous version or reference a version.

What are the Benefits of the Document Management Module in BPMs?

Integrating document management into your BPM (Business Process Management) software facilitates progressing through two of the most challenging stages in a business's institutionalization journey: managing all tasks with defined processes and managing the information and documents the business owns. This integration brings various benefits across different areas:

1. Legal Compliance:
Each industry has its specific legal regulations that businesses are obliged to comply with. Integrated document management in your business processes provides immediate access to necessary documents, eliminating the risk of non-compliance. For example, if a customer legally challenges an application derived from a contract, accessing the customer’s contract and its details within the workflow takes only seconds. Also, the capability to track and control changes in document versions and other audit trails ensures the continuity of legal compliance.

2. Workflow Integration:
Documents in a business are often an integral part of business processes. Integrating document management with BPM allows documents to be used in workflows and accessed when needed. For instance, if you want to document controls conducted during a quality audit process, you can perfectly execute and manage this by adding control documents to the workflow created in BPM.

3. Efficiency:
Thanks to the automation functions based on business rules in BPM software, you can define automatic tasks and assignments that increase efficiency in document-based workflows. Automatic assignment of documents to a user or a group of users allows the relevant user to perform actions on the document based on certain rules. Additionally, you can benefit from systemic solutions that track steps in the workflow systematically, alerting users and managers against delays, thereby increasing efficiency. This also reduces the risk of errors while minimizing manual effort.

4. Information Security:
The institutionalization process requires handling highly sensitive data for a business. A document management system integrated with a BPM system allows for the application of security measures such as context-specific access controls and encryption to protect such critical documents and information.

5. Customer Satisfaction:
Especially in customer-facing processes, the ability to easily access customer information and documents directly affects customer satisfaction. A solution standardized with workflows created in shorter times improves service quality.

6. Cost Optimization:
One of the most significant advantages businesses gain in a fully digitalized ecosystem is the reduction or complete elimination of the need for physical environments and tools. Imagine a business life without paper documents, files, folders, and the need for a physical archive and the organization required to sustain these tools. Calculate how much budget you allocate for these items in a year and add it to your savings column.

7. Coordination and Collaboration:
Have you ever thought about how many hands a document changes in a business? With a BPM possessing document management features, you gain the ability to work on documents used in workflows simultaneously. This leads to significant leaps in your decision-making mechanisms, your work style, and your institutionalization process.

8. Ease of Access to Information and Documents:
A document management system integrated with BPM makes accessing documents and information much easier. You can make much smarter searches while accessing a document or information in very short times. Indexing texts in documents and tagging metadata prevents getting lost among documents and wasting unnecessary time.

9. Manageable Growth:
As your business volume grows, the volume of documents and information you use will also increase. Benefiting from a document management system integrated with your BPM platform allows you to manage this growth scalably. This way, the infrastructure you use becomes an enabler rather than a barrier to your adaptability to change. This is an inevitable need for the correct management of your institutionalization process.

10. Analysis and Reporting:
Your BPM software is equipped with customizable reporting and dashboards, transforming these reports into visual tools. By digitizing the documents and information used in your workflows, you can report and monitor your business end-to-end. Based on the insights gained from analyses, you can continuously optimize all your business processes and manage performance. This is a critical feature for your data-driven decision-making processes.

In short, integrating document management into your BPM software is of undeniable importance in the institutionalization process, enhancing efficiency, coordination and collaboration among teams, compliance with legislative requirements, and information security. It helps your workflows to flow smoothly, eliminates costs that are now unnecessary in today’s conditions, and boosts your business’s operational efficiency.

Where is BPM Integrated with Document Management Systems Used?

Below are concrete examples of the use of document management systems in different sectors. While sharing these examples, an effort has been made to include the outputs of document management systems intertwined with BPM.

1. Document Management in the Manufacturing Sector

In the Manufacturing Sector, document management features are utilized mainly to document quality control processes and audits while optimizing production processes. Additionally, they are used for managing documents related to the supply chain and integrating with inventory systems to increase efficiency in inventory management. Document management systems are also used to ensure compliance with regulations and international standards.

2. Document Management in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs):

Especially for growing businesses, efficiently managing this growth is indispensable for the sustainable commercial success of the business. Document-supported BPMs are utilized for easy sharing of necessary documents with all stakeholders in billing and collection processes. Similar to the manufacturing sector, BPMs are used for order management and legal compliance conditions for SMEs as well.

3. Public Sector Applications:

Although it varies according to the service area of each public institution, one common point concerning all institutions is the use of document-based BPMs to facilitate legal processes. Thanks to BPM used to increase collaboration while working on documents, case documents, contracts, and official correspondences can be conducted securely with version management and control. Advanced search features of BPMs are utilized for checks of legal compliance and jurisprudence. It’s inevitable for public institutions focusing on citizen services to institutionalize their document-based processes through BPM software.

These sectors and business areas are the first to come to mind and are intensively utilizing documents in their business processes. However, sector-specific usage patterns can be found widely across all sectors for all document-based workflows.

The Future of Document Management Supported Business Process Management

With the advancement of technology, BPM solutions supported by document management also evolve and update themselves according to the conditions of the day.

Firstly, we see intensive use of artificial intelligence based on machine learning that utilizes natural language processing in categorization as well as in search and analytical reporting functions. Predictive analytical solutions with document classification using machine learning algorithms will become widespread.

Integration with other business management systems to facilitate corporate life and increase efficiency will become easier and inevitable. BPMs integrated with other systems such as CRM systems, accounting systems, and ERPs will create results that enhance overall business efficiency holistically. Concurrently, information security in processes will be ensured with multi-factor authentication mechanisms, and the authenticity of documents will be guaranteed by utilizing blockchain technology, enabling secure access.

Speaking of access, stating that workflows will be manageable from mobile devices for increasingly mobilized business life is more of a concrete need today than a future prediction. Systems developed with responsive interfaces and mobile-user-friendly designs are already becoming the most sought-after applications today. Corporate software based on cloud technology, enabling remote work, has started to make it possible to manage all tasks independently of location via mobile phones and tablets. The use of BPMs that provide access to documents in a way that increases collaboration among teams and users will become widespread and will also be integrated with video conferencing applications.

BPMs that ensure data integrity and legal compliance with automated business rules will perform auditing and monitoring. Additionally, documents will be managed specifically according to their life cycles while document storage and destruction policies are applied through automation.

Paperless business management and environmentally friendly business practices will become more prevalent. Tools like e-signatures and e-invoices will be used in digitized workflows. Steps taken in the field of sustainability will develop an eco-friendly business management philosophy.

In conclusion, the future of corporate business process management solutions, which make extensive use of document-based and document-reliant workflows, is setting sail to new horizons in the business management arena. With the development of technology, document and record management will continue to play a significant role in facilitating business practices, enhancing productivity, and security.

Gürkan Platin
Gürkan Platin, a graduate of Hacettepe University Management and Organization, worked as a manager in various positions at Mensan, Citibank, Garanti Bank and Credit Registration Bureau, respectively. Platin has been blogging since 1996 and his articles are published in various national and international publications.
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