From the August 2008 Issue
One size does not fit all when it comes to document management systems, which is why we have continued with our strategy of separating our review into two categories: document management systems (June/July 2008; www.CPATechAdvisor.com/go/1966) and document storage systems.
So what’s the difference between document management and document storage systems? Essentially, it comes down to a matter of the depth of features and functionality of the different solutions. Document management systems typically provide extended capabilities such as advanced scanning tools, deeper integration with tax software and MS Office, workflow automation tools, document retention management, and advanced security controls. Document storage systems, on the other hand, have a more limited feature set that is focused primarily on providing an alternative to the Windows Explorer model for saving and organizing your files. In fact, in many cases, these document storage systems simply serve as an alternative point of entry to Windows Explorer.
The table below provides a high-level comparison of how document management and document storage systems differ. Beware that there is overlap between each category so take the time to evaluate each vendor’s solution on its own features and unique attributes.
Simplicity is the primary differentiator of document storage systems over document management systems. Document storage systems by their very nature are intended to be simple and easy to use, and the focus of these reviews is on that simplicity. After all, if the system is too cumbersome too work with, you will naturally revert back to using Windows Explorer as your primary tool for organizing your files.
The attributes for the document storage systems reviewed here include usability, document organization, annotation capabilities and integration. Usability refers to the overall design of the system as well as the intuitiveness and ease-of-use of the interface. Document organization addresses the design and functionality of document indexing capabilities. Annotation capabilities refer to the ability to make electronic notes, stamps and tick marks on the document images. There are basically two alternative approaches to annotation functionality: proprietary features embedded in the document storage system or through reliance on Adobe Acrobat’s annotation functionality. The latter is typically the case with these systems. Integration addresses the functionality to file and/or retrieve documents from within other applications, the most important being tax software and MS Office.
As you embark on your research of alternative solutions, I recommend that you take a look at a mix of both document management and document storage solutions. This will allow you to gain a much better perspective on the range of capabilities available, and it can be very helpful in developing your paperless office strategy. I’m a big believer in “simpler is better” when it comes to software applications, but you should consider whether or not the extended functionality of a document management system is worth the extra investment. Don’t buy more than you need.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -