Moving into the digital era has introduced new eco friendly best business practices and productivity improvements. This forward thinking gave birth to terms such as content management and document management software. These two terms are frequently used interchangeably by software companies and those who use them.  While they contain some similar characteristics, there are certain factors that set them apart. Understanding their similarities and differences is the first step to choosing which one will benefit your organization the most. We’ll start by defining each:

Document Management Software (DMS)

  • Capture, store, and track digital documents while supporting collaboration and workflows by acting as a centralized database 

Content Management Software (CMS)

  • Goes beyond traditional files types managed in a DMS, along with more complex collaboration tools and business process capabilities.

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Benefits of both DMS and CMS

Listed below are just a few of the benefits of the latest document and content management systems:

    • Reduced physical document storage space – no more physical filing cabinets taking up office space or file rooms that could be used more efficiently
    • Advanced scanning and imaging capabilities – the more data being uploaded with each document, the more searchable the data can be
    • Enhanced security – passwords and user defined restrictions to protect data, while also highly protecting data from security breaches
    • Easier and faster document retrieval – finding documents within seconds 
    • Version control of electronic documents – ability to track user edits on documents and go through version histories of documents
    • Automated retention schedule – set retention timelines for certain documents
    • Better collaboration – use workflows to route and collaborate on documents, regardless of their physical location.
    • Improved regulatory compliance – automatically accelerate the traceability of documents and improve audit trail reporting and compliance
    • Better backup and disaster recovery – paper documents can be impossible to replace with no back ups if unintendedly destroyed.
    • Easier access to documents – you do not need to physically be in the same room as your documents, easy access to your critical business web content from anywhere.

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Differences between DMS and CMS

To understand the main difference between these two types of software it is first important to mention the difference between structured and unstructured data. Structured data consists of searchable data such as PDF, Email, PowerPoint, Excel, or Word documents.  DMS focuses on digitizing and tracking these structured file formats throughout their life cycles. This means keeping a record of each file as they are created, viewed, routed or modified.

Unstructured Data has no set format or organization with a broader range of file types including photos, audio, video, and HTML. CMS differs from document management software in that it can manage a vast amount of both structured and unstructured data types in an electronic format. Businesses are using CMS to digitize, automate and improve business processes within multiple departments.  The most popular department that embrace a CMS include:

  • Human Resources (New Hire documentation and resumes) 
  • Accounts Payable (Digitize the AP approval process) 
  • Sales (Digitize the completed sales orders)
  • Legal (Structure contracts and compliance documents)
  • Marketing (Version control of marketing programs)

These departments can take advantage of many new tools such as eForms and WebForms which allow unstructured data to be created digitally.  By using these tools, traditional manual processes can be immediately transformed into digital.  


Main Use

Document Management Software’s main goal is to act as a digital filing cabinet.  In addition, DMS’ add intelligence and advanced capabilities that are not available in paper documents. Some examples of these additional abilities include real time access, electronic routing, auditing and workflow. 

Content management software plays a more inclusive role than DMS by offering business process and workflow capabilities. At the small business level, it can be hard to see the difference between DMS and CMS because small businesses typically don’t have complex web content and document management needs. At the enterprise level we see a large distribution in data types and thus content management software is more viable.

While deciding which management system will work best for your company, we recommend viewing them as building blocks.  To start or embrace the digital transformation, many companies start with a Document Management Software.  For those companies who have already migrated to a digital document environment, the Content Management Software can be a more detailed solution to improving efficiency and workflow. 

Are you ready to request an assessment and start talking about ways to help your company dive into the digital document environment? Let’s chat!