(Almost) everything you need to know

The question is no longer whether your company needs a DMS, the question is: how long will you wait to use the DMS.

The document management system is the collection point of all information, the distributor of tasks, the most consistent interface for your business processes. The use of a document management system is the entry into the digitization of your company.

Waiting only costs time and money. It may not be very "sales-wise" to say that, but those who are not concerned with the topic in a few years will no longer play or share last place with the others. Whether you take our DMS or another, you become active and bring us back to the front.

DMS (Document Management System) stands for all functions of collaborative document processing.

DMS means document management system and according to the digital association Bitkom analogous to Enterprise Content Management (ECM) a (further) generic term for all types of document-managing systems. The term document management system includes archiving systems as well as systems that can manage documents throughout their lifecycle - from creation to management of different versions to unalterable retention (archiving).

So far, prior to the use of document management systems, e.g. File server used for filing documents.
Problem: Documents disappear in confusing directory structures. And even the filing of documents requires discipline - from the agreed naming scheme for files to the right storage location to the keywording, if at all possible. This type of organization generally proves inadequate for day-to-day document management.

A digitally engineered DMS offers a different approach. The document is now stored database-supported in a document management with various information (MetaData). These meta-data are used to make documents quickly discoverable, to associate the documents with digital files, and to document these documents using workflow-based processes

Depending on the DMS used, electronic document management has various other functions. Important, frequently used functions include: audit security, versioning, archiving, data protection compliance requirements, workflows, group-based permissions and many more. Especially for distributed organizations, ie companies with multiple locations, a DMS simplifies and accelerates the daily work immensely

Information quickly available, drastically shortening process times

Modern document management systems help to significantly reduce process time as well as the time it takes to deliver documents to companies. Thus, a DMS supports business processes of any kind. Of course, this requires a database-supported DMS. Certain user groups have access to the relevant documents in the DMS, regardless of their location.

Furthermore, a DMS should also flank, improve and simplify other business processes. Think of personnel processes, the processing of incoming invoices, P2P processes, etc. The appropriate keyword here is the DMS workflow. Basically, the term workflow refers to the fact that document management combines and automates other tasks, such as deadline monitoring, escalation management, vacation replacements, etc.

The DMS digitizes manual processes and optimizes them

Documents or general information are provided by the company in two different forms: electronically or in paper form. This information must be transferred to the document management system.

Modern, sustainable document management systems work according to the following scheme:
A document is recorded, certain document information is read out, and a document ID is assigned.
The document and the metadata are stored in a database.
The big advantage: the document can be clearly identified via the document ID and is not lost in the DMS.

Employees can access this information from the DMS via installed software or through a browser-based DMS web client, which offers the advantage that the DMS can be reached via the browser of choice: simply anytime, anywhere, even via smartphone / tablet.

Collect information in the document management system

Depending on the type of media, capturing documents takes different paths in the DMS. If the information is already available in electronic form, modern document management systems are able to transfer this information largely automatically into the DMS.
To capture paper-based documents, a DMS typically uses a scanner with OCR for digital document capture.

Distributing information in the document management system

From now on everything is digital and there are no more media breaks. A big advantage of a DMS is that all documents and information are automatically routed in the workflow to the responsible company departments.

Where the documents or the information are finally transported, the DMS essentially makes use of the categorization that has been made. Through recognized and read information, the document management system determines, for example: A document is a delivery note, an incoming invoice or a contract, etc.

Document management systems and workflows - sit back and let it work

Document transport and processing of documents of the individual departments can be carried out completely electronically in a modern DMS. As part of a workflow, a document management system automatically sends the documents to be processed to the responsible agents or groups inside or outside the company based on defined parameters (category, project, customer number, etc.).

Important at this point: It is not the document itself sent, but only the link to the relevant document in the document management system. The notification takes place either in the DMS itself or by e-mail. This has the advantage that the document remains accessible to all other authorized employees during the workflow. Thus, document copies are as much a thing of the past as the resulting complexity.

A good DMS is characterized by the option of two types of workflows: ad-hoc workflows for infrequent tasks and larger, fixed workflows for recurring tasks.
The difference between the two:
Ad-hoc workflows can be quickly created and set up when needed, but do not have a fixed process model in advance. So they represent the right tool for solving simple tasks that only arise in the course of day-to-day work.
Example: You notice for the second time that customer invoices raise XY during processing. Since you want to use discounts and avoid dunning fees, let yourself and your co-workers know about document management by notifying them of this case. Particularly in the combination of workflow management with ERP system, time-saving simplifications can be realized here.

Tasks and Appointments - Workflows in the DMS
An easy and very basic workflow, which can be implemented with a document management system, is the task and deadline monitoring. It works very easy. As soon as the DMS arrives, a document is sent to a group of editors - and the document "hangs" at a fixed time, a "deadline", to which the document-related task must be completed.
If no one takes care of the task by that time, escalation management will take place. Means: It comes to a reminder about the facts. If none of the employees concerned reacts to the DMS workflow notification, they can automatically escalate notes to the team leader, for example.

More complex DMS workflows
Of course, even larger workflows can be implemented with a document management system, such as the incoming invoice workflow. It is not difficult to recognize that this workflow consists of several factual and technical examinations - with subsequent transfer to an ERP system for posting the invoice and eventual archiving.

The following process screen shows an incoming invoice workflow including all decisions from receipt of the invoice to posting to archiving.

It becomes clear from the above illustration that even more complex DMS workflows with a current DMS are easily possible.
A well-functioning DMS frees you from time-consuming routine tasks and creates time for productive activities.

Versioning of documents in the DMS

The topic of versioning and version control plays an important role in the field of document management. Keyword "traceability". Originally, the problem of versioning and version control came from software development.

In the context of document management, this can be illustrated as follows: Edits of a document over time produce different versions of the document in the DMS. If several persons work on one document, this also results in several document versions. For all editors, the question sooner or later arises as to which document version is the current one.
Document Management Systems solve this problem by ideally creating a timestamp for each version with the user's ID and presenting it to the viewer. Of course, you can also use a DMS to go into the history of a document - so that all changes to the document in the document management system remain traceable.

Dokumenten-Management: Dokumente und Revisionssicherheit

Certainly, the just described versioning of documents within the DMS system is one of the most helpful features.
One question that keeps coming up in this context is the revision of documents. What does revision security mean? Short answer: One would like to ensure that a document has not been changed, manipulated during its lifetime in the document management system - without it being able to be reconstructed. The original document is always archived legally secure in the original.

But how does a document management system guarantee the audit security of a document? An example for illustration: Who would be able to draw any document from a fund of 1000 documents and claim: This is the unchanged document?

To ensure this, a modern DMS has checksums. Such checksums, also called hash values, are calculated from the document content. These hash values ​​are unique. Means: same document content, same checksum. And a changed document will inevitably result in a different checksum. The DMS system takes over this task in the background and displays the calculated status. The documents look the same at first glance. But even if only a pixel that is not visible changes, the checksum changes with which the document can always be verified.

Basically for archiving in the DMS

Of course, a DMS system also has an archive. Be sure to pay attention to this option. The reason is obvious. On the one hand, one would like to relieve the DMS.
On the other hand, one faces the task of having to archive certain types of documents for six or ten years, and so on.
Keyword "tax office (GoBD, §147 tax code etc.)."

As a rule of thumb, everything that is no longer needed for day-to-day work migrates from the DMS system to the archive!
This relieves the strain on the productive system. All other documents subject to retention are also necessarily included in the archive of the DMS. Such documents would then include, for example, salary payments, personnel files, annual accounts, invoices and much more.

Modern systems for document management have this function for archiving or linking to an archive.
Archiving becomes child's play in this way. The daily handling of the archive is also pretty easy: The search for archived content starts directly from the DMS application. Instead of removing the paper document you prefer to use the convenient search function of a modern DMS.
Thanks to the good keywording as well as existing metadata and the information obtained from full-text procedures (OCR) you accelerate to the exact search result in the DMS. No matter what the originating channel of the document was - from paper documents to e-mails to media already in a structured data format. In short: A modern DMS frees you from annoying, time-consuming and literal searches.

Seamless transition of your ERP system into the DMS

The full benefit of a DMS, of course, unfolds only through a link to ERP systems. When selecting the DMS, it must therefore be ensured that the DMS has the appropriate interfaces or APIs for the ERP systems used. Because: Both systems - DMS and ERP system - complement each other at this point. How does it work and what is the benefit?

For clarification: While the Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP) has master data from suppliers, an incoming invoice, for example, reaches the company via the document management system. Now it may happen that certain data is missing on the incoming invoice document. Consequence: For this reason, the incoming invoice workflow could not start or would be at a very early stage.

Access to the ERP system completes the missing data and the workflow can continue in the DMS. The whole thing can also be depicted fully automatically: A fully automated workflow can be created from the incoming invoice in the DMS and the content comparison with the master data of the ERP system, together with a mathematical check of the sums and the check for an order belonging to the invoice. At the end of this is the transfer of the data to the booking in the ERP.

In addition, all documents generated in the ERP system can finally be archived in the DMS system in a revision-proof manner and at the same time bundled and merged with other documents within the DMS to form a single process. The combination of DMS and ERP system thus creates enormous synergy effects in terms of automation of workflows.

Connection of the DMS system to the Microsoft Office world
A seamless connection to common Microsoft products (Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.) is a must for a contemporary DMS.
This alone from the user's point of view, because who wants to switch constantly and constantly between applications these days. None, just.
Ideally, the DMS combines the aforementioned applications so well that, for example, a Word document can be opened, modified and saved directly from the DMS.

Of course, DMS must have the qualifications to meet certain legal requirements.

In Germany, several important legal texts and other details should be mentioned here. Everything revolves around retention and privacy.

Retention of documents within the DMS
First of all: For whom does the storage obligation apply? Anyone required by commercial or tax law to keep accounts is required to keep them. Further clarify the tax code (AO) § 147, the Commercial Code (HGB) § 257 and VAT Act § 14b. Immediately the next question arises, what kind of documents must be stored in the document management system for how long? As a rough rule of thumb:

A ten-year storage obligation applies to documents of the following type:

  • Inventories and management reports
  • Records and books
  • Annual accounts and opening balance sheet (in addition to understanding necessary work instructions and other organizational documents)
  • Invoices and accounting documents
  • Documents to be attached to a customs declaration made by computer means (ATLAS) if the customs authorities have waived their submission.

A six-year retention requirement applies to documents of the following type:

  • received commercial or business letters,
  • Reproductions of the dispatched commercial or business letters,
  • other documents, insofar as they are of importance for taxation.

Of course, there are a lot more retention periods. In order to meet these requirements, when selecting the archive system you must pay attention to a corresponding certificate, eg: On a standard called IDW PS 880.


Two statutory requirements now need to be unified: the aforementioned retention requirements and the requirements of the GDPR, in particular Article 17 entitled to erasure ("right to be forgotten").

What at first glance looks like a contradiction can easily be resolved.
After expiry of the earmarking (here: retention requirements) governed by the GDPR - with the result that a document management system must be able to delete special documents and data with personal reference.
A modern DMS must master this deletion function.
In addition, the DSGVO also requires the DMS to have the ability to make a request for information at any time: it is therefore about clarifying the question of whether and for what purpose personal data has been stored - and if so, what data this is.
In short, the DMS system must have the option to send this data to the requestor.


Also the "Principles for the orderly guidance and keeping of books, records and documents in electronic form as well as for the data access" (GoBD, the successor of the GDPdU (principles for the data access and the testability of digital documents, expiration 01.01.2015) and GoBS (principles proper DP-based accounting systems, external force, Dec. 31, 2014) have certain requirements for an electronic document management system, and of course the respective DMS should have the prerequisites to meet the requirements of the GoBD.

You ask, we answer.

We are here for you and gladly help you with any questions.