The history of document management from filing cabinet to cloud

The history of document management

The history of
Document Management

It could be argued that cave paintings were an early example of document management, but we start our document management history with the 'game changer' of its day, the nineteenth century filing cabinet. The cabinet in its many forms was the mainstay of paper document management for more than a century until it faced a recent backlash from modernists, techies and green activists. 

The Filing Cabinet1. The Filing Cabinet
The history of document management may have started with cave drawings, but our first chapter begins with Edwin Siebels who invented the filing cabinet in the 1880s to solve problems in a world with ADMD (Acute Document Management Disorder)


The server2. The Server
With the advent of computing, electronic document management (EDM) started to address the curse of office spaces full of filing cabinets.

Benefits and business drivers: Reclaim unproductive space; Reduce storage costs Improve incidence of loss
Issues: Computing costs; Unstructured documents

The PC3. The PC
When PCs started to get distributed and connected on a LAN (local area network), companies were able to create and store documents on their computers. However, new capability also meant unstructured documents proliferating and being scattered everywhere.There was also an eight-dot-three character naming convention and lack of control of documents that hampered the early days of EDM and caused significant issues. Plus we saw early signs of some issues that persist today in many organisations: no version control, no audit trail and lack of assured security.

Benefits and business drivers: In-house capabilities; Electronic ease
Issues: Difficult to manage, track and control; Security risks

edms4. Electronic Document Management Systems
Electronic document management (EDMS) evolved in the 1980s. Initially EDMS was a complicated tool managed by expert operators. By the early 1990s user-friendly systems saw the emergence of knowledge workers using document management systems in their roles, which then extended to non-specialist staff. We also started to see more collaboration with clients using EDMS and automated processes such as the retention and timely destruction of records to comply with regulations.

Benefits and business drivers: Role-based effectiveness; Collaboration with colleagues and customers; Data capture in multiple formats; Automated document purging/destruction
Issues: Aligning EDMS to business processes; Searching for documents

The Search Engine5. The Search Engine
With thousands of documents scattered digitally, the issue of locating documents became increasingly important, which sparked game-changing innovation. Document management systems providers began to integrate full text searching. Companies can now find any document in their DMS in seconds.

Benefits and business drivers: System efficiency; Staff productivity; Operations’ speed
Issues: Optimising data capture, storage and retrieval

The Scanner6. The Scanner
Scanners have been part of the EDM landscape since the mid-1980s and have become progressively faster, simpler to use, and more integrated. Scanner technology today means anyone can take a 50 page document, attach a barcode to it, and automatically scan directly into their DMS ready to edit, share, and collaborate.

Benefits and business drivers: Reduced reliance on paper; Fast, cost effective technology; Office and staff empowerment

The cloud7. The Cloud
The Internet means companies have a choice about how they manage documents depending on their specific circumstances, budgets and preferences. Companies are not totally reliant on local servers to host their data or on IT staff to maintain it. They can choose to outsource their servers, IT staff and software to the cloud. Software-as-a-service (Saas) means the document management system infrastructure is pre-built in the cloud and always-up-to-date software is available on-demand via a web browser.

Benefits and business drivers: Infrastructure and cost options; More forms of remote working; Entry level EDM options
Issues: Making the right EDM deployment choice

Smart Devices8. Smart Devices
Smart phones make ‘information at your fingertips’ a reality. Users can access their entire document database, as well as search documents and share them externally directly from their mobile device or tablet.

Benefits and business drivers: Portability; Convenience; Speed;

Electronic Document Management today
On the one hand, in many companies knowledge workers still waste 25% of their time searching for the right version of a document. On the other hand, progressive companies are exploiting electronic document management to the full by integrating EDM with their business processes and employing functions such as dynamic workflow design, automated workflow and business intelligence dashboards.

Electronic document managment is also at the forefront of compliance management and easy-to-manage retention policy implementation.

 Electronic Document Management today

Hot electronic document management topics today

Business process review; Dynamic workflow design; Automated workflow; Checkpoint alerts; Inter-departmental efficiency; Multi-site EDMS integration; Remote working effectiveness; Compliance management; Robust security; Document retention policy management;100% audit trails; Business intelligence dashboards; Customisable user interface; Deployment and access options; Partner, customer and supplier processes and collaboration; Speed, efficiency and productivity; Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

The Covid-19 pandemic caused many organisations to accelerate their plans for implementing or enhancing digital business processes with EDMS at the core. We provide commentary in the Document Logistix News section and you may be interested to read how you can quickly and safely implement EDMS

For an introduction to EDMS, to join us on one of our regular webinars or seminars, or to speak about hot topics and advanced EDMS functions, contact Document Logistix


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