Coordinated Business Systems Blog

A Simple Glossary to Help You Understand Document Management

This layperson's guide to document management will help you understand the often unfamiliar words and concepts you'll discover when you begin to consider DM for your business.

The IT world has its own vocabulary that is confusing to many – even IT pros!

While this post won't help you out with IoT (the Internet of Things), big data, or bots; for anyone interested in a document management and workflow answer to their business problems this post will help.

If you're looking at transform your business with document management software, this handy glossary will get you up-to-speed on the terminology you'll come across as you look to move your business from one slowed by paper to one that can move much faster.

Read this, and you'll know what your solution partner is talking about. (For more on what DM is, read The Evolution of Document Management: What's Next?)

Access Rights/Permissions: With DM, your documents are protected against unauthorized access. Rights/permissions can be set for access to specific departments, documents, status, and actions. (View/read only vs. full access).

Administration: For those that are comfortable making additions and changes to the structure and usage of their system, the Administration Menu will allow for you to take the product and run with it! For obvious reasons, companies will limit admin rights to a few trusted individuals. Many DM products allow drag and drop functionality to change and create workflows, permissions, and other functionality within the product.

Archiving: Permanent (or very long-term) electronic storage space. After your documents have been indexed, they will be archived for storage. In the context of records management, archiving means storing documents/records in unalterable format on paper, on long-term storage media, and on digital storage.

Audit Trail: DM software tracks all activity on a particular document. This activity includes views, changes to the content, and edits to the indexing structure. These activities (and others) are logged in a database commonly referred to as an audit trail. This helps to prevent as well as track down, unauthorized access and any activity. 

Annotations: Just like the productivity tools you would use with paper documents, DM provides the same functionality with the ability to mark up records with sticky notes, highlights, redactions, and more. Annotations are a layer to the document and do not impact the integrity of the original file (this is important for records management).

Backup: The procedure in which the archived documents and data creates a redundant copy of the data and images collected. Note that data backup is a much more extensive IT function than what we're talking about specific to DM software (though business documents in a DM repository will be backed up as part of an overall IT backup strategy – see, told you IT was complicated!).

Capture: This generally means converting a paper document into a digital document and/or extracting data from a form. This allows quick access to information immediately and years into the future. Electronic documents can also be captured and added into a document repository.

Check in/Check out: Much like a book in a public library, specific documents can be set to be altered by only a single user at a time. Meaning, the latest version will always be the published version of a document. Meanwhile, if the doc is checked out, other users will have viewing access to the current latest version to prevent multiple people from working on the document at the same time.

Collaboration: Many documents need a number of users action to complete that documents process. Placing the document in an accessible location for any party to fulfill their actions together with others is working in collaboration. Think of Google Documents and being able to jointly work on a document simultaneously with others.

Configuration: No two filing cabinets are exactly the same. Just like no two electronic filing cabinets are the same. Configuration is the process in which your repository is customized to the exact needs for each the specific documents and/or processes in your business.

Digital Signature: Based on cryptography, this is a way to validate a digital message or document's validity and authenticity. It's not a digital version of your John Hancock. Digital signatures allow documents such as contracts to be approved without the need for printing them, physically signing them, and then scanning/faxing the signed document in order to return it. TechTarget has a good explanation here.

Disaster Recovery: An area of security planning that aims to protect an organization from the effects of significant negative events (a “disaster” is defined as any event that disrupts business – natural or man-made). DR planning allows an organization to maintain or quickly resume mission-critical functions following such an event. For instance, having a plan to continue operations remotely by virtue of data backup and voice over IP business phone systems while access to a company's office is restricted.

Document Imaging: The process of scanning paper documents to an electronic format.

Drag and Drop: Move an electronic document easily from one part to another part of the screen using a mouse or similar device. No need to go through the “Save As”, drill down through folders, or rename documents. Some products also allow you to drag and drop to create workflow processes.

Electronic Signature: Any electronic sound, symbol, or process used to sign an electronic transaction. A digital signature is a secure subset of electronic signatures.

Encryption: The process of converting information or data into a code, especially to prevent unauthorized access to your documents. Keeps hackers out of your information!

ECM: (Enterprise Content Management) - The strategies, methods, and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes.

Forms Processing: A process by which one can capture information entered into data fields and add that data directly into a database. For instance, extracting company name, address, values, and customer ID number from an invoice. The form can be saved as an image or just the data can be captured. Can be automated or manual process – the automated process is faster and more accurate.

Full-Text Search: The ability to search the entire text of a document to find the word or phrase. Think of searching using Google or Yahoo!, that's full-text search. 

Indexing: In order to find your documents, you first need to describe them. Indexing is a process of “tagging” your documents with descriptors that will allow you to find them with ease. It can be done manually with data entry or automatically with optical character recognition (OCR) technology.

Integration: This allows you to access the functionality of document management software from within other software programs. The combining of subroutines, software modules, or full programs with other software components in order to develop an application or enhance the functionality of an existing one. The act of tying multiple software systems and data together as one 

Licensing: Legal instrument governing the use or redistribution of software. The combination of licenses selected is what will determine the actions and abilities of the software

Lifecycle: From creation to use to archival or destruction, every business document has a lifecycle. DM software helps automate the lifecycle of a document, particularly enabling the movement of records to a digital records management program for retention and destruction. 

Mobile Access: Secure access to a document repository for defined users through any Web-connected devices.

PDF/A: An ISO-standardized version of the Portable Document Format (PDF) specialized for use in the archiving and long-term preservation of electronic documents. PDF/A differs from PDF by prohibiting features ill-suited to long-term archiving, such as font linking (as opposed to font embedding) and encryption.

Recognition (OCR/ICR/OMR):

  • OCR: an OCR program can convert the characters on the page into a text document that can be read by a word processing program
  • ICR: (Intelligent character recognition) is the computer translation of manually handwritten text characters into machine readable characters
  • OMR: (Optical Mark reading) is a method of entering data into a computer system. Optical Mark Readers reads pencil or pen marks made in pre-defined positions on paper forms as responses to questions or tick list prompts. Remember taking the SAT test? That's OMR.

Records Management: Refers to a set of activities required for systematically controlling the creation, distribution, use, maintenance, and disposition of recorded information maintained as evidence of business activities and transactions. Records management is an entire category of software (as well as career) in and of itself. Many DM software products also have a records management module. 

Remote Access: The ability to access a computer, such as a home computer or an office network computer, from a remote location – Starbucks, home, hotel, etc.

Repository: Where your business documents are stored.

Scalability: The ability of a software product to start small but expand to support more and more of the business. A business can start small, perhaps in one department or even one document type, include more documents, departments, and even the entire business over time. Some products don't scale, so be careful during product selection if you intend to expand your use of DM.

Scanning: Turning a paper document into a digital version of itself using a scanner, a copier, or even an app on your smartphone.

Software Developer Kit (SDK): Allows your business to write applications to support your business process.

Tasks: Movement of documents or items through a sequence of actions or workflow(s) that are related to a business process. A task could be “Approve Invoice,” for example, which would then move the invoice to the next task in the process.

Taxonomy: This refers to the structure you give your documents, or more specifically, how you classify them; similar to how you would in any filing system. With DM it’s easy to create a system for managing your records that reflects both best practices and your personal preferences.

Revision Control (Version Control): A key component of DM is maintaining the integrity of the original document. If changes are permitted, or if users are collaborating on content development, versioning saves each iteration along the way, allowing users to revert to a previous copy.

Workflow: Putting your documents and their related information into motion is a primary benefit of Content Management. It allows you to easily design well defined processes that enforce business rules, set escalation schedules and ensure that authorization procedures are followed.

I hope this helps you understand at least a few of the words you'll find as you look to transition from a paper-based business to a digital one.

Do you have any suggestions or additions? Please use the comments section below and we can continue to revise the post to make it work best for all of you!

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