Breaking Down the Differences Between a Digital Filing System and an Enterprise Content Management System

A digital filing system, as the name suggests, is a way to use technology to convert some of the more traditional filing systems you’re dealing with — ranging from regular filing cabinets to those stacks of folders that litter your office — into a digital format. Not only does this make it easier to search for the information you need when you need it the most, but it also makes the process of storing those documents for the long-term effortless as well.

An enterprise content management system (also called an ECM), on the other hand, takes this concept one step further. Yes, it does absolutely everything that a digital filing system can do — but it also brings with it a wide range of additional features that you should absolutely be aware of moving forward.

Digital Filing Systems vs. Enterprise Content Management: Your Overview

All told, an enterprise content management solution brings in additional layers of security, administrative and even collaborative tools that are perfectly designed for an office environment. In addition to being a great opportunity to help you and your employees become more organized, it’s also a scalable and efficient system that grows and evolves as your organization does the same.

A digital filing system gives you the ability to scan and capture paper or even digital documents, creating a central repository to store and share this information. Many businesses of all types use it as a way to reduce clutter, all while properly preserving their information and records to make it easier to find moving forward.

An enterprise content management system takes this to the next level by allowing you to fill out detailed information about each document or record, otherwise referred to as metadata. This goes a long way towards making content much more searchable, thus making it easier to find and even easier to extract value from. A quality enterprise content management system will also include additional features like Optical Character Recognition (or OCR) that can pull information from a document automatically and generate its metadata instantly.

To get an example of just how valuable this can be, consider the type of work going on in your accounts payable department right now. They’re regularly tasked with processing invoices and comparing them to the purchase orders that you’re sending out to your vendors. If you had an enterprise content management solution with OCR, you could largely automate this entire process — thus freeing up as much time as possible so that your accounts payable employees can focus on more important matters.

As stated, one of the major benefits of an enterprise content management system is that it allows you to more easily search and store documents — especially when compared to those paper-based records that you’re used to dealing with. At a base level, a digital filing system can help you do this by giving you a chance to search for documents based on the name of the file you’re looking for, the contents and the associated metadata.

With an enterprise content management system, however, you can also use features like co-authoring and version control to help empower collaboration across the board. Regardless of the type of business you’re running, it’s very common for multiple people to all work together on the same documents. With version controls, you get an accurate history of the document so that you can see when certain changes were made, who executed those changes and, most importantly, why. This is a major advantage for any business operating in a heavily regulated industry, with finance being chief among them. The right enterprise content management system can help you stay up to date in terms of compliance, all while making sure that your people have the most complete and actionable information to work from.

But for most businesses, the biggest benefit of an enterprise content management solution has to do with how easy it is to access your information from practically anywhere. Yes, a digital filing system will probably offer desktop, web, and even mobile applications. But only an ECM also gives you tools to restrict access to documents, making sure that the only people who can get to them are the ones who expressly need that information to do their jobs.

In the end, both a digital filing system and an enterprise content management platform will be a significantly better situation than one where you’re still dealing with paper-based records. But for most businesses, only an ECM will offer the ease of use, ease of access, collaboration, compliance, and other features needed to work smarter, not harder, every single day.