An Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) is a software package designed to manage electronic information and records within an organization’s workflow.   Utilizing various technologies, an EDMS allows a user to manage the creation, storage, and control of records.  An EDMS can automate processes and increase efficiency.  Before adopting an EDMS, it is necessary to determine how it will fit in with your agency’s records management program. It is not a replacement for sound records management practices.  

Functions of an EDMS

Many different EDMS systems exist.  Each provides various functions tailored to specific and unique needs, but all EDMS systems should include the following basic functions:

Security Control – This feature is crucial to control access to information.  A system should have a mechanism to safeguard documents that are exempt from disclosure and allow access to those records which should be made publicly available

Addition, Designation, and Version Control – The EDMS should allow users to add documents to the system and designate a document as an original government record.  It should also automatically assign the correct version designation

Metadata Capture and Use – The EDMS should allow the user to capture and use the appropriate metadata according to an agency’s needs

Optional Functions

Records Management – Not every EDMS is equipped with records management capabilities.  Systems with a records management component are sometimes referred to as an Electronic Document and Records Management Systems (EDRMS)

Storage – An EDMS may provide storage within the EDMS or the ability to work with an adjunct storage system

Free-Text Search – An EDMS may allow users to search every word in an entire document while other systems only provide metadata searching capabilities

Automatic Conversion – This function provides the user with automatic conversion of a document from one file format to another (e.g. from a Word document to a PDF) after the file has been designated as a record

Benefits of an EDMS

Most state agencies create, collect, process, distribute, store, manage, retrieve, maintain, and dispose of enormous amounts of electronic information.  An EDMS may improve efficiency and effectiveness of an agency by:

Improving Access to Records and Information – An authorized user can search documents within an EDMS and workflow can automatically notify a user when needed information has arrived or been processed

Improving Customer Service – Retained information can be immediately accessed by a user and easily transmitted to a customer whether it is a member of the public or a representative from another state agency

Minimizing Duplication – A single copy of a document can be made available to all authorized users.  Knowing that only one copy exists is especially useful when disposing of records.

Business Process Automation – Certain processes that were once done manually may be performed automatically by an EDMS

Regulatory Compliance Improvement – Compliance with records retention schedules can be automated and improved with incoming documents being automatically classified and stored by the system

Selecting an EDMS

When preparing to select, implement, and manage an EDMS for an agency, appropriate stakeholders should be identified and brought to the table for discussion.  Establishing and assessing the needs of an agency should be the first order of business.  Each agency will have a unique set of needs depending on legal obligations and records management strategies, but trustworthiness, completeness, accessibility, legal admissibility, and durability are all critical (these concepts are further explained in the “Key Concepts” section of the guidebook.)   The types of records an agency creates now, in the future, should be considered when examining options for an EDMS along with the following questions:

What are the current and future needs of all involved stakeholders?

How will the EDMS system be used? Solely for workflow or also for records management?

What types of records will be captured and managed using the EDMS? 

Will existing records be migrated into the system?

What type of metadata should be used and who will manage it?

What records need to be shared and stored?

How will records be stored and organized to better facilitate retrieval and access? (Records should be properly filed before system implementation) 

How will records be disposed of from the EDMS? 

Does the system facilitate the ability to easily transfer, convert, or migrate records?

What features are most essential or desired by the agency? Are other useful but non-essential features desired?

Will the new EDMS integrate with existing systems? (i.e. email systems, databases)

Implementation and Deployment of an EDMS

Once an appropriate EDMS is selected, internal stakeholders and the EDMS vendor must develop a comprehensive implementation and deployment plan. A plan will outline how and when the system will be installed, and tested, as well as provide a background of the system. The workflow should be documented and tested. Consider allowing eventual users of the EDMS to participate in the testing of the system while soliciting their feedback. A training program and procedures should also be developed before the system is fully deployed to provide users with the necessary tools to use the system to its maximum potential. Ongoing management of the system will also be necessary.