SharePoint versus other DMS – advantages and disadvantages
SharePoint, as part of the Microsoft 365 environment, offers users a sweet spot between a classical DMS (Document Management System) and a site generator. There are many other features which make SharePoint stand out:
- Integrated access to the Office suite
- Easy access to Outlook
- Large inventory of web parts and libraries
- Advanced reporting
- Advanced publishing
What is a DMS?
Businesses run on ideas, documents, and assets. Documents should not be seen as silos, but rather as information hubs that can be explored, maintained, and retrieved. All these operations can be performed faster and more proficiently if they run on digital files and in a digital ecosystem. Have no fear! DMS is here!
DMS stands for Document Management System, an infrastructure meant to store, author, maintain, and distribute documents. DMS applications have many flavors, and SharePoint has been recognized as one of the most appreciated tools in this respect.
SharePoint vs. other DMS – feature breakdown
Any business should invest in a DMS, but how do you know what features to tick off your DMS list? How do you know if SharePoint, for example, is enough for your needs?
Storage and synchronization
Storage refers to the available volume the application allows you to fill with assets, while synchronization refers to how your assets can be stored in various environments (local, cloud, hybrid) consistently without information loss. Storage and synchronization should both be available if you have a fast-paced business with multiple personas which must access files at different times, from multiple devices, contextually.
Proficient DMSs offer the following storage and synchronization features:
- Local storage with cloud synchronization
- Administrator privileges for configuration management
- Scaled storage depending on users and usage
SharePoint ticks all items in the list, while other solutions have deficiencies in terms of synchronization and scaling. SharePoint is also perfectly integrated with the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, which enables businesses to:
- Move files between SharePoint and OneDrive
- Manage files from either location
- Organize and monitor information exchange with Microsoft Lists
Search and metadata
If you use a DMS to manage your files, then you must ensure the system comes equipped with powerful search capabilities, so that you can retrieve your relevant content very fast.
Proficient DMSs offer the following search features:
- Filtering based on file names, metadata and tags, content strings, unique IDs
- Usage based on regular expressions and optical character recognition
- Retrieval from project-level and system-level files
SharePoint ticks all items in the list, while other solutions have deficiencies in terms of powerful, system-wide enterprise search that runs not only within the boundaries of the DMS, but across the application environment and data sources.
Versioning and retrieval
Files have a lifecycle. In other words, files are revised and revisited or transformed many times. In some situations, you may wish to go back to a previous version of the current file. Rollback and versioning enable businesses to quickly deploy accurate files.
Proficient DMSs offer the following versioning features:
- Branching, check-in and check-out of files and folders
- Read rights over file metadata and audit trail
- Rules for backup and archiving
SharePoint ticks all items in the list, and DMSs differ in terms of the level of granularity, when it comes to backup and restore.
Mobile access and rendering
Your business usually consists of units that work together for delivery purposes, but which work independently in the development phase. All units must be able to access the files in a DMS from any device they have at hand. Mobile phones are largely considered to work as our personal and office assistants. DMSs should tap into the mobile potential.
Proficient DMSs offer the following mobile-support features:
- Mobile access as an extension of the desktop & cloud DMS
- Login with the same account credentials
- Responsive design and operational consistency
SharePoint ticks all items in the list, while other DMSs do not offer mobile and synchronization support.
Customization and extension
You have purchased a DMS for your R&D unit, but you soon realize that you would like to use it as an endpoint for HR or Training. Unfortunately, your DMS provider did not include the plug-ins you need, and the API documentation is not up-to-date.
Proficient DMSs offer the following customization features:
1. Built-in integrations with a wide range of third-party tools
2. Rich APIs for further customization
3. Integration with:
- ERP systems (Enterprise Resource Planning) for enhanced collaboration across departments (Legal, Finance, HR, Sales)
- Digital Signature software (E-signature) for accelerating processes, productivity, and final sign-off
- RPA software (Robotic Process Automation) for automating file lifecycle
- LMS (Learning Management System) for creating training and eLearning from a single source of truth SharePoint ticks all items in the list, while other DMSs have a limited set of integration APIs and a narrower set of built-in connectors.
SharePoint ticks all items in the list, while other DMSs have a limited set of integration APIs and a narrower set of built-in connectors.
Security and ecosystem integration
DMSs are meant to keep your files safe behind a digital lock. If that digital lock is enhanced by additional layers meant to restrict access to information, your information cannot be hacked.
Proficient DMSs offer the following security features:
- Account-based and permission-based authentication
- Limited access to sensitive documents
- Extra MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication)
- File sharing inside and outside the organization based on specific parameters
- Cloud backup and restore of your files and data
SharePoint ticks all items in the list, while other DMSs have little to no cloud support and backup, as well as no inherent distinction between sensitive and less sensitive information access.
Compliance and regulations
Businesses need to submit proof to various legal and audit bodies on a regular basis. The specific documentation requested by these regulatory entities is domain-specific, requirements-heavy, and quite rigid in terms of the way the information is organized and formalized. DMSs must be able to generate the content required by these bodies in the right structure and format.
Proficient DMSs offer the following compliance features:
- Built-in templates for regulatory standards
- Placeholders, and variables
- Reuse and single sourcing
- Conditional tagging
- Output transformations
SharePoint is a turn-key solution from a compliance and regulatory perspective, while other DMSs are niche and domain specific, namely specially customized for a domain. However, SharePoint’s extensibility framework makes it possible for businesses to adapt and customize SharePoint to meet the necessary audit requirements.
Authoring and collaboration
Documents are rarely monolithic. It usually takes several revisions and more than one author to produce a well-articulated document that can be shared or earmarked as an official document. DMSs must have built-in features that promote collaboration and authoring in various formats.
Proficient DMSs offer the following authoring features:
- Local and cloud authoring
- Document versioning
- Real-time access to the latest version and to the entire audit trail
- Real-time authoring for multiple users
- Review support: comments, inline changes, tagging
- Automated tagging and metadata management
SharePoint ticks all items in the list, while other DMSs have fewer collaboration features and less consistent portability of formats.
DMSs help businesses host, manage, and distribute their files. DMSs support many file types and cater for teams of all sizes. The usefulness of DMSs cannot be stressed enough. In a world where businesses need documentation to become statutary and pass audits, handling that documentation and its components in a consistent, secure, and metadata-driven way makes a huge difference.
SharePoint can be used as an intelligent DMS which helps users collaborate, tag, version, and automate files.