DMS or SharePoint: Can SharePoint Be Used as a Document Management System?

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A question we get asked often is, can SharePoint be used in place of a document management system (DMS)? We understand that there is plenty of room for confusion here as both share similarities to certain extent as SharePoint is, in essence, a document collaboration platform with basic document management capabilities. It is also worth noting, however, that the purpose behind the usage of SharePoint and a document management system is vastly different too. Hence, in this article, we set out to clear the confusion and draw the line of difference between the two.

The purpose of a DMS like Docuflo is to help with records management and complex document handling for compliance requirements. There are specific requirements for each type of document that companies must adhere to for retention, storage, and destruction. On the other hand, as mentioned above, SharePoint is a collaboration software that empowers business teams to work together with respect to projects. The purpose is to get the best collaborative effort out of people by creating a virtual workplace for team members or employees to collaborate effortlessly on a document.

Why Reinvent the Wheel?

The thing is, SharePoint is not meant to work as a DMS. It is not purpose-built to help make document management efforts easy. Rather, it is a highly adaptable platform, which means it can be built and configured to match your organization’s document control requirements, ONLY if you have the necessary IT resources, time, and money to invest to do so.

For your business to operate effectively, you need a DMS that is as responsive and agile as you are right out of the box so that you can conduct business in an agile manner. Your DMS should bring structure and organisation to your product development process; making regulatory compliance more straightforward, ISO certification easier to achieve and audits less challenging. The platform needs to be scalable to meet your business’ growing needs and not distract you from your goals.

The big question here is, why would you want to devote time and resources to develop a custom platform when you might be focusing on growing your business? Not to mention, the ever-growing list of performance issues you might encounter as your business demand scales and the hidden cost of continuously maintaining a custom solution built in SharePoint.

DMS vs Sharepoint

With that, let us take a look at some key considerations for those thinking of using SharePoint as a DMS.

1)      Complexity of Deployment

DMS such as Docuflo is a complete document management solution and is available out-of-the-box, thus no time is required to study and develop the system. Instead, only minimal time is needed to deploy the system and learn its features.

As SharePoint only provides highly featured components, extensive study and development time is required to configure and develop it into a document management system with the features required. 

2)      Costs Involved in Setting Up and Maintenance

In order to set up your SharePoint for it to work as a DMS, a significant amount of IT resources, time, and money will need to be invested in configuring the solution. What seems like a low-cost solution to a DMS may end up being the opposite as your company starts to scale and your requirements change. You may even have to incur additional costs in making sure the platform remains stable each time a new version of SharePoint is released, or when your operating system is updated. The cost of maintenance involved may even require you to set up a dedicated IT department in order to maintain the various servers and directory used in the SharePoint platform itself.

3)  Access Controls

A good DMS allows firms to set up very extensive access controls to limit who has access to documents. Sensitive legal documents, financial information, and reports from human resources and top management are among the documents that require restricted access. SharePoint, on the other side, is all about making documents accessible. While SharePoint may have some limitations or restrictions, their major focus is not on giving entitlements based on specific user roles. It’s a more project-based approach to access your content.

4)      Document Control for Compliance

For quality assurance, regulatory reasons, or both, total control over the approval of documents at every stage of the design or build process may be essential in certain industries. Many high-tech firms demand complex phased gate control based on ‘document holding,’ which a SharePoint solution cannot provide. DMS can store documents in one location and only release them to the next stage of the development process after key stakeholders have given their approval.

5)      Search and Retrieval Performance 

DMS comes with better folder and document structures compared to SharePoint. The use of indexing and metadata functionality greatly increases the speed of finding and retrieving searchable documents. This is a highly essential feature for an efficient organization. In contrast, SharePoint stores images together with its records in binary in the database. This may cause performance issues to arise later when the volume of files stored increases, resulting in slower search speeds and significantly longer time required for file retrieval.

Enjoying the Best of Both Worlds

Now, what do you do if you require both the capability to perform advanced document management and collaboration? In such cases, our advice would be to integrate a DMS with your SharePoint to provide a solution with required features and easy-to-use document management functionality for most needs.

Based on our past track record of integrating our Docuflo with SharePoint, the resulting solution will offer the following benefits:

  • With DMS functionality available as part of the SharePoint environment, you will be able to enjoy a more advanced and complete document management solution than the standard SharePoint can offer.
  • Excellent collaboration functionality across the enterprise alongside the various features in SharePoint.

The Final Note

A DMS and SharePoint are both versatile solutions such that a DMS works for complex document handing and SharePoint complements collaborative work. Despite the differences between a DMS and SharePoint, both excel in their respective fields in terms of functionality and effectiveness. The question boils down to which solution best fits your company’s requirements and enterprise goals. The DMS that we would recommend is. If you are interested in adopting a DMS for your enterprise, check out our very own in-house DMS, Docuflo, at this link.

If you require some advice on whether a DMS or SharePoint is right for your organization, feel free to reach out to us for consultation by clicking here.