Document administration

Document administration, often referred to as document management system (DMS), is the use of a system to store, manage and track electronic documents. Document administration controls and organizes documents within an organization.

What is document administration?

The word document administration describes the process of capturing, storing and retrieving electronic versions of previously paper-based documents in the form of PDFs, word processing files and digital images.

To manage their digital documents and benefit from added security, access control, centralized storage, and streamlined search and retrieval options, many organizations use document administration tools and systems.

Why do organizations need document administration?

Organizations implement document administration systems to gain control and insight over documents and data entering and leaving the organization. Whether employees:work in the office or remotely, organizations want to ensure that all employees:use the latest and most up-to-date versions of documents.

Teams can easily add comments, suggestions and annotations in document administration software, making it easier to collaborate, communicate, review and approve work. Additionally, a document administration system also solves security and data auditing issues by logging the lifecycle of a document from creation to modification to distribution

What are the benefits of document administration systems?

Compared to manually processing physical files, document administration reduces costs, the risk of human error, physical damage, and retrieval issues, and provides virtually unlimited storage space.

Although most organizations still have physical filing systems to store paper documents, they are becoming less common as most documents are now created digitally and printed on paper only when needed.

Thanks to the use of metadata (information such as title, description and date of storage), document administration systems streamline workflows around digital documents:

  1. easy indexing for search and retrieval - reducing the time needed to find the right documents.
  2. added security through access control and editing rights to protect confidential information.
  3. enhanced collaboration by allowing multiple users to work on documents simultaneously while the system monitors changes and history.
  4. version control - allowing users to monitor changes and document validity over time.

What are the challenges of document administration?

With all the benefits of document administration, there are also some challenges to watch out for. These include:

  • Categorizing documents: It can be difficult to identify and categorize documents with sensitive information. A confidential document that enters an organization may not be immediately identifiable and therefore is openly shared. When setting up a document administration system, make sure there are clear guidelines for the different types of documents.

  • Changing formats: Changing document formats can be challenging for legacy document administration systems. Systems may not be able to handle new document formats.

  • Lengthy implementation time: depending on which system is chosen, getting teams up to speed on the system can be lengthy. A document administration system that is not user-friendly will most often not be used and adopted.

Examples of document administration software features

Effective document administration systems have certain features and capabilities to ensure that all of an organization’s documents are properly captured, converted, stored, organized, tagged, easily retrieved, and ready for distribution and collaboration. These features include:

- Intelligent organization: To improve workflows, save time and increase a company’s efficiency, the right people need to be able to find the right documents quickly. A well-organized document organization system with intelligent categorization, tagging, rating and review makes searching faster and more intuitive.

- Clear visibility and navigation: A document administration system should be user-friendly. An attractive user interface with clearly visible search functions and other tools ensures less frustration and more acceptance and use by employee:s.

- A strong search function: Less time spent searching for the documents they need means employees have more time to collaborate, innovate and grow the business. The ability to search all of an organization’s documents at once means less frustration and more productivity in teams.

- Version Control: A document administration system that stores all versions (and associated edits and updates) of files is important to easily identify errors or discrepancies among contributors, track progress and changes to documents, avoid duplicate content, and in some cases prevent complete rewrites.

- Access and permissions: Not every member of an organization needs to edit or contribute to every document. Some important documents should be read-only or only editable by specific managers, while others need to be edited by key teams. The ability to set specific permissions in a document administration system gives the right people access to the right documents.

- Versatile file format capabilities: Business documents can be in a variety of file formats, from PDFs and word processing files, to scanned and saved images of paper-based content, to emails, financial reports and spreadsheets. A document administration system supports all of these formats.


Effective use of a document administration system in an organization ensures that data and knowledge are secure and accessible. With this convenience, employees are more likely to reduce paper and rely on document administration. This is an important step towards a paperless office.

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