DMS VS ECM: The Difference Between Content & Document Management

By NE Docs | July 29, 2014

DMS VS ECM The Difference Between Content & Document Management

The world of information management is rife with technical lingo and endless acronyms. With terms like OCR, Cloud computing, SaaS, BaaS, FTP, ECM, and DMS – it is not hard to imagine the difficulties that consumers have gathering and deciphering the proper facts in order to make an informed decision. Research can be further impeded when the terms you are researching share many similarities – two of the largest offenders being Document Management System (DMS) and Enterprise Content Management (ECM). In order to help clear the air – here is the real difference (and similarities) between ECM and DMS.

ECM: ECM or Enterprise Content Management is defined as a formalized means for storing and managing an organization’s process documentation and other content.

DMS: DMS or Document Management System is defined as computer system used to track and store electronic documents.

Confused yet? Let’s start off by sharing some common similarities between a DMS and an ECM system.

ECM and DMS Similarities

Fully centralized storage: Having all of your files in one place can be dangerous…if they are still in paper form. However, having your critical files stored electronically provides a valuable fail-safe should anything happen to your physical records. Having an accessible means of storage for your company files is extraordinarily valuable as it will enable you to enhance workflows/business processes, disaster recovery, document retention, and much more.

Accessibility: Access to information is valuable – and both an ECM and a DMS can provide untethered access to valuable information.

Streamline processes: With the ability to automate workflows and easily share files – both systems can be implemented to improve the efficiency of any paper-intensive business processes.

Powerful security features: When it comes to preserving and safeguarding your confidential company information, DMS and ECM systems are able to provide increased security and prevent unauthorized access/use.  Not only can these features prevent unwanted access to your records – they can also assist with disaster recovery and compliance regulations.

The Difference Between ECM and DMS

Enterprise Content Management is much more than just a means for storing and managing an organization’s documents. ECM also includes the tools, strategies, and processes used to capture, store, retain, and manage content.  ECM appeals to those looking to manage and configure large volumes of structured and unstructured data, including:

  • Images
  • Web content
  • Email
  • Video
  • Electronic documents
  • Other media

With its superior security features, ECM systems tend to appeal towards risk-driven consumers – such as healthcare professionals, universities, lawyers, etc.

Common ECM Features:

  • Digital asset management
  • Indexing
  • Document collaboration
  • Workflows
  • Audit trails
  • Business process management
  • Email management
  • Imaging

In order to visualize ECM – image it as an Office Assistant, able to automatically recognize the content within a document and know who, where, and when to send it.

Document management Systems are designed to control the life cycle of documents. This includes document creation, retention, and accessibility. Whereas an ECM system is your “Office Assistant”, a DMS is your digital “filing cabinet”. A DMS is at its core a simplified ECM system as it focuses on managing entities as a whole rather than the extensive functionality of content management.

Document management systems are technically a sub-category of ECM – as ECM could not exist without its ability to manage documents (the core function of a DMS).

Common DMS Features:

  • Workflows
  • Audit trails
  • Indexing
  • Versioning

In summation – the difference between an ECM system and a DMS is one of functionality. A Document Management System is essentially the core solution – providing companies with an efficient means to organize, retain, and safeguard their documents. Enterprise Content Management includes the features of a great DMS, and enhances it with the ability to handle alternative media and effectively manage unstructured data. The benefits of using either system are apparent – the only difficulty lies in choosing the right solution for your organization.

2 thoughts on “DMS VS ECM: The Difference Between Content & Document Management

  1. Anonymous

    Very helpful explanation of the difference. Thank you.


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