Managing documents efficiently is absolutely essential for any successful business, but I know it can be particularly challenging when you’re a small or medium-sized business (SMB). You have to get the most value out of your limited resources and staff, while still staying compliant, secure, and agile.
The good news is, implementing the right document management system can help you transform clunky manual document processes into streamlined digital workflows. This will enable your team to access critical information instantly, collaborate smoothly, comply with regulations, and get work done faster.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explain what exactly document management software is, the key benefits it offers SMBs like yours, and review the top 7 options on the market today in 2023. I’ll also provide tips to help you select the best system based on your specific business needs and constraints.
What Does Document Management Software Do?
Simply put, document management software provides a central hub to store, organize, collaborate on, and manage your electronic documents. But it goes beyond just storage to make your docs far more accessible, secure, and actionable.
Key features you gain include:
- Centralized storage – A searchable online repository for all files and documents
- Collaboration – Securely share, discuss, and co-author files
- Version control – Track changes and maintain document history
- Workflows – Route documents for review, approval, signing etc.
- Search – Quickly find docs based on content, metadata, name, tags etc.
- Security – Access controls, permissions, audit logs
- Retention – Automate document expiration based on policies
- Integrations – Sync with your existing business systems
According to research by M-Files, implementing a document management system can help SMBs achieve:
- 60% faster retrieval of documents
- 80% reduction in time spent searching for files
- 30% higher employee productivity
Let‘s look at some of the valuable benefits you can gain with document management software.
6 Key Benefits of Document Management Systems for SMBs
1. Find Information Faster
Imagine easily finding any document in seconds rather than digging through bloated shared drives or email inboxes. Document management software centralizes your files into a searchable online repository with customizable metadata, tags, and libraries.
Instead of relying on filenames or folder locations, you can quickly search for documents based on client name, project, content snippets, date range, document type, and other parameters. No more hunting endlessly for misfiled or misnamed documents!
According to M-Files, 95% of companies struggle with finding information quickly across their data silos. Document management software solves this with unified search across repositories.
2. Boost Productivity
Your team spends countless hours weekly just searching for information across fragmented sources. This seriously drags down productivity.
Document management systems cut down the time wasted in finding, sharing, and working with documents. Automated document workflows also eliminate repetitive manual steps.
Research shows knowledge workers spend 19.8% of their time searching for information. That‘s nearly 1 day a week of lost productivity!
By streamlining document processes, SMBs can achieve up to 30% productivity gains across their workforce. The hours saved directly translate into revenue gains.
3. Enhance Collaboration
Modern work requires collaboration. Document management systems like Box and SharePoint make it seamless for employees to work together on documents from any location.
Key features like co-authoring, commenting, notifications, task assignments, and version control power secure collaboration. You gain complete visibility into who viewed or modified a document too.
According to data from M-Files, 85% of employees say improving document collaboration is a business priority. Enabling smooth teamwork directly impacts your bottom line.
4. Improve Compliance
For SMBs in regulated industries like financial services, healthcare, legal etc., meeting compliance requirements is non-negotiable. Having the right document controls in place prevents nasty fines or lawsuits.
Document management systems help you comply with data retention regulations, privacy standards, and information security policies. You can set expiration dates, retain only certain versions, and log all document activity.
Research shows that on average, companies spend $3.5 million per year complying with information requests. The right software reduces this burden.
5. Enhance Security
Your proprietary documents and client data need ironclad security. Role-based permissions guarantee only the right people access the right documents. Activity logging creates an audit trail of who accessed or modified what.
Add two-factor authentication, single sign-on with active directory, watermarking, digital rights, and encryption to take security up a notch. Data protection is a prerequisite for any document management system an SMB chooses.
6. Lower Costs
Between file storage, servers, backup, and physical document handling, unmanaged documents congest your infrastructure and inflate expenses.
Cloud-based document management slashes costs by eliminating local servers and streamlining your stacks of paper into organized digital files. You save on printing, storage, shredding services, couriers, and operational overheads.
Top 7 Document Management Systems for SMBs in 2023
Now that you know the incredible benefits document management software offers, let‘s look at the top platforms on the market that are ideal for SMBs.
I‘ve summarized the key details, pros and cons, and ideal use cases for each to help you find the right fit.
1. Box – Best Overall for Secure Cloud Collaboration
Box is arguably the leading document management platform for secure content management and collaboration in the cloud. With their “content cloud", Box aims to power the future of distributed work.
- Intuitive web interface and stellar mobile apps
- Unlimited storage and users with Business plan
- Granular user, group, and folder permissions
- In-platform editing and annotation capabilities
- External collaboration and file sharing controls
- Over 1,500 integrations with apps like Slack, Microsoft 365, Google Workspace etc.
- Extremely user-friendly experience
- Tight security suitable for regulated industries
- Broad capabilities beyond just document management
- Ability to work with anyone both internally and externally
- Strong adoption across industries from healthcare to media & entertainment
- Can be costly for micro-businesses or solopreneurs
- Advanced search and metadata capabilities cost extra
- Steep learning curve to master its full capabilities
Use Case: Mid-size businesses that need an enterprise-level secure content collaboration platform accessible from anywhere. Distributed teams with remote staff and high external sharing needs.
Pricing: Starts at $7/user/month for Business plan. Enterprise plans for larger deployments.
2. Microsoft SharePoint – Best Integrated with Office 365
SharePoint provides solid document management integrated into Microsoft 365’s collaboration suite. It powers over 200,000 organizations globally.
- Deeply integrated across Office 365 apps and Microsoft Teams
- Drag and drop files to libraries with metadata and permissions
- Extensive search based on parameters like file type, size, author etc.
- Automate processes through configurable workflows
- Choice of on-premise, cloud, or hybrid deployment
- Tight integration with MS Office apps
- Easy for current Office 365 users to adopt
- Powerful search functionality within files and metadata
- Can start small and expand functionality over time
- Advanced customization and extensibility options
- Steep learning curve for advanced setups
- Total storage and scale limited unless using separate SharePoint Online plan
- Not as intuitive for external or anonymous access
Use Case: Microsoft-centric SMBs who want document management directly integrated with their productivity suite. Existing Office 365 users will find adoption smooth.
Pricing: Included with Microsoft 365 business plans or standalone SharePoint Online plans ($5 per user/month).
3. OpenText Documentum – Most Powerful Enterprise-Grade Features
OpenText Documentum is an on-premise enterprise content management platform with extremely robust and advanced features.
- Centralized repository with vast library services
- Automation of complex document-driven processes
- End-to-end lifecycle management from document creation to archival
- Immense customization flexibility
- Over 600 out of box integrations with systems like SAP, Salesforce, SharePoint etc.
- Exceptionally powerful search, retrieval, and indexing
- Fine-grained user permissions and access rules
- Custom metadata models, taxonomies, and retention policies
- Scales readily from SMBs to true enterprise deployments
- Highly customizable deployment tailored to your needs
- Very complex installation and configuration
- Must be deployed on-premise
- Steep learning curve for users and admins
- Total cost of ownership higher than cloud options
Use Case: Larger SMBs and enterprises with advanced content management needs across disparate systems. Highly regulated industries like government, financial services, insurance, healthcare etc.
Pricing: Custom quote based on number of users, storage, features. Six figure annual costs.
4. eFileCabinet – Best User-Friendly System
eFileCabinet makes document management accessible for SMBs with an easy-to-use interface, competitive pricing, and integration with popular business apps.
- 100% cloud-based SaaS product
- Drag-and-drop uploader and libraries
- Quick search by file name, tags, or content
- Check files in/out, subscribe for notifications
- Automate multi-step reviews, approvals, e-signatures
- Mobile apps for iOS and Android
- Integrates with top business apps like Quickbooks, Gmail, Salesforce
- Clean, intuitive user interface
- Affordable pricing starting under $20/user/month
- Strong integrations with business applications
- Good mix of features and usability
- More limited functionality than enterprise systems
- Maximum of 10GB file storage per user
- Advanced search relies heavily on metadata
Use Case: Lean SMBs focused on ease of use and seamlessly integrating document management into day-to-day apps like email and accounting. Wide applicability across industry verticals.
Pricing: Starts under $20 per user/month for Unlimited plan. Offers good value.
5. Templafy – Best for Governing Document Creation
Templafy provides secure enterprise document creation, templates, and collaboration tightly integrated into Office.
- Central library of company-approved document templates
- Enforce use of templates through Office integrations
- Built-in DMS to securely store and reuse documents
- External/guest document sharing controls
- Usage analytics on document creation, edits, approvals etc.
- Over 130 out of box integrations with systems like Dynamics, Salesforce etc.
- Excellent template creation and management
- Tight integration across MS Office apps
- Detailed control over document creation process
- Useful analytics on document usage patterns
- More lightweight DMS capabilities
- Steep learning curve for some advanced configuration
- Additional costs for extended storage needs
Use Case: SMBs wanting governance over document creation using company templates integrated into Office apps. Firms that do high volumes of standardized documents like proposals, statements, invoices etc.
Pricing: Starts at $19 per user/month. Volume discounts available.
6. M-Files – Best for Intelligent Metadata Management
M-Files provides AI-driven intelligent information management built on metadata-based automation. Its “information-first” approach aims to eliminate information silos.
- Metadata-driven approach to auto-classify and tag content
- Dynamic views of documents based on context, not storage
- Integrated document, records, and email management
- Assistive AI for automatically capturing metadata, tagging files etc.
- Available as SaaS, on-premises or hybrid
- Over 240 integrations with apps like SAP, Salesforce, SharePoint etc.
- Innovative metadata-powered capabilities
- Robust features yet still user-friendly
- Unifies information across siloed systems
- Leverages AI for automation based on machine learning
- Steeper learning curve than traditional folder-based systems
- Limited native mobile apps
- Can be costlier for very small businesses
Use Case: Mid-size companies undergoing digital transformation. Firms with vast document volumes across disjointed systems. Professional services, real estate, oil and gas, construction etc.
Pricing: Customized quote based on requirements. Starts around $10 per user/month.
7. DocuWare – Best for Archiving Paper Documents
DocuWare enables digital archiving of paper and electronic documents with integrated workflow automation features.
- Certified cloud or on-premise deployment options
- Bidirectional sync between paper and digital files
- Intelligent indexing and metadata extraction
- Automate document approval chains
- Integrations with scanner hardware and software ecosystems
- Over 60 out of box integrations with systems like SharePoint, SAP etc.
- Strong tools for scanning and digitizing paper documents
- Smooth workflows for routing, reviews, signatures
- Good value relative to advanced enterprise systems
- Flexible self-managed on-premise or hosted cloud options
- Navigation and UI is a bit dated
- Collaboration capabilities are more limited
- Advanced features (OCR, automation) cost extra
Use Case: SMBs with high volumes of paper documents and forms. Industries like finance, accounting, healthcare, construction, government etc.
Pricing: Starts around $19 per user/month (cloud). Around $4,000 one-time license fee (on-premise).
How Do You Select the Right Software?
With so many options for document management systems available today, it can be tricky determining which platform is the best fit for your SMB‘s specific requirements.
Here are a few key factors to consider when evaluating solutions:
Your integration needs – Do you require tight integration with Microsoft 365 or other business apps? Solutions like SharePoint, Templafy, or M-Files may be preferable.
Ease of use and training – How tech-savvy are your users? Ease of use varies widely from intuitive systems like Box to advanced platforms like OpenText that may require training.
On-premise vs SaaS – Do you prefer software installed locally or hosted in the cloud? Your IT resources and security sensitivities will determine what works best for your workflows.
Industry compliance – Highly regulated SMBs have more rigorous compliance and audit requirements that impact software choice.
Budget – Fortunately, there are quality options available at different price points for SMBs. But you get what you pay for when it comes to features and scale.
Your specific pain points – What are your current document management headaches? Prioritize software that solves your biggest problems first.
Aligning your critical needs with the right solution will ensure you maximize your return on investment from the software. And don‘t forget to involve employees across departments in evaluating options — smoother user adoption will speed your improvement.
As you can see, transitioning from chaotic traditional file sharing to streamlined document management delivers tremendous benefits for SMB productivity, compliance, costs, and workforce collaboration.
Platforms like Box, SharePoint, and OpenText offer robust enterprise-grade capabilities, while eFileCabinet and Templafy provide user-friendly options tightly aligned with popular business tools. M-Files and DocuWare offer unique strengths like metadata-driven automation and physical document archiving respectively.
Carefully weigh your integration, compliance, ease of use, and budget needs when selecting systems. This will ensure the solution tackles your biggest pain points without over-engineering or costing too much.
With the exponential growth in digital information, implementing document management now is really a must for any forward-looking SMB. Done right, it can transform how your team securely collaborates to drive faster business growth.