CMS vs. DMS: Is There a Difference?

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Managed content software can streamline business processes and automate workflows to make any business more profitable and efficient. Unfortunately, the variety of managed content solutions available can be confusing, especially when consumers must wade through a sea of acronyms.

For example, consider document management systems (DMS) and content management systems (CMS). These solutions may seem very similar but deliver very different outcomes, depending on your business needs. Today, I hope to clear up the confusion and explain the difference between a DMS and CMS.

In general, a document management system (DMS) is a system that helps businesses to create, track and store digitized documents. A DMS is used to classify, retain and protect electronic information. It also supports versioning, collaboration and workflows.

Content management systems (CMS) are used to create and manage various types of digital content besides documents in the traditional sense. For example, in addition to being used for PDFs, Word files or Excel files, a CMS could be used to manage things like images, web pages, records and flash files.

CMS and DMS applications have other similarities beyond the fact that both handle digital data, but there are important differences between the two as well. Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences.

How CMS and DMS Are Similar

Document management systems and content management systems both do the following:

  • Help manage documents.
  • Facilitate information creation, retention and distribution.
  • Provide centralized storage for data.
  • Ensure fast and easy information retrieval.
  • Provide high-level information security.
  • Support content-driven collaboration.
  • Offer automated workflows.

How CMS and DMS Are Different

While the two systems have the above similarities, they also have critical differences. The main purposes of a DMS are workflow management and regulatory compliance. The main purposes of a CMS, however, are the storage, retrieval, and publishing of content. Additionally, a DMS manages structured data and has a focus on traditional documents in formats such as Word or PowerPoint.

However, a CMS has the ability to manage structured and unstructured data, such as digital assets and web content. DMS applications also have advanced imaging and scanning abilities. For example, DMS applications offer features that include optical character recognition, optical mark recognition, and handprint character recognition, whereas CMS tools tend not to support such functions. 

The functionality of DMS and CMS looks similar at the small-business level since small businesses usually don’t have complex content and document management needs. However, at the enterprise level, organizations tend to use document and content management functionality to its fullest potential, as they must manage a larger amount of structured and unstructured data.

And as mentioned above, a DMS manages structured data and is focused on documents in the traditional sense in such formats as Word, PDF, PowerPoint, Excel, etc. A CMS, on the other hand, can handle both structured data and unstructured data, such as web content (HTML and PDF files) and digital assets (images and audio and video files).

Little Differences Offer Big Benefits

In short, the key purposes of a DMS are regulatory compliance and workflow management, while the key purposes of a CMS are storage, retrieval and publishing of content. DMS applications have advanced imaging and scanning capabilities, such as optical character recognition (OCR), handprint character recognition (HCR), optical mark recognition (OMR) and more. CMS tools usually don’t support those functions.

Integration with enterprise systems (such as enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management tools) is essential for a DMS but secondary for a CMS. As you can see from those differences, a CMS plays a broader role than a DMS does, though a CMS typically includes at least some of the features of a DMS, because documents account for much of the digital content a CMS handles.

If you have more questions about managed content technology, talk to the business process experts at the Gordon Flesch Company. We have experienced business analysts, ready to help you get the most value and productivity from your company’s data.

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