How to Choose the Best Document Management Software for You
Estimates, proposals, contracts, invoices—documents are the base layer of every business relationship.
The easier it is to manage documents, the easier it’s going to be to manage these relationships.
Document management software can do a lot to help you stay organized and efficient. Let’s look at some of the features that can have a huge impact.
Scanning and Imaging
Digitizing documents is a pain without the right product. In fact, going paperless is one of the key reasons people get document management software.
It turns a really inefficient workflow into a streamlined process with tools to identify, sort, tag, and store all kinds of file types.
Some products come with optical character recognition (OCR) which translates the printed words into digital text. This means that any document you scan can be searched. Pretty slick, right?
Document Security Features
A lot of these tools increase the control people have over documents, even after they have been shared.
Some of the features I really like are:
Flexible view, comment, and edit permissions
It’s really nice to be able to send a document knowing that it can’t be shared, altered, or printed. This is a huge step forward for businesses that lose all control once they have sent a document.
Document Engagement Metrics
At a glance, I know exactly who has read a proposal and how much time they spent on each page. Microsoft Word won’t tell you that.
For sales, this is an information gold mine. Or, if you are trying to raise funds, this is insight into who is actually interested that is easily gleaned.
I find these metrics ultra-valuable. There’s definitely a reason more and more document management solutions are adding these features.
Making great looking, on-brand, up-to-date content of any kind is hard. Document management software takes all the formatting and presentation legwork out of the equation.
There are templates for all kinds of use cases, helping you quickly build proposals and newsletters that look phenomenal, automatically optimized for both web and mobile.
Some products have a visual document builder. Drag and drop your way to a show-stopping proposal that includes videos, or draw up the perfect contract with a signable field.
Design legal documents with confidence, no law degree necessary.
It’s really nice when a document management solution connects to your CRM software and autofills templates with customer information. Get a proposal in a lead’s inbox before the first call is over.
Logging and Versioning
As you might expect, good document management software keeps a careful record of events.
This is important for collaboration. People always know that they are working on the latest version of the same document. This avoids needless time lost due to redundant actions and confusion.
Plus, with prior versions logged, changes to documents can be examined and the original can be restored if something bad happens.
For companies that are subject to lots of regulations, document management software provides helpful audit trails and additional compliance features.
eSignature and Payment Gateway
I really like having an electronic signature solution built into my document management platform. It removes a needless hurdle between my customers and my service.
Closing a deal is hard enough. I don’t want to have to fret about how to get a signature.
Plus, I’m not asking a potential customer to sign up for a third-party signature service. It’s all in-house and frictionless.
The same is true of connecting a payment gateway. It’s always a good idea to streamline the process of getting paid. I mean, look at Amazon. You can pay with one click from practically anywhere on their site. Not an accident.
An eSignature solution and payment gateway really go hand-in-hand. Integrations with PayPal and Stripe allow you to get both signature and payment in a single step.
Can the same be said about the products that you use?
However your eSignature and payment gateway connect, find a document management solution that makes the basic stuff a breeze.
The Different Types of Document Management Software
There’s a lot of overlap between the two main types of document management software. Every product is going to help you track, sort, and find your documents faster.
That said, they’re focused on different problems that companies face.
Some businesses are looking for a solution that helps them move their documents to the cloud. By digitizing their paper archives and records, these companies can finally preserve and organize all their information in a searchable format.
Others need a tool that lets them create and manage documents of every kind. These tools come with features that enable internal collaboration as well as secure client-side sharing.
The first step for finding the right document management software for you is deciding which of these categories best fits your needs.
Document Imaging Systems
One of the major tasks for traditional document management software is scanning and imaging paper files.
Whether companies are going paperless or interfacing with vendors that still use hard copies, document imaging systems quickly create high-fidelity digital documents.
These products are going to come with two main features.
One, they should have fairly well-developed OCR capabilities. Being able to recognize text, document imaging systems with OCR can automate the process of recognizing, naming, and filing all your important paperwork.
The second thing they do is provide an interface to organize your documents once they have been digitized. This may be a built-in interface or the software can connect with a storage system you already use, like Google Drive.
Document Management Systems
A document management system (DMS) provides the functionality businesses need to stay in control of all their important paperwork.
This includes some document imaging capabilities as well as really well-developed tools for searching, tracking, organizing, and sharing all kinds of file types.
The truth is that the file/folder system of something like Windows is just not sufficient for the real-time needs of most businesses.
For one thing, they are not able to create the documents they need, like PDFs with signable fields or emails that track customer engagement.
On top of that, staying organized with traditional file systems gets really tricky during periods of growth. Documents can get lost, shared incorrectly, or walk out the door with a former employee. Then there’s nothing you can do.
With a DMS, you retain control. Beyond that, these tools take over a lot of the busywork. Documents are stored in known locations, easy to find when they are misplaced, and always available to anyone who needs them.
Documents are also always automatically updated to their latest version, even if multiple people are working on them at the same time.
There is still a lot of variety within the DMS product category. What you are looking for is something that is focused on delivering the capabilities you need.
Some DMS solutions are built for sales teams, some for automating administrative tasks, and others are tailor-made for companies facing strict compliance requirements.
Find one that’s good at what you need it to be.
#1 – DocSend — Best For Sales Engagement
DocSend is a turnkey document management solution that provides great information about how people interact with the files you share.
Once your documents are uploaded to DocSend—which integrates with all the top storage platforms—you can share secure links.
No more attachments, no more asking leads to download monster files, and no more getting stuck in a client’s spam folder.
Whenever someone views a link you’ve shared, you’ll get a notification and the ability to track how they engaged with the document. See whether they forwarded your document and get page-by-page analytics that show you where they spent the most time.
What’s really holding the customer’s attention? Now you know.
These insights can be really valuable for figuring out what’s really connecting with each customer.
Another nice feature is the ability to create Spaces. You can get all of your sales material in one place and use flexible permissions to let different customers engage with the right files.
Whenever you share a document, you can set passcodes, expiry dates, and later revoke access.
There are obvious uses for all of these features in sales, but DocSend will work wonders for organizations that need rich engagement metrics. I’m thinking fundraising and marketing, really anyone who benefits from being able to gauge readers’ interest level in their documents.
With DocSend, you also get:
Branded spaces and deal rooms
Team engagement reporting
This last feature, in particular, is super helpful for sharing sales materials. Make it so all viewers have to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) before accessing a document, even if someone else forwarded it to them.
Increase the security of your intellectual property and eliminate the back-and-forth of traditional NDA signing.
DocSend is available with an annual subscription at the following pricing tiers:
Personal: $10/month per user
Standard: $45month per user
Advanced: $150/month per user
Enterprise: Contact sales
The Personal plan is great for entrepreneurs who need to share secure information with total peace of mind. They also get great document-level analytics to know what people are doing with proposals.
The Standard plan will work well for any business and Advanced will satisfy the most comprehensive compliance requirements.
There’s a 14-day free trial with DocSend, which will let you test drive all the premium features.
#2 – FileCenter DMS — Best for Going Paperless
FileCenter DMS is so far ahead of the game in terms of helping companies get out of the file cabinet and into the future.
First of all, it has a great interface for staying organized throughout the biggest jobs. You can divide and label information easily, even automating document separation and routing.
The interface will be super approachable to anyone who has used Windows before. Navigating your documents is the same, but you get all sorts of amazing powers because of the advanced optical character recognition (OCR) features.
The text recognition is so good with FileCenter DMS, that you can automatically make OCR part of the digitization process. As a scan comes in, FileCenter can read the text and name the document automatically.
Scanning a document makes it searchable, indexable, and copyable. Instantly. You can also use OCR on existing scans.
And how about this? You can scan a document and turn it into a Word doc with one click. FileCenter extracts the text, pushes it to Word, and voilà!
It should be pretty clear how FileCenter DMS can supercharge your efforts to digitize your entire workplace. On top of the best-in-breed text recognition, they offer:
Inbox for incoming files
Integrations with Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.
Automatic page cleanup
One-click PDF conversion
Local and network search
FileCenter DMS is a one-time purchase, downloaded to a single computer. There are three different editions:
FileCenter DMS Standard: $99.95
FileCenter DMS Pro: $199.95
FileCenter DMS Pro Plus: $299.95
Compared to many of the top SaaS document management solutions, the fact you only have to pay once for FileCenter DMS is very alluring. And, if you need more than one license, FileCenter offers multi-user discounts.
If you are looking for a way to digitize documents with no learning curve, look no further.
#3 – PandaDoc — Best for Closing More Deals
PandaDoc is a wonderful document management solution that also will help your sales team build more appealing, on-brand content in less time. It really feels like a secret weapon.
Create a proposal, contract, or estimate from one of your templates in seconds. Literally whip one up while a rep is on the phone, send the secure document, and clients can sign before hanging up.
Think of PandaDoc as a smarter workspace for sales professionals. Creating the templates themselves is quite easy. Add blocks like text fields, dates, signatures, pricing tables, videos, and other content with a drag-and-drop interface.
Don’t want to design your own template? No worries—PandaDoc supplies 450 templates prebuilt for a variety of scenarios.
PandaDoc has native integrations with CRMs like Salesforce, HubSpot, and Pipedrive that tie right into your workspace. Through this, customer and pricing info can get pulled over automatically.
You can also add optional products at the end of an invoice for an extra upsell opportunity.
There are a number of other handy features that streamline the sales process, including:
Simple workflow builder
Document activity tracking
eSignature and payment gateway
PandaDoc offers a free tier, which gives you unlimited document uploads, eSignatures, and payments. Pretty nifty, right?
If you want to create smart, trackable documents, you’ll have to go with one of the paid plans:
Essentials: $19/month per user
Business: $49/month per user
Enterprise: Contact sales
With Business, you get direct CRM integration, which I think is definitely worth it. Try PandaDoc free for 14 days to evaluate how much of an impact it can have.
#4 – Rubex by eFileCabinet — Best for Automating Daily Tasks
Rubex is the document management solution from eFileCabinet that is helping companies streamline their operations. From frictionless hiring to lightning-quick data entry, tasks that used to be error-prone become flawless.
The intuitive interface centralizes all of your documents in a single place. From there, employees can search the full text of any document that has been scanned.
With zonal OCR, Rubex can be set to recognize key zones of text, automatically naming the file.
Documents literally file themselves!
As good as the search, tracking, and text recognition features are, it is the ability to automate simple workflows that sets Rubex apart.
Set triggers to push the paperwork through based on rejections, approvals, and other variables, so people are spending less time on repetitive tasks.
It’s a really mature document management solution, but it takes no time to figure out. Some of the other great features that save time and frustration include:
Missing item search
Direct integration with Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive
The pricing for Rubex by eFileCabinet is broken into three tiers:
Advantage: Starting at $55/month per user
Business: Starting at $99/month per user
Unlimited: Starting at $199/month per user
Full-text search, OCR, and many of the automated governance features come with all plans. The zonal OCR and advanced workflow features are only available with Unlimited subscriptions, or as an add-on with Business.
That said, Advantage comes loaded with lots of features to help teams stay organized. If you are looking to centralize your document management, Advantage will work as well or better than many of the other options on this list.
#5 – MasterControl — Best For Enterprise Compliance
MasterControl is full-service document management software that can handle any law or regulation.
Think about medical device manufacturers, just one example of a business that relies on MasterControl.
Believe it or not, there’s a wee bit of secure documentation that goes into convincing the US government that an artificial hip is safe to put inside people.
MasterControl provides the document trail, security, and compliance features to keep companies in the clear throughout the most rigorous audit processes.
Their document security module is one part of a larger MasterControl quality management system and, depending on your needs, it may be wise to purchase some of the other modules.
For companies that operate in competitive and highly-regulated markets, a lighter document management solution is not going to have all of the tools necessary to speed a product to market.
MasterControl is purpose-built for this reason, and comes with:
Continuous validation for FDA compliance
ISO quality compliance
Secure web-based routing
Automated escalation and approval
Advanced tracking, analytics and reporting
You’ll have to get in touch with MasterControl to get a price for what the document management module will cost you.
MasterControl is not for everyone, but for enterprise compliance you’d be hard pressed to find a more fitting solution to your needs.
Managing your documents doesn’t have to be a problem. With so many great options out there, the question is which will work best for your situation?
In terms of digitizing documents quickly, FileCenter DMS is the obvious choice. It has the most comprehensive text recognition capabilities at an affordable price.
I really like DocSend and PandaDoc for sales teams. DocSend has deep engagement features that will feed insight to reps about who is interested.
Choose PandaDoc if you are looking to give your teams a visual edge, as you will be able to create professional, on-brand documents at a moment’s notice.
If you are looking to automate your document workflows, I suggest Rubex by eFileCabinet. Quickly build elegant solutions to cut down on the lag time for every process.
For companies that need to keep firm control over the document lifecycle because of regulatory requirements, MasterControl is the answer. It is built to handle the most complex demands, helping companies bring products to market without a needless delay.