There are differences between DMS and ECM

What is the difference between ECM and DMS?

Sergey Palyukh
18. Feb ‘19


The background of these two systems is quite extensive. However, here we’ll try to bring together all the differences between definitions in the headline.

ECM (Enterprise content management) is a digital content management system. As a tool for managing information resources of a company, ECM is used to collect, maintain, store and provide access to information to users of an organization. In order to understand specifically how the system works. 

DMS is a document management system. This is an automated system for a large number of users, necessary to improve the performance of the functions of companies that use these systems by automating the work with documents within the organization.

To begin with, we would like to classify all the existing digital information, highlighting two main data types. Every day we deal with various letters, documents, pictures, files, folders, etc. - all of this is digital content. This can be considered as all the information presented in your local computer network. However, some data is structured, while others do not have this property.

So, the data can be:

  • Structured
  • Unstructured

By what criteria can you determine whether the data is structured or not?

Structured data, in the context of the life of the enterprise, can be called documents, files, and tables of a certain form, various records created and stored in any accounting systems (like Excel, etc.).

The primary condition for presenting data in a structured form is the availability of software capable of creating and managing such data. In a word, the data that is entered into databases in a specific form, with a clear structure and design are structured.

As a rule, it is easier to work with such information, because you can simply extract and analyze it.

Unstructured content, accordingly, is considered to be all information freely stored on a computer and not having a specific order. Accounting for such information is extremely problematic since it is not formed into a single database and is challenging to manage. Graphic and multimedia files, folders, web pages, application files, etc. can be examples of unstructured data.

The lion's share of corporate content in an enterprise is unstructured data, and ECM class systems are designed to organize the information space of the company, making it possible to keep records of such data, and to ensure collaboration with them.

ECM functions

Unlike DMS, where organizational-administrative documents and business processes act as managed data, ECM systems have more flexible functionality and allow working with both structured and unstructured content. Among the main functions that should have an ECM system, we can identify:

  • Electronic document management (EDMS);
  • Records Management (RM) and files. Categorization and ordering;
  • Knowledge management. Storage and provision of access to information relevant to the enterprise;
  • Workflow management, business process automation (BPM);
  • Web content management (WCM);

In various ECM systems, in addition to the above-described functionality, additional data management modules are added. For example, the ECM system Alfresco has a web-based user interaction interface focused on the use of client operating system browsers.

What is the difference between these two types of systems?

ECM, like DMS, is responsible for managing electronic documents. But unlike DMS, where the ability to customize business processes is limited by the logic of working with “classic” document types, ECM has more flexible document route settings. Adjusting to the business logic of the company, the system allows you to automate atypical, unique to a particular organization business process.

And yet, in the first place, ECM serves as a secure data storage organization in a convenient, structured form. For each object, a registration card is created in which all necessary attributes are entered. This allows you to structure information and provide quick search, access to data and work with them. This is the fundamental difference between ECM and the electronic document management system.

Summing up our comparison of ECM and DMS, we’d like to note that the ECM system solves a wider range of tasks than the electronic document management system does. It combines the functions of different accounting systems (EDMS, BPM, WCM, etc.), covers all the business processes of a company in a single, structured information field, called the corporate portal.