File sharing is not document management

shutterstock_277369928We spent a few hours this week looking at a couple of CRM software solutions and the features they offer.. We have plug-ins for two leading products (SugarCRM and but periodically we look at the other solutions out there to decide if we want to add more plug-ins. It takes time - for example there are 440+ solutions listed in the Capterra CRM directory.

What I do find frustrating (and misleading to end users) is CRM software vendors claiming to offer document management as a feature. I'm looking at one example tool before me: it has a document repository where you can add files and you can arrange files by name, size, etc. You can sort files into any folder structure and there's coarse-grained access permission-setting on who can download files (i.e. selected individuals, or everyone).

The above barely even begins to merit the description of "document management", yet it is typical of CRM functionality.

I'm not going to list all the possibilities, but at the very least I'd expect to see provision for multi-categorization, bulk import, check-in/check-out, type of version control, file format conversion, document linking, full text search (with security), document assembly, annotations/markups, role-based security profiles, in-line editing, review/approve processes, document comparison, configurable metadata, workflow automation, document containers, lifecycle stages and off-line usage. That really isn't a complete list.

Then if someone added "Enterprise" in front of DMS I'd want to know about authentication, encryption, auditing, authorization, reporting, monitoring and integration (and that just for starters).

Our CogniDox DMS product has a way of recording customer details for entitlement-based publishing but we don't claim it to be a CRM.

This is important because CRM and DMS customers don't have the time or inclination to become expert in enterprise tool software taxonomies; neither should they have to. If Vendor X managed to fool a user into thinking that they 'got document management' as a feature in their CRM (or ERP) then (a) this will become apparent all too quickly and (b) it's likely all software tools vendors would be blamed.

It should be like the UNIX philosophy of old: write programs that do one thing and do it well, and write programs to work together. The old-school way of enterprise software comnpanies is to develop a "periodic table" of modules in their software "suites". Instead, it should be 'best tool for feature X' connecting to 'best tool for feature Y'. This does not suit proprietary software vendors - the more features they offer in "one stop shops", the more revenue opportunity for them. But the customer-centric view should be to enable users to mix and match. This is also the open source way.

I'm afraid most cloud-based storage solutions have the same problem with their "document management" feature-set. Beware the file share masquerading as a document management system. But that's for another day.

Value of a DMS for product development

Tags: CRM, Document Control, Enterprise Software