There is a great deal of confusion in the industry with regard to what constitutes a document management system. When financial advisors were asked what document management system they use, the top answer in both the 2007 Financial Planning Magazine survey and the 2008 FPA Technology survey was Adobe Acrobat. Sadly, Adobe Acrobat is not a document management system.
A document management system includes the following capabilities at a minimum: A filing system, a retrieval system, and storage. A system for financial professionals should also address some, if not all of these additional areas: Creation (scanning a paper document to create a digital file, for example), optical character recognition (OCR) which makes an image file, such as a picture of a document searchable by converting the image to text, archiving (making sure the documents will be readable in the future), retention policies, workflow, security (preventing unauthorized access), disaster recovery, and authentication.
Adobe Acrobat has creation, OCR, and security capabilities at the document level, but it does not, on its own, meet the minimum requirements to be classified as a document management system because it does not provide filing and retrieval.
A professional document management system is a must for any financial planning office. If possible, one should look for a system that offers a degree of integration with your firm’s client relationship management (CRM) system. Fortunately, there’s a professional DMS to fit almost any budget. While an enterprise can easily spend tens of thousands of dollars on document management, entry level systems for a single user can be purchased for under $500. In fact one firm, CEO Image Systems, Inc. (http://www.ceoimage.com) offers an entry level single user product for as little as $299. NetDocuments (http://www.netdocuments.com) offers their Professional Edition online document management system with prices starting at $30 per month per user (with a two user minimum purchase).