Components of an Electronic Document Management System

Learn what the basic components are of an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) and in what form SharePoint makes these components available for document management.


Basic components of an EDMS

The basic components of an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) are:

The functionality of an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) may be extended to include:

Document repository

Every EDMS should have a document repository. A document repository is a central location on a server where all documents of the EDMS are stored. Users can then retrieve documents from the repository through search and retrieval or browsing functionality.

Check-in and check-out

Check-in and check-out functionality involves allowing only one user to edit a document at a time.

Before a user makes changes to a document, he checks the document out. At this point in time, other users can only view a read-only version of the document and cannot modify the document. When the user is done with his edits, he checks the document in. The document is then updated in the document repository and other users can then view the updated document.

Version control and auditing

Every time a document is updated, the EDMS should keep track of these updates through versioning.

Documents are given whole numbers, such as 1.0, 2.0, etc. These are called major revisions. Documents can also be assigned numbers such as 1.2, 1.3, etc., which are then called a minor revisions. Document numbers are incremented as a document is checked-out, modified, and checked-in.

Auditing allows authorized users to run reports to find out what changes have been made to documents, when those changes have been made and by whom.

Classification and indexing

An EDMS should allow you to use metadata to classify and index documents so that they can be searched for and retrieved at later on. Metadata includes information such as author, document date, document title, etc.

Search and retrieval

The purpose of classifying and indexing documents is to be able to search and retrieve them afterwards. An EDMS should offer several ways of searching for documents including:

  1. Browsing folder structures
  2. Basic search functionality
  3. Advanced search functionality

Basic search functionality entails using keywords that match either content or metadata to find documents.

Advanced search entails combining several metadata fields to find documents as well as searching for words or phrases in documents’ contents.


An EDMS should allow for granular access permissions to be applied, that is, at different levels. An administrator should be allowed to apply read, write, and view permissions to groups of users, individual users, folders, and individual files.

Integration with desktop client applications

An EDMS should allow users to save documents they work on directly from the desktop client application the document is created in straight into the document repository.

Related Articles