Document Control Software Features

Are people in your organization spending too much time filing and retrieving documents and forms? Are document control issues causing process problems and audit findings? Maybe it is time to implement a document management system.

The most important consideration when evaluating document management software is how easy is it to create, approve, release, secure, access, revise, and archive documents.

Basic and advanced features of a document management system are listed below:

Document Creation

  • Support different document types
  • Store in original document formats
  • Provide customizable layout options
  • Offer manual or automated numbering
  • Provide use of prefix and suffix
  • Import existing documents and forms
  • Offer scanning of hard copy records
  • Allow linking of related documents

Approval Routing

  • Include automated routing and approval
  • Provide unique approvals per document
  • Monitor document approval status
  • Route documents serially or in parallel
  • Support routing for team collaboration
  • Send reminder notes for document reviews
  • Issue management escalation notices

Document Release

  • Distribute document files electronically
  • Record and display electronic signatures
  • Convert documents to PDF format
  • Track hardcopy document distribution

Document Retrieval

  • Define user access per document
  • Provide search and view queries
  • Filter and sort to locate and print
  • Link related documents together
  • Offer full text database searches
  • Allow controlled remote access

Revision Control

  • Provide automated periodic reviews
  • Keep records of completed reviews
  • Include a change request process
  • Offer customized approval process
  • Produce master list reports
  • Archive old document revisions
  • Restore an archived document
  • Link to process training requirements
  • Send notices of review requests
  • Maintain document history
  • Track revision times and trends

Document Security

  • Provide password protection
  • Include multi-layered user access
  • Allow use of electronic signatures
  • Permit document encryption
  • Prevent unauthorized viewing
  • Keep audit trails of user access
  • Offer proof files are unaltered

Software Selection

  • Look at software buyer guides
  • Try a trial CD or online demo
  • Focus on software ease-of-use
  • Count the clicks and screens
  • Evaluate multi-user license
  • Identify available support
  • Consider product upgrades
  • Determine price and fees
  • Consider modular feature design
  • Examine scalability for growth
  • Look at user references
  • Evaluate industry sector solutions
  • See if built-in ISO, TS, AS, TL support
  • Evaluate training and installation help
  • Decide if client-server or application service provider (ASP)
  • Consider monthly usage fee, if ASP
  • Determine fee to export if quit ASP
  • Check integration with other applications
  • Consider SOX compliance (Finance)
  • Consider HIPAA privacy (Health)
  • Consider 21 CFR requirements (Medical)

Installation Steps

  • Install software product
  • Learn software operation
  • Customize for your system
  • Establish naming convention
  • Define access and security
  • Create new documents
  • Run some simple tests
  • Pilot a single application
  • Train users on its operation
  • Scan hardcopy files (as needed)
  • Import electronic documents
  • Respond to usage issues


  • Quicker to create documents
  • Faster to approve documents
  • Awareness of document changes
  • Secure documents and records
  • Quicker access to documents
  • Only most recent version available
  • Access while employees travel
  • Access by suppliers and customers
  • Fewer obsolete documents
  • Opportunity for more collaboration
  • Automation of tedious tasks
  • Less costly document control
  • Reduced business process times
  • Frees up time for core business
  • Reduced number of audit findings

You may want to know which software product I recommend. I don’t. Although I’ve seen a lot of software solutions, the best choice will depend on your document management needs, your industry requirements, if you or an ASP will provide the host, the need to integrate with other applications, and what you are willing to pay.