8 Things that Changed the History of Document Management
John Mancini

By: John Mancini on August 19th, 2009

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8 Things that Changed the History of Document Management

Document Management

Throughout history, the managing of documents has brought the human race as much joy as utter frustration. Though no one person can be credited for inventing document management, the first known system was created by nomadic tribes writing on the walls of caves. Over time, this evolved to the scrolls system employed by ancient Rome, and as the world neared the end of the 1800s, the human race still relied on a very primitive form of document management. But over the next century, eight things happened that changed the history of document management forever.

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  1. The File Cabinet

    In the late 1800s, a young man named Edwin Seibels saw a world with A.D.M.D. (Acute Document Management Disorder), and he knew there had to be a way to heal the world of this ailment. He soon invented the file cabinet, and with this, Mr. Seibels changed the way humans stored and managed documents from that point on.

  2. The Server

    As the file cabinet worked well to manage documents, its popularity was also its curse, as they started piling up in office spaces everywhere. This changed with a powerful and disruptive innovation that changed the game--computing. Commencing with powerful, centralized mainframes, and evolving to distributed client/server architecture, organizations were now able to store documents electronically.

  3. The PC

    When PCs started to get distributed and connected on a LAN (local area network), firms were then able to create and store documents on their computer—power to the user! But distributed PCs managed by the local area network sent unstructured documents scattered everywhere.

    Network deficiencies in the way documents were organized (e.g., the eight-dot-three character naming convention and lack of control of documents) caused many problems. There existed no version control, no audit trail, and a lack of security was rampant. Though the PC was a game-changer, the unstructured world of distributed PCs introduced the need for document management systems.

  4. Electronic Document Management Systems

    When electronic document management (EDMS) started to gain popularity in the 80s, it was a complicated tool that could only be managed by a word processing center operator (may they rest in peace). As tools developed, the task moved to secretaries who created, named, and stored the documents. It wasn’t until companies came around with user-friendly systems in the early 90s that the knowledge worker (e.g., business managers, attorneys) began using the DMS themselves. This continued to evolve, and now document management is used not only by secretaries and their bosses but is utilized to foster complete collaboration with clients, co-council, and opposing parties.

  5. The Search Engine

    With thousands of documents digitally scattered everywhere, the issue of locating documents became more and more important. This problem sparked another game-changing innovation. DMS providers began to integrate full text searching seamlessly into the DMS.

    Now, just like any Trekkie can go on Google and learn everything known to man about Spock and the Vulcan race, firms can now get on their document management service and find any document in the system within seconds.

  6. The Scanner

    Even with the proliferation of computers, paper documents were still everywhere to be seen. That changed in 1985 with the introduction of the first computer scanner. Although the work of converting a room full of paper documents to electronic documents probably caused migraines for many secretaries, it ultimately allowed firms to go paperless and achieve better organization and control over documents. Scanner technology has improved drastically, and today, anyone can take a 50-page document, attach a barcode to it, and it automatically scans directly into their DMS ready to edit, share, and collaborate.

  7. The Cloud

    When the Internet was invented by Al Gore (or someone else), the way firms managed documents was changed once again. No longer did firms need to buy expensive servers to locally host their data, nor pay a large IT staff to maintain it all. They instead, could outsource their servers, their IT staff, and their legacy software to the cloud.

    With the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, the DMS infrastructure is already built into the cloud, and the software is ready to go on demand accessed through a web browser. And because the documents are not stored locally in the firm’s office, users can have the freedom to create, edit, and share documents on-the-go from anywhere in the world. The SaaS model has also enabled smaller firms, which previously could not afford document management, to enjoy the benefits of a DMS because SaaS allows them to pay only for what they need.

  8. The Smartphone

    As SaaS document management solutions allowed anywhere, anytime access to documents, we are seeing smartphones take that one step further by making "information at your fingertips" a reality. Users can now access their entire document database, as well as search those documents and share them externally with anyone in the world directly from their iPhone, or any other browser-enabled smartphone. As innovation continues at an ever-faster rate, we can only wonder what lays ahead for document management in future years.


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About John Mancini

John Mancini is the President of Content Results, LLC and the Past President of AIIM. He is a well-known author, speaker, and advisor on information management, digital transformation and intelligent automation. John is a frequent keynote speaker and author of more than 30 eBooks on a variety of topics. He can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as jmancini77. Recent keynote topics include: The Stairway to Digital Transformation Navigating Disruptive Waters — 4 Things You Need to Know to Build Your Digital Transformation Strategy Getting Ahead of the Digital Transformation Curve Viewing Information Management Through a New Lens Digital Disruption: 6 Strategies to Avoid Being “Blockbustered” Specialties: Keynote speaker and writer on AI, RPA, intelligent Information Management, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation. Consensus-building with Boards to create strategic focus, action, and accountability. Extensive public speaking and public relations work Conversant and experienced in major technology issues and trends. Expert on inbound and content marketing, particularly in an association environment and on the Hubspot platform. John is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the College of William and Mary, and holds an M.A. in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.