To view Table 1 (PDF) of SharePoint Document Management solutions associated with this Buyer's Guide, click here.

Back when SharePoint 2010 was just a smile on a Microsoft SharePoint product manager’s face, we ran a buyer’s guide on SharePoint document management (see “Buyer’s Guide: SharePoint Document Management Tools” by Jeff James).

Since then, SharePoint 2010 was released, with improved document management features such as the document set, which helps users to group related documents and workflows, and metadata management that helps to bring order to the chaos of document proliferation.

So you might be wondering, “Why do I need a third-party document management solution if I have SharePoint 2010?” Well, because SharePoint 2010 isn’t designed to support all document management scenarios.

However, with the help of third-party SharePoint document management solutions, you can make SharePoint work best to suit your organization’s needs.  (See Table 1 for the vendors we consulted.)

The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) defines document management as “the use of a computer system and software to store, manage, and track electronic documents and electronic images of paper-based information.”

As you research document management solutions, you’ll see terms such as “records management” and “Enterprise Content Management (ECM),” too. We’re focusing more narrowly on document management and keeping the industry focus broad, as opposed to narrowing it to verticals such as the pharmaceutical industry or legal services. 

Logically, when you’re looking at what you want a document management system to do, you want it to help make your users jobs easier as far as working with documents and storing them, and you want it to make your job easier with the ability to secure and audit document access for compliance. Some kind of version control, document locking, or document check-in/check-out is useful so users don’t save over each others’ work accidentally and so changes are noted. Additionally, being able to annotate documents and stamp them is useful for archiving and e-discovery. And being able to roll back to a previous document version is also helpful.

You might want a solution that lets you specify a storage location based on project, time period, or user access. And security is important, at least to limit document viewing via access control. Some solutions also offer support for compliance within specific industry and government regulations.

If you have a lot of paper documents to scan in, or other information to capture, you might want to look at solutions that offer capture and scanning of documents, especially those that let you control the scanning process from beginning to end and offer the ability to check image quality. It’s also helpful if fields in the scanning solution can map to SharePoint columns and to libraries for honing in on document locations.

Being able to find documents is absolutely important. The ability to search indexed content is crucial, whether your documents are indexed through simple unique document identifiers or more precisely located via document metadata. And depending on how your organization processes its documents, you might want a system with workflows built in, so managing documents is integrated logically into a user’s job duties.

Table 1 (PDF) shows some SharePoint document management solutions we’re aware of, though there are many others that are also industry specific. And of course, there are some mighty big vendors just dying to whisk you away from SharePoint and into their document ecosystem.

Our list of vendors who, for the most part, are looking to make SharePoint work better as a document management system is not comprehensive, but we hope it provides a good starting point for your research.