Enterprise Document Management System (EDMS) and its component technologies are have been around for quite some time. The major components have been commercially installed for nearly thirty years. Beginning in the 1970’s, industry innovators like Black and Veach, began to look at the potential to centrally store Computer Assisted Drafting & Design (CADD) drawings in an electronic format. The intent was to share the CADD produced documentation between engineers, designers and draftspersons as a means of increasing productivity. This activity was the basis for development of document management technology.

At the same time, imaging was developed as a means to store existing or externally produced drawings. These documents were historical originals created using linen or vellum or were copies created and stored using Mylar, vellum, or blueprint paper. The first commercially produced large-format scanners were introduced as the result of this activity. Storage space requirements for these early imaging systems were significant as few compression algorithms had been developed. In addition, systems were unique with proprietary formats and virtually no migration path to new technology.

Also in use at the time was a third technology, Document Control. Document Control was initially developed to manage paper records, microfilmed documents and other “hard copy” materials like x-rays and NDE (Non-Destructive Examination) materials for mega construction projects such as nuclear power stations.

Initial development of document management and imaging form management of electronic documents was done as separate, parallel activities. The result was two separate lines of products. Early image-based products like FileNet’s Image Services, required that all documents be in image format for storage. Organizations with high volumes of paper documents adopted imaging platforms as their standard. Early document management systems were focused on a single format or a very limited format set. It was not until the large scale adoption of the personal computer and deployment of desktop applications that early leaders in document management, like Saros, released commercial document management applications.

The activities became known by the acronym EDMS. Originally defined as an Engineering Document Management System it was more descriptive of a management program than a technology. Deployment of these early systems was very expensive and limited to government and large-scale engineering firms. As prices for computers, networks and storage decreased, the technology was introduced into other areas.

Today the line between the three technologies is blurred. Commercially, most document management systems today use functionality from imaging, document management and document control as part of their solution. The result is a powerful solution that can manage a wide variety of information in image or native format as well as associated paper or other hardcopy records and information.

With its broad abilities to manage information, some have referred to EDMS as Everybody’s Document Management System. Solutions include enterprise class applications capable of supporting hundreds of thousands of users and a billion documents. Many EDMS providers focus on specialized solutions for a specific industry. Others have released personal EDMS solutions designed to be used by a single user.