What’s the Difference Between DMS and CMS?

Whats the Difference Between DMS and CMSWhen looking to facilitate business processes, companies often lean toward the automation of business information management. However, there are so many management solutions available, and the boundaries between them aren’t defined very well. Because of this, finding the one that best fits your business needs is a difficult process. Two such tools that are often confused for one another are Document Management Systems (DMS) and Content Management Systems (CMS). The two systems offer similar features, but they also have some key differences.

Generally, a DMS works to help companies create, track, and store digitized documents. These systems retain, classify, and protect electronic data. In addition to this, a DMS supports collaboration, versioning, and workflows. However, a CMS creates and manages different kinds of digital content, besides more traditional documents. Rather than solely managing PDFs, Excel files, or Word files, a CMS can manage web pages, images, flash files, and records. Let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences between DMS and CMS.

Document management systems and content management systems are similar in that they assist in document management, offer centralized storage for data, and ensure simplified information retrieval. In addition to this, both systems facilitate information creation, retention, and distribution. DMS and CMS also offer increased information security, support content-driven collaboration, and provide automated workflows.

While the two systems have the above similarities, they also have critical differences. The main purposes of a DMS are workflow management and regulatory compliance. The main purposes of a CMS, however, are the storage, retrieval, and publishing of content. Additionally, a DMS manages structured data and has a focus on traditional documents in formats such as Word or PowerPoint. However, a CMS has the ability to manage structured and unstructured data, such as digital assets and web content. DMS applications also have advanced imaging and scanning abilities. For example, DMS apps offer features that include optical character recognition, optical mark recognition, and handprint character recognition, whereas CMS tools tend not to support such functions. Integration with enterprise systems is also critical for a DMS, but secondary for a CMS.


A CMS plays a more comprehensive role than a DMS, but a CMS usually offers some of the same capabilities that a DMS does. This is because documents account for a large amount of the digital content that a CMS manages. The functionality of DMS and CMS looks similar at the small-business level due to the fact that small businesses usually don’t have complex content and document management needs. However, at the enterprise level, organizations tend to use document and content management functionality to its fullest potential, as they have to manage a larger amount of structured and unstructured data. When looking for the right management solution for your business, consider these differences!