DMS vs. ECM: Understand the Differences & Similarities

While DMS supports only structured documents such as Word and PDF files, ECM is capable of handling unstructured information such as email, web content, graphics, etc.

DMS vs ECM- Understand the Differences & Similarities
Published By - Kelsey Taylor

The information technology industry today is full of acronyms/abbreviations. We hear the acronyms like CMS, DMS, ECM, etc. when it comes to data management all the time. But do we really understand the differences between these systems?

Before finalizing on a system to manage your content, it is crucial to understand the various systems and their scopes. We had seen the comparison between CMS (content management systems) and ECM (enterprise content management) previously. However, there is another player on the block i.e., DMS (Document Management System). So let’s take a quick look at what DMS is and what are the points of similarities and differences between ECM and DMS.

What is DMS?

Document Management implies how your organization stores data i.e., how it stores, tracks, and manages its electronic documents. DMS i.e., Document Management System, is a software designed for efficient storage, modification, and retrieval of documents and images.

Document management software works with word files, spreadsheets, images, and PDF files, mainly. Some of the key features that document management software offers are as follows:

  • Version Control: It offers version tracking to manage the different versions of the file.
  • Rollback: This is provided to retrieve any previous version of the file/document in case of incorrect updating or publishing.
  • Check-in/Check-out and Locking: This feature ensures document integrity in case multiple users try to access the same document at the same time. It also maintains the data about which user has modified the file.

What is ECM?

ECM stands for Enterprise Content Management. An ECM system has the capability to manage all of the enterprise’s content, which includes internal as well as web content. It is a set of tools and processes to store, manage, arrange, and search for content.

ECM vs. DMS: Points of Difference

The terms ECM and CMS are not interchangeable. There are numerous differences between the systems owing to their scalability and organizing capability. This makes them employable in different scenarios and places.


The first and foremost difference is that DMS is a software, while ECM is a set of tools and processes. ECM is a broader version of DMS. ECM offers most of the capabilities of DMS, along with many more.


The basic functionality of DMS is to store, manage, and track electronic documents in an organization; whereas ECM is used to store and process content documentation and workflow inside an organization.

DMS is a software to organize files within an organization. ECM can be said to be a high capacity DMS with added functionality.

Support for the Organization:

While DMS works well for small companies, ECM will prove to be more beneficial to bigger companies with a higher volume of data. DMS is a comparatively simpler system requiring lesser expertise and maintenance.

ECM, on the other hand, is more expensive, and the employees need to be trained before using it.

Types of Content Supported:

DMS mainly supports structured data such as word and PDF files. ECM provides support for structured as well as unstructured information, including images, graphic content, video, email, website content, etc.

DMS is mainly used to go digital and grow out of paper-based systems, whereas ECM takes this one step ahead with managing and processing the data offline as well as on the web.

Similarities between ECM and DMS

Even though, there are a few differences between the two technologies, there are some notable similarities as well. The following are the points of similarities between the two systems:

  • Both systems employ SaaS technology.
  • Used to manage digital documents and content.
  • Help in arranging unorganized data.
  • Support version control and manage review trails.
  • Provide data recovery feature.


Both the systems, ECM and DMS, are enterprise-level solutions that help increase efficiency, reduce processing time, minimize operational costs, and streamline internal processes. From the above comparison, we can say that DMS is a subset of ECM. Choosing the right solution for your organization depends on your requirements.

You May Also Like to Read:
Everything You Need to Know About Corporate Data Center
Enterprise Content Management (ECM): Manage Your Organization’s Data Better

Kelsey manages Marketing and Operations at HiTechNectar since 2010. She holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and Management. A tech fanatic and an author at HiTechNectar, Kelsey covers a wide array of topics including the latest IT trends, events and more. Cloud computing, marketing, data analytics and IoT are some of the subjects that she likes to write about.

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