How does a document management system differ from a Document-Driven DSS?

Vannevar Bush's 1945 vision of a memex that stores everything one has seen and read for fast retrieval is the goal for document management systems. Such systems may be personal, group or organization-wide document and knowledge bases. In my framework paper (Power, 2001), Document-driven DSS are defined as integrating "a variety of storage and processing technologies to provide complete document retrieval and analysis." A number of terms and acronyms are used in this area. Text management, document management (DMS) and electronic document management system (EDMS) are virtually synonymous terms. Text-oriented DSS and Document-driven DSS are also interchangeable terms.

Swanson and Culnan (1978) in a classic paper argued "An information system may be said to be a document-based system when it is based primarily upon a store or collection of documents, rather than a store or collection of structured data" (p. 32).

Two pioneers in the DSS field, Clyde Holsapple and Andrew Whinston (1996), noted the importance of text management and text-oriented DSS. They wrote "In the 1970s and especially in the 1980s, text management emerged as an important, widely used computerized means for representing and processing pieces of text. (p. 179)"

Holsapple and Whinston (1996) provide the following example to illustrate how text-oriented or Document-driven DSS can help decision makers. "Imagine that you are a product manager, concerned with ensuring the success of a technically complex product. A number of the many decisions you face involve deciding about what features the product should have. Such decisions depend on many pieces of knowledge. ... During the course of each week, you get an assortment of product ideas that deserve to be checked out when you get the time -- if only you could remember all of them. With a text-oriented DSS, you keep electronic notes about the ideas as they arise, which consists of typing in the text ... (p. 180-181)"

With a document-driven DSS, managers may want to read and review the "official" minutes of a meeting or may want to examine the version history of the company's policy on email privacy ... a manager may also want to examine all documents stored about email privacy in the document management system ... or she may want to know who authored documents on email privacy in the system. Another manager may want to determine how often the policy on email privacy has been accessed. Also, another manager may want to examine what policies are rarely accessed and which ones are frequently accessed. A document-driven DSS should support all of these queries.

According to James Boyle in a BYTE article "A Blueprint for Managing Documents" (1997), "The document repository, the soul of an EDMS, stores, controls, and manages documents. Key repository functions include library services (e.g., controlling access to individual documents, document cataloging, check-in/check-out, and searching for and retrieving documents). Another key function is version control, including a history of all instances of a document as it changes over time."

Multiple versions of a document often exist and in many situations one needs to track versions of a document created by different authors in different locations. A document management system should require and then attach metadata to assist users in document identification, retrieval, and analysis.

Two major vendors of document management systems are Documentum ( and Verity ( A visit to their web sites will help clarify the purpose, capabilities and limitations of current DMS.

In general, document management systems are document transaction processing systems. A DMS provides a standardized, uniform and systematic storage of documents and data about the documents, it allows people to share documents and collaborate in editing a specific document. A DMS usually provides keyword tagging, search capabilities and document version control. Also, a DMS may provide both e-mail and Web access to documents (cf., Sullivan, 2001).

A document management system processes, retrieves and stores the documents that are then analyzed, categorized and selectively displayed by a document-driven DSS to support decision making.

Please note: Two related questions are answered in the Ask Dan! columns of May 20, 2001 and July 01, 2001.


Boyle, J., "A Blueprint for Managing Documents," BYTE, May 1997,

Bush, V. "As We May Think", The Atlantic Monthly, July 1945, Vol. 176, No. 1; pp. 101-108,

Fedorowicz, J. "A Technology Infrastructure for Document-Based Decision Support Systems", in Sprague, R. and H. J. Watson, Decision Support Systems: Putting Theory into Practice (Third Edition), Prentice-Hall, 1993, pp. 125-136.

Holsapple, C.W. and A. B. Whinston. Decision Support Systems: A Knowledge-based Approach, Minneapolis, MN: West Publishing Co., 1996.

Power, D. J. "What are the similarities and differences between Data-Driven and Document-Driven DSS?", DSS News, Vol. 2, No. 11, 05/20/2001.

Power, D. J. "What is the difference between knowledge management and decision support?", DSS News, Vol. 2, No. 14, 07/01/2001.

Power, D. J., "Supporting Decision-Makers: An Expanded Framework", Informing Science eBook, June 2001.

Sullivan, Dan. Document Warehousing and Text Mining. New York: Wiley Computer Publishing, 2001.

Swanson, E. B., and M. J. Culnan, "Document-Based Systems for Management Planning and Control: A Classification, Survey, and Assessment," MIS Quarterly, December 1978.

The above response is from Power, D., How does a document management system differ from a document-driven DSS? DSS News, Vol. 3, No. 15, July 21, 2002.

Last update: 2005-08-06 21:55
Author: Daniel Power

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