By replacing paper-based files with digital documents, organizations enjoy a more effective and efficient medium of performing office tasks. Among many other benefits.

However, to properly utilize paperless operations in your work, you should first have a better understanding of your document management and organizational processes.

Mainly, the document management lifecycle system and how it fits within your paperless operational model.

Wondering how exactly documents go through a cycle in work operations and the different stages? 

What happens if there’s no proper cycle solution? 

What are some of the essential elements of a full document cycle?

Below, we’ll cover how a document management lifecycle system works and everything else you need to know about the process in order to optimize your operations.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What Is A Document Management Lifecycle System?
  • The 6 Main Stages Of Document Management Lifecycle
  • What Makes A Good Document Management Cycle? 5 Best Document Management Practices to Keep In Mind

What Is A Document Management Lifecycle System?

The document management lifecycle system (DMLS) refers to the various stages a document passes through from its creation to its archiving or destruction

The actual number of steps would depend on the requirements, industry, or organization, which we’ll cover below.

A proper DMLS helps an organization in its general management system and assists in maintaining regulatory compliance by deleting certain documents when fully automated. 

The document lifecycle management begins with the creation of a document by entering it into the DMS or ECM system and then archiving it for future use. Digital DMS or ECM stores the documents in a searchable database that locates files in a short time.

Here’s why this matters.

Why is a document lifecycle important?

You can employ DMLS to ensure easy retrieval of your organization’s paper and electronic files when needed, either in cases of a subpoena or audit compliance

You would need to consider important aspects like the timeframe or document storage, methods of recovery, and so on.

It is important for an organization to understand the procedures and stages in order to align them with its proposed document management system.

This plays an integral role in enterprise content management (ECM), which is a set of processes that help an organization obtain, organize, store and deliver information crucial to its operation effectively.

To take a more practical approach though, here’s how this actually helps.

How does document lifecycle help a paperless organization?

The document management lifecycle system protects organizations from unforeseen circumstances that may require them to pay fines, penalties, or face other lawsuits

Since documents are stored in a centralized DMS, they could be easily tracked and used as evidence during the accreditation process. 

Being able to track changes and updates to files through the lifecycle to show that the organization has kept up with the latest regulations and accreditation standards required. 

This could then serve as a form of legal defense, based on the industry compliance.

See our full guide to legal, software, and security challenges for more info on this.

The 6 Main Stages Of Document Management Lifecycle

The phases of an organization’s document lifecycle could differ depending on a few factors. Such as the kind of DMS the organization is using, if they are using the analog DMS, digital DMS, their industry, and so on.

So, while the steps might vary, the 6 general phases of the document management lifecycle include:

  1. Creating the document
  2. Editing and indexing for search
  3. Sharing or delivering the document
  4. Active use of the document
  5. Archiving
  6. Deletion or destruction

Now, let’s take a look at each step in detail.

Step 1: Creation of the document

When it comes to creation, documents are usually created from scratch by the staff of the company or they could be received via different sources like email, fax, and so on.

It is important for the company to utilize the right software for automated text recognition (Optical Character Recognition), data capture, and electronic processing of documents. 

For most industries, the go-to software for document generation includes Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, depending on the file format or requirements. 

Step 2: Editing and indexing for search

The second phase of the document lifecycle system has to do with editing and further classification. This is so that the data within the document can be used for several functions and ensures that when the data is to be disseminated, it’ll be easy to locate. 

Members of staff will then be able to make use of the document simultaneously. This is also known as document collaboration and can be done in tools like Google Drive, DropBox, and so on.

Further steps here include document revision, security, version control, synchronization, and change management.

All this is to ensure the security and transparency of documents in the collaboration. 

Data within the document lifecycle could also be linked for easy storage in useful directories.

Step 3: Sharing or delivering the document

After the editing and indexing, the document is then shared or delivered to the right user. Whether it’s the internal staff, specific department, or external users like customers, clients, or investors. This step would ensure that the parties involved can make use of the document and send feedback if needed.

For instance, customers could fill out forms online and send them back to the organizations as needed. 

Step 4: Active use of the document

Then, it’s important to define the access to the data on the centralized system in order to restrict viewing and manipulation by unwanted bodies. This step helps the company to decide on what stage of management can make alterations to the documents in the system. 

Access could be restricted to include the read-only feature, or it could be withdrawn from certain parties altogether. The lifecycle of the document makes room for the document to be downgraded to phase three after editing. The active use of the document begins when the data has been completely edited to prevent all forms of manipulation.

Depending on who is accessing or using the document, the permission features might vary. Some of the most popular user roles in software security management include:

  • Primary owner.
  • Admin.
  • Editor.
  • Contributor.
  • Viewer.

To learn about the scope of those roles and what are some of their permissions and features, see our full guide on user role setup and management.

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Step 5: Archiving

After the relevant parties use the document accordingly, it could be then archived in the system. There, it can be pulled back for research purposes or in the case of a compliance audit.

This makes sure that the documents are stored in compliance with the applicable guidelines and are protected from manipulation and fraud. Files stored in digital form could be prone to alterations, which is why they need to be properly secured against that. 

Step 6: Legally compliant document deletion or destruction

Documents that are legally required to be deleted after use should be deleted when it is no longer of use. This step is however optional depending on the company’s document management system in place and their requirements or industry compliance.

So, while the document management lifecycle system might vary, some steps (such as the creation and archiving) stay the same.

Now, to make sure you’re following the document management cycle in the most productive way possible, here are some of the best practices you should follow.

What Makes A Good Document Management Cycle? 5 Best Document Management Practices to Keep In Mind 

It is one thing for you to take the steps in creating a document management cycle, it's another thing for it to meet a quality standard. 

To improve your document management lifecycle quality, some of the best practices you should follow include:

  1. Using the right conversion or documentation software.
  2. Tagging files and documents properly across a consistent naming structure.
  3. Using secure storage systems.
  4. Encrypting and using permission based access.
  5. Document automation.
phases of document management

Now, let’s cover each practice in detail.

Using the right conversion software

Your organization could make use of Optical character recognition software (OCR) to sort your files regardless of whether they are text-based or image-based. The documents in your system could then be analyzed and converted to text in order to save time.

This is also why PDF is considered the best file format for digital document management.

Tagging files

While organizing your files can be good for your pending management system, it is not enough. Creating an accurate tag could help you know exactly what each file contains. 

It will also be much easier to find, organize, and edit your PDF documents accordingly.

Secure storage systems

It is important to protect your files from theft and any form of manipulation by storing it in an encrypted and secure system

Given the fact hackers could break into a system, it is recommended the organization’s documents be stored both in physical and remote locations.

Encryption and permission-based access

Restricting access to certain documents can help in protecting confidential files from unwanted eyes. It is important to include a form of hierarchical permission for each of the files within the system to control the circulation of data.

This way, only certain users will be able to access or edit specific documents for extra safety.

Document automation

Document automation is considered a practice to pull data from various sources and insert it into the pre-established document templates. For this, you could make use of document automation software to aid the processing of your digital documents.

This way, whether you need 10 confidential reports or 100,000 patient statements, you can automatically generate those documents with a simple API request, based on customer info.

For more information on how document automation works, see our full guide on automated PDF document generation.


All in all, it’s important to know the process and stages of your document creation and management. As your DMLS depends on this.

Then, once you’ve defined your document management stages (they could be similar to what we listed above or different), you need to consider how to optimize your system.

To do that, look into how your document management cycle can be more efficient. Chances are, it has to do with automation, proper workflow, internal standard operating procedures (SOPs), and more.

Typically, this comes down to having the right document management solution that can do all of the above.

For that, Inkit PDF Render is ideal as it can:

  • Integrate seamlessly into your existing systems and workflow.
  • Scale with your organization's needs, whether it's a single process or millions of documents.
  • Comply with your industry's security standards when it comes to document management and creation. Whether it's ISO standards or HIPAA, GDPR, and beyond. Inkit Render can be completely customized to meet the regulatory requirements of any organization.
  • Generate different industry documents automatically and securely store confidential files as needed.
  • And more.

Wondering how Inkit can help you when it comes to document management and generation?

See how you can add Inkit Render into your existing system and what industries it can help with the most!

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