DMS versus ERP: what is the difference?

Geschreven door:

Demi-Jo Smith, August 4, 2022

DMS stands for Document Management System, ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. Two different systems, which are often mixed up. It happens more than once that an ERP is used as a DMS, or, on the contrary, that a DMS is only used as a storage system, rather than to really manage documents. So what is the difference between a DMS and an ERP, and when do you need which system? 

Builder working with a DMS or ERP on the construction site
A DMS on the construction site is indispensable.

What is the difference between ERP and DMS?

An ERP is about making processes more efficient and is mainly about recording things internally. A DMS is about administering and managing documents in collaboration with external parties. ERP is about storing and managing internal documents. A DMS goes much further. The core of a DMS is collaborative document management, version control and document sharing with external parties.

In a DMS, you can drive internal procedures and processes, but the system is also geared towards collaboration with external parties.

When do you use a DMS?

When you want to work document-driven, i.e. where the document and the processes around it are central, you choose a document management system (DMS). For example, in construction projects. Here, you always have to start from the latest version of a document, plan or blueprint, you want to build up a file and share documents with external partners. Via the DMS, you can share documents with the contractor, supplier and contractor, for example. Everyone works in the same system, so you can always be sure you have the latest version of a document. In a DMS, you can also control internal procedures and processes, but the system is also aimed at cooperation with external parties.

Read all about document management here.

And when do you use an ERP?

You choose an ERP when it comes to the process of a document or a workflow. For example, when you need to get a quotation approved within the organisation. With an ERP, you look more at the central business processes within the different departments. 

The advantages of a DMS over an ERP

An ERP offers far fewer options in sharing and collaborating with external parties. If you use an ERP as a DMS, you miss out on a lot of functionalities in terms of collaboration and keeping documentation up to date. A DMS keeps track of the entire process, right up to a final product. An ERP is mainly meant to keep work processes going when there is already a final product. A ‘final product’ can be an entire building, or even part of a building. Even installing a wall socket can be a final product.

And what if you use the systems interchangeably?

We regularly see construction companies using an ERP system as a DMS, but then you miss out on many functionalities that a DMS does have. In fact, both packages really serve a different purpose. Compare it to cars: a race car and an off-road car both have different functions. If you drive on a race track, a race car is more useful. If you are driving in desolate terrain, an off-road car is more to your liking and there is precisely no use for a race car. You can use both as a means of transport to get from A to B, but in which situation you use which car makes a world of difference. 

Benefits of a DMS

A DMS has many advantages when it comes to collaboration. In construction projects, information sometimes gets lost because people communicate among themselves via e-mail and telephone. This way, agreements are made that are not always recorded centrally and cannot always be checked or retrieved. Of course, you cannot prevent people from communicating via e-mail. And you don’t have to, because sometimes it is useful to record things in writing. By recording this correspondence in a DMS, you prevent static and lack of clarity. If you store emails and documents in the DMS at the same time, everyone works centrally in the same system and with the same documents. You are building a file together, instead of a new version of a document only ending up in one mailbox.

Who benefits from a DMS?

A DMS makes sense for any construction project, no matter how small. A DMS automatically records a lot of data during uploading in a log, and that more than pays for itself with your colleague who is also looking for that document. As the creator of the document, you have and keep control over who can see which files. You get notifications and can see who has been working on which information. So you always have an up-to-date overview and always work with the most recent information. Because, we hope that it has never happened to you, but it really does happen sometimes that buildings are accidentally built wrongly, based on old documents.

By adding metadata to the file, other colleagues will also know what the file is about.

File building during the project

So with a DMS, you always have up-to-date insight and overview and you work together on the same file. And not only that, because it is also about the additional information. By adding metadata to the file, other colleagues also know what the file is about. Moreover, you can search for certain files more easily. In the course of the project, you already complete your construction file, so you don’t have to collect it all afterwards. 

What is the profit of having a DMS?

Efficient use of a DMS can yield huge gains per project. A practical example: on a large construction project, two work planners spent a year just informing everyone about what needs to be done. Nowadays, a work planner easily costs a tonne a year, so you are talking about two tonnes evaporating, while a DMS can simply take over these tasks. Moreover, it makes the project transparent and insightful. The moment a colleague leaves, another colleague can immediately take up his tasks, because everything is centrally and clearly documented.


Far from everyone makes the most of the advantages a DMS has over an ERP. A DMS is not a storage system, but a management system. A DMS is often used as the digital version of the old archive, but that is a shame. A DMS is so much more powerful and offers so many more possibilities.