Integrating Document Management Systems With Azure and Umbraco

Agency: Cogworks

Cogworks shares how it integrated Umbraco seamlessly with Document Management System DotApprove to improve compliance for Financial Services organisation, Canada Life.

What is a Document Management System?

A Document Management System (DMS) is a third-party application used to receive, track, manage, and store documents; they help to support regulatory responsibilities for a wide range of industries (not just limited to internet-based organisations).

Companies adopt Document Management Systems to help to simplify the approval process when documents are version controlled or require checking against regulatory requirements.

In small online organisations with strict compliance rules on data, a CMS might handle the whole show. CMSs can help to simplify the approval process and store data too (some a lot more than others depending on how well it’s been implemented), but CMSs often hold just digital assets, like PDFs or HTML files… not especially useful for Microsoft Office users.

The truth is, document management is hard, especially in larger organisations with lots of people. So businesses with lots of data opt for a combination of a DMS and a CMS.

When a DMS meets a CMS

A DMS can house a broad range of “traditional” file types, like Microsoft Office files and PDFs to display job contracts, job descriptions, and invoices to the right people. Plus, they can be intelligent, often with advanced image-scanning capabilities.

But today, with so much focus on personalisation, content editor experience, compliance, security, and speed, just integrating your CMS with a DMS is not enough; both solutions need to work together seamlessly and have the ability to adapt as technology does.

Integrating Document Management Systems with Umbraco

Canada Life’s CMS is Umbraco, and their DMS is DotApprove (you might have heard of other popular DMSs like, Microsoft SharePoint, M-Files, and Rubex).

The challenge

Due to the nature of their organisation, documents need to go through a complex approval process before being presented on the website. The configuration of DotApprove itself was proving to be a challenge in the content publishing workflow. The legacy version of DotApprove that Canada Life was using, combined with the lack of ability to be extended, meant that documents could not be indexed and tagged as required on the website.

Introducing middleware

Thanks to the flexibility of Umbraco and its ability to work seamlessly as part of a distributed architecture, we were able to solve the challenges faced in the content publishing workflow.

Slotting perfectly between their CMS (Umbraco) and their DMS (DotApprove), Cogworks developed and designed a middleware application, leveraging the power of Azure Cognitive Search.

By combining DotApprove with a middleware layer that features Azure, DotApprove can quickly gather approved documents and push them to a combined Azure Blob Storage area and Azure Cognitive search index, resulting in a fast, sophisticated real-time search function for Canada Life users of the document library.

To create a more personalised and friendly view on the frontend, the middleware layer also works to connect DotApprove with Umbraco, allowing content editors to extend the tagging functionality for all documents through a custom Umbraco property editor. This part of the integration helps content editors to easily find relevant documents, and tag and categorise them using the website tagging taxonomy available in Umbraco.

By creating this middleware layer, we created a future-proof solution that is independent from Umbraco and DotApprove. The middleware sits in the Umbraco back office as if it’s always been there, and content and documents can be managed from one, unified, friendly back office.

Using automated synchronisation techniques, Cogworks developers also ensured that all documents are added, updated, and removed daily so that content editors and users to the site always have access to the most relevant stream of content.

Results

Canada Life has peace of mind that the documents available on their website are up-to-date and fully compliant. And should they ever decide to replace their CMS or DMS technology in the future, the secure middleware data layer will have the ability to seamlessly integrate with any new system that they choose.