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Why Integrate your Document Management System With Azure and Umbraco?

Why Integrate your Document Management System With Azure and Umbraco?

Jessica Redman

03 Nov 2021 • 4 min read

Find out how we joined Umbraco and the DotApprove Document Management System to improve compliance for Canada Life!

Innerworks is coming soon...

This blog was originally published on our previous Cogworks blog page. The Cogworks Blog is in the process of evolving into Innerworks, our new community-driven tech blog. With Innerworks, we aim to provide a space for collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and connection within the wider tech community. Watch this space for Innerworks updates, but don't worry - you'll still be able to access content from the original Cogworks Blog if you want. 

What is a Document Management System?

A Document Management System (DMS) is a third-party application used to receive, track, manage, and store documents; it helps 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.  

A CMS might handle the whole show in small online organisations with strict compliance rules on data. CMSs can help simplify the approval process and store data too (some 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 complex, 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 their organisation's nature, documents must 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 inability to extend, 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 solved 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 front end, the middleware layer also connects 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 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 independent of Umbraco and DotApprove. The middleware sits in the Umbraco backoffice as if it’s always been there, and content and documents can be managed from one unified, friendly backoffice.

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.


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

You can read more about how we have created a seamless and safe experience for content editors across the Canada Life ecosystem very soon. Feel free to send us a message on the form below if you think this might be useful for your business. 

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