document management

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When it comes to all things data, there are two main avenues for dealing with it. One is document management, and the other is records management. Many will be thinking that they’re essentially the same thing with possibly minor differences. However, as more organisations play increasingly larger roles in managing data, the differences in document management and records management may be more fundamental than you may first think.

  1. Dead vs. alive

Records can be almost anything – a ‘record’ doesn’t necessarily have to be a document. It can be anything such as:

  • Medical forms                                          • Security codes                                         • Training videos
  • Maps                                                          • Plans                                                         • Legal paperwork
  • Deeds, blueprints                                    • Inventories                                              • Surveys
  • Accounting/financial papers                • Appointments                                         • A contract
  • Meeting minutes                                     • Media releases                                        • Promotional material

… plus many others. The main thing these have in common is that they’re ‘dead’ documents. This means that they’re final versions of what they are. A document on the other hand is ‘alive’ – this means that there may be drafts and various versions of a document. Records will need to have retention policies on them to define when and how they need to be destroyed – whereas documents may be viewed by more people and published/distributed. Documents also have a lifespan, and when they’re destroyed or archived they can then be thought of as a record.

Another way of putting it is that many records will be read-only documents, whereas documents can be played around with and edited to meet certain requirements.

  1. Content vs. context

Because of the static nature of records, they’re known to be driven by what they’re defined as. With records, it’s more about the type of document rather than what it contains. Due to this, the retention policies around records are hugely important. Each type of record will have a different set of rules defining its journey in your systems.

In contrast, documents are more known to be content driven. This means it’s more important what the document contains. There will be approval processes and drafting processes as well as policies on publishing and further editing. When documents are created, the users of the documents are considered.

  1. What’s the aim of a document/record?

Documents and records have very different aims. For example, documents tend to have the intention of being competent and well-organised. Good workflow practices with document management include being able to move documents quicker, approve them more seamlessly and automating laborious, repetitive tasks.

In comparison, records don’t have as much of a rule of efficiency as documents. Records are more stringent and therefore have the intention of being compliant with policies and regulations. When governing bodies and the like need to do an audit, records must meet suitable guidelines. If these guidelines are not met then you can incur penalties – and there will be different retention policies for diverse types of records. (We have a great eBook on how to use SharePoint to help you with your records management headaches here!)

Do they have anything in common?

Yes, they do. Records managers and document managers may frequently have the same headaches when it comes to the management of information. Problems such as security issues can be a big problem for both parties. Documents and records both need permission standards – and bad security practices can cause a lot of risk to your systems. Other headaches include lost information, compliance with policies, and out of date systems. (You can read our article here on other headaches and how to solve them!)

Both records and documents managers also share the aim of improving workflow within the business. Because of this – they both have one huge thing in common. Records managers and document managers can use SharePoint to enhance their processes and systems. SharePoint is a very flexible platform that can enable document and records managers to securely move, tag and secure their information. It can do an awful lot (and you may already have access to it! Just another reason you should check out our eBook here).

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