Why Document Management is Not Records Management

By NE Docs | July 22, 2015

Why Document Management is not Records Management

Regulation compliance and manageable electronic files are a growing concern for many organizations. For those that have yet to address these obstacles, it may be time to look into records management. You are, most likely, already managing your documents in some manner…but do these efforts support record management?

At first glance, document management and records management might seem like synonyms. However, contrary to popular belief, there are some stark differences between the two.

Document Management VS Records Management


Definition: Documents are defined as any structured or unstructed data accessed by employees in a company.

Management: Documents are generally managed in an Enterprise Content or Document Management system, designed to improve the access and management of documents.
Storage: Documents, as mentioned above, are usually managed in an Enterprise Content Management system. Doing so helps improve how employees access, alter, track, share, and manage files.

Automation: The primary benefit of document management systems is automation. Automation allows organizations to control a documents life cycle, security access, and features such as version control. It ensures that the proper actions are taken by the appropriate parties when required.

Security: Security features come part and parcel with document and records management. The main difference is that for documents, security is preferred. With records, document security is mandatory. Document systems have security measures surrounding accessibility, audit trails, versioning, etc.

Destruction: The issue of document retention will arise once a document is no longer required in a business process. This often results in destruction or reclassification as a record.


Definition: Records are designed to track the activities in regards to a company’s functions and policies. Records are often paired with strict compliance regulations regarding their access, storage, and destruction.

Management: Records management, on the other hand, is concerned with storing, maintaining, and managing data used to record events related to regulatory, operational, or fiscal activities. Records management is primarily focuses on the issue of document retention.

Storage: Records management requires that files are retained in their original format for legal and compliance reasons. Records management best practices call for files to be organized and indexed by external rules. Because of this, many companies choose to store their records offsite at a managed facility.

Automation: While records management does provide automation, it is to ensure that documents are being managed appropriately. This includes the preservation of content, context, and structure for long periods of time.

Security: Security standards for records management are dictated by the US Department of Defense. Systems compliant with the DoD 5-15.2 have set the standard for record management for files destined for the National Archives and Records Administration.

Destruction: Record destruction is most often regulated by law, laced with strict rules so that the information contained within is not disclosed to others.

While document management and records management are two sides of the same coin, there are plenty of differences between the two! Want to get your document and records management in order?
Contact us today to learn more!

2 thoughts on “Why Document Management is Not Records Management

  1. John Barton

    Since you have posted this well presented case on a ‘Document Control’ forum you should know that the greatest difference is actually between ‘Document Control’ versus Document Management and Records Management. I have been interviewed by Gartner on two different occasions and neither representitive knew there was a unique discipline referred to as Document Control. I had to expalin to them what it is. This goes some way to explain why so many companies waste millions on inappropriate software and never see any return on invetsment.

    Document Control is the function applied through the lifecycle of engineering and construction projects in all sectors, that is concerned much more with what happens to the documents and drawings than with the actual file content itself.

    To simplify the story let’s say that the primary focus is the technical, ‘deliverable’ documents and drawings that may be produced by design houses, contractors and vendors and that will go through multiple revisions (**not versions), reviews and approvals, 3rd party transactions with contractual turnaround times, interface controls and will also be linked in various ways to other documents, planning workpackages, asset hierachies and multiple reporting formats used to monitor progress, expedite and manage the supply chain for schedule, quality and compliance and for classification and processing through project phases such as Design, Construction, Commissioning, Handover and Close-out which require different approaches to processing and classification. For example Discipline grouping through design/construction versus System/Sub-System for Commissioning.

    **Revisions are coding systems that are set for controlling a release for use to the project and there can be mutiple ‘versions’ within a revision but there will be a non-editable, immutable ‘revision’ that is the offical project release.

    There are proven best practice principles of numbering, coding, planning and managing distribution and tracking against schedule etc. etc, that require a software system designed specifically to support the myriad variables of these processes. It is a hugely wasteful folly to believe that this can be customised into a generic content management or ‘collaboration’ solution. Many companies have realised this many years ago, often the hard way. It is also a common arrogance amongst IM/IS/IT ‘professionals’ who claim that you can make any system do anything when they have no actual knowledge whatesoever of the business requirement that needs to be properly supported. Another problem is that requirements are often set by the stakeholders of these solutions such as the engineers as opposed to the users who know the real requirements and challenges involved in doing the work. Which is like watering the leaves of a plant but not the roots. The plant will die.

    On large scale projects and programmes there can be tens of thousands of drawings and documents being transacted weekly that must be registered, processed and tracked which involves capturing a lot of critical metadata and doing so accurately. To achieve this, the system architecture needs to be designed around a set of fundamental conditions that are comprehensively configurable and can be automated as much as possible.

    It should also be noted that many ‘Document Controlllers’ fail to learn these key principles because the systems they have to work with could not support them anyway.

    It is my strong assertion that if you thoroughly define the technical, functional and security requirements of a software system based on the essential business processes and principles that must be applied in order to realise a profit from the function, then you will see that there are very few off-the-shelf solutions even available, possibly only 3 in the world and that it is impossible, dangerous and commercially untenable to try to customise generic ‘Document Management’, ‘Content Management’ EDRMS tools to perform this work.

    Of course, the ‘A’ list consultancies have preyed on this ignorance for two decades now by recommending these ‘household name’, Gartner endorsed behemoths and minting huge revenue from endless business analysis and ongoing customisations of systems that will never be fit for purpose.

    The best Document Control software in the world by a very wide margin is AssaiDCMS. Three is nothing else that comes close to it’s wealth of user configurable functionality and some of the world’s biggest Oil&Gas companies acknowledge an ROI of up to 5% on project cost. Many of these companies also already owned big EDRMS solutions before realising that they still needed a properly designed Document Control system for projects and operations and they determined that this could not be customised into those generic content orientated solutions.

    This is a word of caution to the wider audience as well as a pitch. Here is one thing that you can learn from history if you so choose. Don’t just take my word for it.

  2. Nana Mireku

    Very insightful and helpful educative information. This understanding will benefit information professionals to be effective and efficient with their information management.


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