When getting your company's information in order, you may hear two similar terms: "document management" and "records management." While they might seem almost interchangeable at first glance, there are actually some important differences--and to protect your business, data, and customers, you should know exactly what you're dealing with when these terms come up.
Understanding Document Management and Records Management
Although document management and records management have some similarities, they aren't synonymous. Let's take a closer look:
Documents vs. records
Your business creates a lot of information every day. Some of that information falls into the "documents" category and some falls into the "records" category. The difference comes down to content.
Documents are a familiar part of any workflow. They can be spreadsheets, pictures, diagrams, files from your word processing application, and more. Most importantly, they can contain a broad range of different content types, including personal or otherwise sensitive business information.
Records, on the other hand, are a paper trail of business or legal interactions (though they're not always on paper). What counts as a "record" may differ depending on your industry and specific jurisdictions--but in general, content that acts as evidence of transactions.
This means a record can be a document and a document can be a record, but also that documents and records can exist independently of one another. That's why both document management and records management exist.
Document management is a solution that helps you track, manage, store, organize, and access your company's documents. It includes tools and improvements to help you create a shared digital workspace--one where employees can collaborate on a single document no matter when or where they're working. It also helps digitize physical files, eliminate data bottlenecks, streamlines workflows, and more.
Although document management isn't necessarily designed to handle records, it does have key security features to help protect other sensitive data. For example, document management can help you implement version control, access control, user authentication, and more, giving your files an extra level of protection in the digital world.
Records management is like a more focused version of document management. It's a system designed specifically around the laws or regulations that concern records in your industry--so while it has some of the same goals as document management, the specifics tend to differ. For example, a document management system might help you determine which files need to go into long-term storage and which should be kept accessible for daily use, while a records management system is more focused on determining how long a record needs to be kept in long-term storage to comply with specific requirements.
Records management builds policies around creating, managing, and storing records in ways that protect your company legally. Along the way, these systems can also improve procedures and simplify workflows, but most efficiency solutions live in document management territory.
Do You Need Records and Document Management?
It's clear that there's a difference between records and document management--so how do you know if you need both? Here are a few things to consider:
Do you have both records and documents?
Chances are, the answer is yes. Remember, records and documents have different information and different needs; if you have only one system for both content types, you might end up overlooking a specific legal requirement or efficiency solution.
Does your industry have highly specific legal regulations?
All industries have a responsibility to protect certain records; however, some businesses, like healthcare or legal operations, must comply with extra regulations. If there are a lot of rules governing your record-keeping procedures, it's important to have both records management and document management systems.
Do your workflows rely on well-organized content?
If documents and records are a big part of your day, it's likely that just complying with legal regulations won't be enough. You also need ways to make sure you're utilizing all that content effectively and efficiently--and that's where it's helpful to have both records and document management. These systems can complement one another: Records management sets the framework and helps you identify proper policies, while document management helps you find the best ways to act on those regulations without interrupting workflows.
In conclusion, it's often best to have both records and document management systems at your disposal. It's even more important to structure them in just the right way so you benefit from both without mixing up your records and documents.
Looking for a little help with records, documents, and other business necessities? Contact us today to learn more about solutions like document management.