What is Document Lifecycle: The Complete Guide

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Written By Haisam Abdel Malak
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There is a beginning and an end to everything in life. This is known as the lifecycle. Documents are the same way. Each document that we work on must go through a sequence of stages, from creation to archive or destruction. That is referred to as the document lifecycle.

Companies who deal with massive amount of unstructured data should define properly how their employees will handle documents coupled by adopting the best document management system or enterprise content management solution for better organizations and categorization.

Understanding the document life cycle will help businesses prevent document loss, redundancy, premature destruction, and other inefficiencies.

What is document lifecycle?

The document lifecycle is the process that a document goes through from creation to archiving or destruction. This includes steps such as storage, approval, and sharing. Managing the lifecycle is crucial to ensure that documents are accessible, up to date, and versions are handled properly.

Defining a clear document lifecycle management procedure is a part of the overall content management strategy, which specifies how it is obtained, organized, stored, secured, and delivered in the most efficient manner feasible.

Details of the document lifecycle management stages

What are the stages of the document lifecycle?

The steps of document cycle are creation, storage, sharing & delivery, archival, or destruction. Each step or stage has distinct characteristics to ensure that documents correspond to the enterprise’s established standards. In most cases, documents move back and forth between these stages.

These document lifecycle stages are universal to all organizations; however, depending on the needs of the company, they can be modified by introducing additional phases such as document approval, workflow-related procedures, and so on.

The stages of the document lifecycle are:

#1- Document Creation

Document creation is the foundational and paramount phase in the document lifecycle management. During this critical stage, the information and ideas are collected to transform them into tangible written or digital assets.

Regardless of the document type, this step involves brainstorming, outlining, drafting, and refining, with a keen focus on clarity, accuracy, and relevance. This initial phase sets the tone for the entire lifecycle, influencing the document’s success and impact on its intended audience.

As per this study, over seven billion documents are created each year – and 15 trillion copies are made. These necessities creating the perfect DM plan for handling the documentation lifecycle across all departments.

Consequently, the document creation phase demands careful consideration and precision, as it lays the cornerstone upon which all subsequent phases are built.

Generating a document could be done in many ways:

  • Utilizing word processing tools such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs
  • Part of a document digitization project to convert paper documents to digital. Unfortunately, most businesses’ documents are still in paper form and may require digitization using a scanner, OCR software, or other advanced technologies.
  • Automatically gathered from many sources.

#2- Document Storage

The second stage in the document lifecycle is document storage where they should be moved to a secure cloud storage repository, an internal server, or document management or content management system at this step so that they may be accessed as needed.

When it comes to storing documents, we must first apply basic indexing and classification to guarantee that we have an organized digital library.

At this stage, it is also critical that we may apply a variety of strategies and techniques to enable workers to access documents as quickly as feasible. Metadata and document tagging are two of these strategies.

Metadata may be a very beneficial technique since users can search for any of these pieces of data to find a document and give it context.

Document tagging may be as basic as a single label or as a sequence of labels that offer info about the contents and purpose of the document. For example, you may label a document with keywords such as internal memo, budget, communication, and so on.

Revision security, versioning, synchronization, and change management/release all play essential roles in adding security and transparency to the collaborative process at this stage.

#3- Document Sharing & Delivery

At this point, the document is operational and serves its function.

This stage defines how documents are shared, collaborated on, and edited, whether by an individual or a group of people using real-time and non-real-time approaches.

Documents may be shared via the platform for simple collaboration via expiry links or more complex approaches such as commenting, document collaboration tools, or document annotation technology.

These documents may be distributed internally (inside the business) or shared with third-party stakeholders such as subcontractors, clients, and so on.

You may have come across certain documents that require revision by your supervisor or someone with greater knowledge of the kind of document. As a result, many businesses add a new phase in the lifecycle for approvals before making the papers available to other parties.

#4- Document Archival or Destruction

The last stage of the document life cycle management is archiving and destroying. This phase is marked by the careful digital preservation and eventual disposal of documents in a manner that aligns with legal requirements, organizational policies, and data privacy regulations.

Archiving ensures that valuable records are securely stored for historical, regulatory, or reference purposes, allowing organizations to maintain compliance and access critical information when needed.

Document destruction involves the secure and responsible elimination of documents that have exceeded their retention period, minimizing the risk of data breaches and clutter.

Using a system, this procedure may be automated, resulting in reduced mistakes and human interaction.

What is the document lifecycle policy?

A document lifecycle policy is a structured set of guidelines and procedures that an organization establishes to manage its documents and records effectively throughout their entire lifecycle.

It typically includes rules and standards for document creation, naming conventions, classification, access control, version control, retention periods, and secure disposal methods.

The primary objectives of such policy are to ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, maintain data integrity, enhance organizational efficiency, and protect sensitive information.

What are the lifecycle states of a document?

Document Statuses

Depending on your organization’s demands, each document will have a varied status throughout its existence such as in-process, submitted, approved, released, rejected, and expired.

The lifecycle states of a document are:

1- In Process

The “in process” state refers to the stage where a document is actively being worked on or reviewed, but it has not yet reached its final or approved status.

2- Submitted

The submitted state indicates that a document has been completed and forwarded for review, approval, or further action by the relevant stakeholders or authorities.

This state is active or deactivated depending on the type of document.

3- Approved

The approved state signifies that the document has undergone the necessary reviews and has been authorized or endorsed by the appropriate individuals or authorities, making it officially accepted and valid.

Some companies will additionally add a new status to their document, “Approved with comments.”

4- Released

The released state means that the document has passed all required checks and has been made accessible or distributed to its intended audience or users, often signifying its readiness for use or dissemination.

5- Rejected

The rejected state in the document lifecycle signifies that the document has been reviewed but did not meet the necessary criteria or standards, resulting in its disapproval or denial for further processing or use.

6- Expired

The “expired” state indicates that the document has reached the end of its validity period or relevance, and it is no longer considered current or applicable for use.

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