Document Management vs Records Management

Throughout my experience, I find it rare to see people realizing the difference between document management and records management. In this article, we will cover what is document and records management and the difference between these two techniques.

Documents and records management are two different techniques used in organizations separately or together to achieve a certain business target.

The goal of records management is to help organizations comply to different regulatory requirements such as GDPR and HIPAA, reduce legal risks, and improve governance. Using a records management system to automate retention policies will surely help avoiding fines and penalties associated with expired records.

On the other hand, the goal of document management is to improve efficiency and productivity by providing the ability for organizations to control the full lifecycle of documents, from creation to completion.

paper based document management

What is Document Management?

Document management is a set of practices that organizations should follow to capture, store, share, and track documents in either paper or electronic format. It allows to control the full lifecycle of documents from creation to final archiving.

Main objectives of document management can be summarized as follows

  • Allow fast and easy way to locate documents.
  • Minimize the usage of paper based documents and move into electronic forms.
  • Cost reduction and increased productivity.
  • Streamline information and workflows.
  • Physical storage and space reduction.

Using a document management system (DMS) in your organization have lots of benefits including

  1. Version Control: Track and view document versions in addition to the ability to rollback to previous versions.
  2. Check in & Check out: The ability to lock the document ensuring that changes made by other employees won’t be overridden and submitted changes will create new versions.
  3. Fast Documents Retrieval: Search by document metadata & full text search allowing to locate a document in seconds.
  4. Real Time Collaboration: A good document management system will make it easy for your employees to share documents (internally & externally) and provides advanced collaboration functionalities including annotations, stamps, and signatures.
  5. Audit Trail: Using a document management system will allow to track all the changes & operations happened on a document.
  6. Flexible & Robust Security: A document management system will give you the capabilities to set document access by user groups and define more granular security.

Check out What is EDMS? for detailed document management system features and capabilities.

What is Records Management?

When a document is in its final stage and can’t be altered anymore, it becomes a Record

According to ISO 15489-1:2016, records management is a field of management responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records, including processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records.

A record is considered as an evidence of certain events took place within an organization such as purchase order, contract approval, correspondence, etc. A document may become a record, but not all documents will become records.

Main objectives of records management can be summarized as follows

  • Preserve records throughout their life cycle.
  • Improve transparency and accountability.
  • Federated search for fast records discovery.
  • Set the automatic retention periods.
  • Audit trails.
  • Protection and support in litigation.
  • Compliance with legislation and regulations.

Using a records management system in your organization have lots of benefits including

  1. Manage records lifecycle from creation to disposition.
  2. Efficient retrieval and disposition of records.
  3. Protect records that are critical to the business operations.
  4. Eliminate fines and penalties by ensuring full compliance with laws and regulations.
  5. Automatic records disposition based on retention schedule.
  6. Cut cost associated with physical storage space.
  7. Minimize manual work needed from employees thus allowing them to work on higher important tasks.


Both document management & records management are essential practices to any organization specially in the digital transformation era. Most of document management systems and enterprise content management systems available in the market support the complete records management requirements.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s