Document Management vs Records Management: The Full Guide

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Written By Haisam Abdel Malak
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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 (document management vs records management).

Document management is a set of practices that organizations use to capture, store, and track DOCUMENTS in paper or electronic format. While records management is a field of management responsible for the efficient control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use, and disposition of RECORDS.

Documents and records management are different techniques used in organizations separately or together to achieve a certain business target. At this stage, you should be aware that there is a difference between documents and records. For more information, keep reading this article.

Organizations can take advantage of RM to comply with different regulatory requirements. GDPR and HIPPA compliance will allow to reduce legal risks and improve governance.

Using an RM system will allow organizations to automate retention policies which will help avoid fines and penalties associated with expired records.

The goal of document management is to improve efficiency and productivity. Organizations can leverage the capabilities of the system to control the complete lifecycle of a document from creation to completion.

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What is Document Management?

Document management is a set of practices that organizations should follow to capture, store, and track documents in paper or electronic format.

It allows controlling the complete lifecycle of documents from creation to final archiving.

The main objectives of document management can be summarized as follows

  • Allow a 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 DMS in your organization have lots of benefits including

  1. Version Control: Track and view document versions. The user can set previous versions as the active ones.
  2. Check-in & Check-out: Locking the document guarantees that changes won’t be overridden and submitted changes will create new versions.
  3. Fast Documents Retrieval: Search by document metadata & full-text search let us locate a document in seconds.
  4. Real-Time Collaboration: A high-quality system will make it easy for your employees to share documents (internally & externally) and provides advanced collaboration functionalities as well as annotations, stamps, and signatures
  5. Audit Trail: Track all the changes & operations that happened on a document.
  6. Flexible & Robust Security: This will provide the capabilities to set document access by user groups and define more granular security.

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, RM 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 evidence of certain events which took place within an organization (purchase order, contract approval, correspondence).

A document may become a record; however, not all documents will become records.

The 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.

Managing records within an organization requires defining organization-wide records retention policies and schedules to ensure that information is retained as long as it is operationally and legally needed and other information is disposed of systematically.

Feel free to check this in-depth guide covering Records Retention.

Using an RM system in your organization has 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 business operations.
  4. Eliminate fines and penalties by ensuring full compliance with laws and regulations.
  5. Automatic records disposition based on the retention schedule.
  6. Cut costs associated with physical storage space.
  7. Allow employees to work on higher important tasks by minimizing manual work.


Both techniques are essential practices for any organization, especially in the digital transformation era. Most of the DMS and ECM systems available in the market support the complete RM requirements.


What is the difference between record management and document management?

The main difference between record management and document management is that while document management deals with paper documents, record management deals with all types of records, including digital records.

What is the difference between documents and records?

Documents are usually not kept as records because they are not considered to be permanent enough. Documents are often created by hand and can be lost through the passage of time. Records on the other hand are much more likely to last because they were made with the intention of being preserved for future use.

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