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.

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.

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Companies must deal with massive amounts of unstructured data as digital technologies grow. It is a significant difficulty to convert this data into an organized, usable format.

Because not all documents should be treated identically, it is critical for businesses to design and specify internal protocols for how they intend to handle their documents.

Defining a clear document lifecycle 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.

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

In this post, we will discuss the document life cycle, document stages, and the significance of each step.

What is document lifecycle management?

Document lifecycle management is the series of phases that documents must go through in order to be effectively managed and produce higher business operations efficiency. Organizations must monitor every stage of each document’s path to ensure information are accurate and available when needed.

It is regarded as a critical component of the enterprise content management strategy because it specifies how documents are generated, gathered, structured, stored, shared, secured, and given to business decision-makers.

There are four major stages of a document’s lifecycle which include: creation, storage, sharing & delivery, archival, or destruction. Each 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 amended or additional phases introduced, such as document approval, workflow-related procedures, and so on.

document lifecycle
Document lifecycle stages

What are the stages of the document lifecycle?

There is a document item and a matching document status in each phase, which are specified differently in the document lifecycle.

Each processing step introduces new needs for data management as well as the underlying rights and role management.

The stages of the document lifecycle are:

1- Document Creation

The generation of documents is the first stage in the lifecycle. Documents can be created or generated in a variety of ways, and they can come from a variety of sources.

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.

The document enters the storage phase once it is created.

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, classifications, and categorization to guarantee that we have a well-ordered 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.

I strongly advise you to read the piece below, which goes into depth on how metadata may be used and the benefits it can provide to any document management process.

What is METADATA: Why Is It Extremely Important? (theecmconsultant.com)

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, 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 document lifecycle for approvals before making the papers available to other parties.

4- Document Archival or Destruction

The fourth stage of the lifecycle is document archival or destruction. The majority of documents have a finite active life. Once a document has served its purpose, it should be preserved or destroyed in accordance with an organization’s records retention plan to maintain compliance with industry or government rules and regulations.

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

What are the lifecycle states of a document?

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 document was either generated recently or a new version of the document is being created.

2- Submitted

The document is submitted for review and approval.

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

3- Approved

The document must be approved by the appropriate party after it has been submitted for review. When it is approved, the document’s status will change to “Approved.”

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

4- Released

The document version has been issued, and no modifications may be made to it.

5- Rejected

This version of the document was not approved. The document is returned to the editing stage or is ended.

6- Expired

Because the document’s version is no longer actively available in the document lifecycle, no subsequent operations (printing, modification, versioning) may be done on it.

What are the four components of the documentation cycle?

The four components of the documentation cycle are planning, writing, reviewing, and updating. Planning involves identifying the general purpose of the document. Writing involves the actual creation of the content. Reviewing involves ensuring that information in the documentation is accurate. Updating involves changing the content to represent new stage.

What is the first state of the document lifecycle?

The first state of the document lifecycle is document creation or authoring. In this stage, organizations must identify how documents are being created or collected to carefully control the process. The goal is to produce a draft of the document that can be reviewed and revised as needed before it is finalized and published.

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