Several of our clients have been wrestling with the topic of Information Governance (IG) and the difference between Records Management (RM) and Document Management (DM). We participated in several discussions while at NIRMA where the need to incorporate Electronic Document Management functionality is falling under the Records Management department. Long term, records managers are looking at Records Management solutions to solve Document Management needs. While on the surface it may seem that these two areas have many synergies, the features/functionality required to support Document Management are quite different then records management.
A Document Management (DM) system provides functionality for living documents. Living documents can be versioned. Documents move through different states (Draft, Routing for Approval, Approved, etc.). DM systems provide the ability to electronic review and approve documents, as well as release them for use. Documents can also be retired or obsoleted in these systems. When a document is obsoleted, it is no longer living. At this point a Document can be thought of as a Record or static entity.
A Records Management (RM) system manages records/items that are not living. Records are not versioned. They are stored, attributed, and retention policies are applied specifying when they can be permanently destroyed.
Both applications need the ability for end users to search (property and full text), securely retrieve content, view content and properties, view related content, etc. While there are significant differences, you can see that there is plenty of overlap. It is not surprising that Records Managers are being asked to take on the task of implementing an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) within their organizations. Below is a list of 5 items that should be considered when expanding your Records Management application into an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS).
- Usage– A Document Management system is frequently accessed by a broad range of users across the organization. Content stored in a DM system is actively used to perform daily job functions. Whereas an RM system, while equally important, is typically not as actively accessed since it holds records no longer in use by the business. It is not uncommon for users to hang onto records; afraid that turning them over will result in a loss of access. This mindset, by nature, limits users’ interaction with a RM system. Due to the more frequent access by a larger user base, a user interface that is intuitive is a very important feature of a Document Management application.
- Large View Only Population – Document Management applications can quickly get complex allowing for authors to create documents, relationships between documents, initiate workflows, etc. However, like an RM application, many of the users just require read-only access to the content stored by the application. To reduce training requirements, system load, as well as user licensing, our DM clients have found lots of success in implementing a read-only application that provides quick and easy access to content. Learn more about the benefits for this approach by reading our blog post.
- Simple Search – Managing records in a DM system, definitely creates overhead for users importing and creating content. However, the power of DM is realized when users across the organization can easily find and report on content. This is a key component to a Document Management system. For more information see some of our blog posts comparing different search interfaces.
- Electronic Workflow – Living documents are versioned and require re-approval, sometimes very frequently. Electronic review and approval is a key feature of a DM application. Keeping this functionality simple for users, yet flexible to handle changing business functionality is a key requirement. For more information on typical workflow requirements click here.
- RM and DM do need to Talk – Historically, records management software focused on imaging and technologies to capture information at the end of its useful life, when it is no longer actively needed by the organization. Today that perspective is shortsighted. Legal discovery, big data, and regulations require information be managed cradle to grave. For an organization to be legally protected, any DM system must interact with an RM application and break the historical notion that RM is an end-of-the-line function.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on RM and DM below in the comments.