Document management is how an organization oversees the entire process of creating an individual document, such as a report, script, certificate or other written instrument, all the way from commencement to completion.
The process starts with the drafting of the document, which can be done by one or more users. It involves allowing different users to make changes to the document using a review and revision period. It ends with an official approval and storage of the document.
Proper document management centers on the improvement of organization and workflow processes, speedy retrieval times, loss reduction, and minimization of the space needed for physical asset storage.
Records management is the standards and policies an organization puts in place for maintaining one or more important documents. Such documents become records simply by nature of their importance. They are typically documents that hold some sort of evidentiary weight or establish some sort of obligation on the organization's part.
This process involves filing and registering the records with an exclusive identifier, creating a system of controlled access, and determining how long they must be kept due to their inherent value. Unlike documents, records cannot be altered.
Proper records management centers on identification of both inventory and owner, preservation, retention, administering based on organizational policies and, if necessary, the procedure for eventual disposal.
The key differences between document management and records management lie in the goals, information and methodology of each practice.
Goals: Document management is about efficiency and accountability during the creation process, while records management is about compliance when managing those documents that were important enough to become records.
Information: Document management is made up of transient content that is shuttled between users so it can be reviewed, revised and redrafted until it is finalized. Records management deals with historical content that takes all of those documents and preserves them for future reference.
Methodology: Document management is driven by the content and is, therefore, usually searchable by criteria like title, creator or keyword. Records management is driven by context and is commonly more searchable by document type like "financial statements" or "employee deal memos."
Both management systems are crucial to the effective information management strategy of an organization and function best if executed in a cohesive, interdependent manner.