Is Document Management the Same as Record Management?

Amy Pattinson
August 17, 2022
 Mins Read

Records management and document management are two terms that are often used interchangeably. A majority of document management systems are suitable for records management. But document management systems cannot be called record management systems. Instead, records management can be seen as a subdivision of document management.

On the other hand, Invensis, a global IT-BPO, provides cost-effective and flexible automated document management services for your organization. We provide end-to-end strategic and tactical services for the entire data management cycle. Delve deeper into this blog, "Records Management Vs. Document Management," to understand the difference between the two. But before that, you should gain specific knowledge about each of them.

Document Management

Document management revolves around tracking and managing all documents of a business. The global market for document management software is expected to reach $10.17 billion by 2025. It involves the management of document creation from inception till completion. Document management makes the document creation process formal. It ensures accountability and transparency at every stage of the document creation process. It can also make the process more efficient by automating tasks like assembly, quality assurance, and approval. The overall process of document management involves the following steps:


It refers to giving rise to a document from a blank template. This gives rise to the initial version of the document.


More than one contributor creates the document contents. The content can include images, hyperlinks, texts, formatting, and other elements depending on the document type. Since the process includes more than one contributor, ways must ensure that one contributor is not overwriting another person's work. Some approaches to handling the problem are as follows:

1. Check-out and Check-in

The process involves one person checking out the document. It ensures that other users cannot make any changes to the document. However, they can still read the document. After one user completes their work, the document gets checked in. It makes another user capable of checking out the document.

Every time the document gets checked in, a new version gets created. It ensures that all users can view the changes between the original and changed versions. Sometimes the latest changes might get approved by other users. In that case, the document can always be rolled back to the previous version.

2. Co-authoring

The approach enables people to work on the same document simultaneously. However, interlocking happens within the document at some granular level. For instance, your document might get interlocked at the paragraph level. Therefore, this approach is not as preferred as the previous one.


The step involves getting someone to review the whole document. However, the reviewer should not be a contributor. The reviewer will look after things like spelling, grammar, tables, images, and document flow. The document management system can specify rules to check the documents.


After the review is complete, the draft is sent back to the creator to make the necessary changes. Then, the step is carried out using the same process as the drafting step.


Usually, this step is only reserved for complex documents. For instance, you might have a contract with different terms and conditions. A document management system will ensure that the appropriate terms and conditions have been included within the document.


Some documents require a formal approval process. For instance, a document might need a signature at the end. But most documents don’t require a formal approval process. It gets approved after publishing and can be put to use.


After completing the document, it should be stored in a secure repository. It ensures authorized users can find it easily and access the required information.

Records Management

Some documents require more formal management because they carry proof of a decision or transaction obligatory to the organization. These information objects are known as records and should be stored more protectively. In addition, a particular record might include multiple items. For instance, an insurance claim includes the form, witness statements, photographs, and more.  

Once a piece of company information is classified as a record, no further changes can be made to it. However, if changes are made, the results become a new record. The key capabilities of a records management system are as follows:

Declaration and Registration

As you already know, company records must be stored in a repository. In addition, a unique identifier needs to be assigned to the records. It will ensure that the records can be consistently managed throughout their lifecycle.

Access Controls

The records should be available only to authorized users. Authorized users should be able to read and retrieve the records. However, no one should be able to make changes to it. But certain circumstances require changes to be made in the record's metadata.

Retention Rules

Different record types have different retention requirements. Therefore, how long each record should be kept varies. Legal, fiscal, and administrative records should be stored for a long time. The record management system should specify retention requirements per the record's content.


When the records life cycle ends, records that no longer hold any business value need to be destroyed. But before destroying, you need to ensure that the records are not required for legal audits. Sometimes records that cannot be destroyed are transferred to a legal authority like a corporate library or national archives.

Audit Trails

It provides an idea about how a record was managed. It included information regarding everything from declaration to disposition of records. In some organizations, audit trails are treated as records themselves. In that case, the audit trails need to be stored in a secure place and managed efficiently.

Difference Between Records Management and Documents Management

Some organizations use the same system of records and document management. However, the process of managing the two types of content is different. The differences between the two practices can be observed in the following:


The ultimate purpose of document management is to maintain business efficiency. It ensures that documents can be approved faster. Document management also reduces the need for manual data entry. Most recurring tasks get automated in the process of document management.

However, the primary purpose of records management is compliance. An efficient records management system will ensure organizations can avoid penalties due to non-compliance. In addition, a record management system will be handy during audits by auditors, regulators, or other governing bodies.

But both document and records management ultimately leads to business continuity. Mistakes or inefficiencies in records or document management can cause challenges in the entire organization. But with efficient record and document management, organization resiliency will be easier.


The information involved in document management includes transient content. Invoices get signed and sent off to the next approver in line. Older drafts are reviewed to create revised versions. Forms also get sent from the submitter to the reviewer.

But the record management information includes historical content. The records life cycle includes the following stages:

  • Create or receive
  • Capture
  • Close
  • Retire
  • Transfer or destroy

The status of a document gets determined by the phases involved in the records lifecycle.  


The methodology of document management is driven by content. Every activity related to content uses content as a catalyst. Document repositories typically get organized according to the general users' needs. The needs include finding documents with the title or keywords, keeping documents of one employee or project together, and more.

The records management methodology is context-driven. Records managers don’t concentrate on the words written in the documents. Instead, they focus on identifying the document type. For instance, they will try to identify whether the documents are insurance forms or employee applications. Therefore, retention schedules are always considered before setting any records-related activity.


Documents are stored in a system for easier access. The document repositories usually support checking in and out of documents. Therefore, users can revise the documents anytime, and version tracking history remains accessible to other users.

Records need to be stored in their original format to present them for legal or compliance requirements. A good record management system stores records in series or indexes. The indexes are determined by external rules and not enterprise-dictated internal rules.


Security and integrity of documents remain a priority in both systems. But document management security is desirable, and records management security is essential.

For document management, security is placed according to the accessibility needs of users. Authorized users are usually provided quick access to the repository. All document management systems can track who has been using the document. It also shows when someone checked out a document and put it back in the storage. Any changes made in the document are also visible, including the past versions. Therefore, the security measures are not as stringent as records management.

For records management, the security measures are set out by legal authorities and governments. Some vital records must also be transferred to national archives for additional security.

If you are curious about knowing more about record management, check out our previous blog, "Records Management Strategies."

Why Choose Invensis?

Invensis will meet all your document management needs. Since record management is a part of document management, you will also not have to worry about your records. With relevant experience in the industry over the last 20 years, we can create one of the best business continuity plans for you. Contact the industry experts today to receive value-added consultation.


Document management and record management should be a part of every organization. Understand the difference between the two practices to include them within your organization. Outsourcing your document and record management needs to a company like Invensis will ensure you ace the processes.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Do Organizations Need Both Record Management and Document Management Systems?

Most companies need both record management and document management systems. Depending on an organization's specific needs, a document management system might be capable of taking care of both. However, you must understand the differences between the two practices to choose an appropriate system.

2. What Is the Purpose of a Records Management Software?

Record management software detects, stores, maintains and manages organizational data. Any data describing events of an organization related to regulatory, fiscal, statutory, or operational activities are classified as records. Record management systems keep content that’s necessary only for a specific period. When data comes to the end of their life cycle, they are usually destroyed to avoid leakage and increase storage space.

3. What Is the Purpose of a Document Management System?

A document management system makes it easier to access vital documents of an organization. The system also ensures that users can collaborate on the documents.

4. What Is the Purpose of a Document Management System?

An organization's records management can be improved by creating a plan for monitoring and maintenance.

5. What Are Some Signs of Poor Records Management?

Some signs of poor records management include inefficient filing methods and poor use of equipment. High record management cost is also a sign of poor management.

Article by
Amy Pattinson

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