What is Records Management?

Records Management is different to Document Management and this post will help you understand the main differences.

In simple terms, it all comes down to motivation. If you take Document Management the main objective around implementing such as a system would be to derive efficiencies.  Whether it be better collaboration or a faster workflow Document Management is all about creating a better work process and optimising operational efficiency. Of course, there are many other benefits, which are covered in other posts.

Records Management on the other had is all about ensuring compliance. The main role for Records Management within an organisation is to establish policies and standards for managing and maintaining different types of records. A well thought out and deployed Records Management system reduces an organisations risk of non-compliance and therefore protects an organisation from regulators reducing the material risk of non compliance.

Good record keeping allows organisations to demonstrate accountability, plan for their future and comply with legislation. And yes, you do need to worry about Records Management. If you are in business and you value your business, employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders then you have a duty of care to keep good accurate records.

HMRC guidance explicitly states: “You must keep records of all your business transactions”. It also states: “If you do not keep adequate records or you do not keep your records for the required period of time, you may have to pay a penalty”.

What’s the common ground between Document and Records Management?

Most (but not all) of an organisations documents could be classified as a record whereas all of an organisations records are in fact documents. Therefore, Records Management includes all of the features of Document Management but in addition would also include (but not limited to) the following:

A definition of the records policy by record type with compliant procedures.

An inventory of all records.

Unique identifiers are usually generated within a database for systems administration and tracking purposes

Controlled access with audit features.

Identification as to who (individual or department) actually owns the record.

An applied retention period (how long the record should be kept) to the stored document.

A record audit trail, which includes provision for chain of custody.

A policy for how the records should be discovered should they be needed.

A determination around the life of the document including how it should be disposed once the retention period has expired.

Another way to look at the difference between Document Management and Records Management is to consider how the information is used. Document Management tends to have a methodology that is driven by content whereas Records Management is usually driven by context. For instance, a records manager is much more interested in the document type and the policies around access, lifecycle and retention than the actual content of the document itself.

So all things considered there are many similarities between Document and Records Management but the motivation for deploying these two technologies is most likely the difference between a desire for efficiency and the need to ensure business continuity.

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