What’s the difference between Document Management and Records Management?

No, not the start of a geek joke, but a very common question I find myself explaining when I am working with my customers. People coming from a records management perspective quickly get agitated when presented with SharePoint team sites – the document management features not having the rigour they might first expect. But the answer is to separate out the practices of document management from records management. 

The Lifecycle of a Document

Here’s how the content of a typical document changes over time.

  Document-Records Management

  1. You begin writing a document
  2. You revise the document until you are happy with it and send it out for peer review
  3. The review comments are in and you need to make a bunch more changes
  4. You send out for a second review, hoping for approval, but more changes are requested
  5. You make the final changes and…
  6. …The document gets approved!

For most organisations, and most types of document, the document is not declared as a record until it gets to be the “1.0” approved version in step 6.  In SharePoint, this means the document is copied from the team site in which it was created to the Records Center and the appropriate categorisations and retention policies are applied.

Document Management enables the collaborative author-review-edit-approve process.  This is done in SharePoint team sites.

Records Management is the process of identifying, classifying, archiving, preserving, and destroying records.  This is done in the the SharePoint Records Center.

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4 thoughts on “What’s the difference between Document Management and Records Management?

  1. So if the team site document libraries are for editing and collaboration of the document – what is the purpose of the “Document Center” Template in SharePoint 2010?

  2. Best fit I have found for the document center is kinda like your company library. Store infrequently updated documents such as policies, procedures, company standards etc.

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