What is Document Management?

Document management is how an organization stores, manages and tracks its electronic documents. It can include a wide variety of processes, systems and features.

Document Management Process Diagram

Not all document management solutions offer all the capabilities shown in the diagram. This is why it is so important to understand your requirements before selecting a solution.

Here is a quick guide to the terms most often used in discussions on document management.

Enterprise Content Management

Enterprise Content management (ECM) is a broad term referring to the administration of digital content throughout its lifecycle, from creation to permanent storage or deletion. The content involved may be images, video, audio and multimedia as well as text. This is different from Web Content Management (WCM) which is most commonly used to refer to internet and intranet content. You’ll often hear Content Management (CMS) and Document Management (DMS) used interchangeably as an organizations assets generally extend beyond documents.

Document Management

Document management is how an organization stores, manages and tracks its electronic documents. Some of the key features in document management include:

  • Check-in/check-out and locking, to coordinate the simultaneous editing of a document so one person’s changes don’t overwrite another’s
  • Version control, to track changes and see how a document differs from the versions that came before
  • Roll-back, to restore a prior version in case of an error or premature release
  • Audit trail, to view who did what to a document during the course of its life in the system

It incorporates document and content capture, workflow, document repositories, and output systems, and information retrieval systems. Document Management is a component of Content Management.

Records Management

Records management (RM), also known as records and information management or RIM, is the professional practice of managing the records of an organization throughout their life cycle, from the time they are created to their eventual disposal.

A record is a document consciously retained as evidence of an action. Records are any of those documents that have been made final and are no longer meant to be altered. Some, but not all, documents within an organization become records. Records must be formally tracked using a file plan with retention schedules.

Records management includes the functions of document management, plus:

  • Unique identifiers are usually generated within a database for systems administration and tracking purposes
  • Unauthorized changes are prevented to keep a document from being modified after it has been declared as a record
  • Audit trails guarantee an enforceable chain of custody by making it possible to know what a record said at a particular point in time, how its content evolved to that point, and who was involved with it. This is key to preserving the link between the record and the process or event it describes, and for being able to demonstrate exactly who made what changes and when
  • Applying required retention periods to stored items
  • Assisting in e-discovery issues and applying legal holds to records when needed
  • Managing disposition (disposal of documents)

The University of Toronto launched a records management program in 1989:

  • to promote systematic control of University corporate records in accordance with legal statutes and University policy, and
  • to provide guidance to administrative and academic units on management of their records.

Since that time, the University of Toronto Archives & Records and Management Services (UTARMS) has developed detailed University-wide retention and disposition schedules, and maintains the U of T File Plan to aid control and disposition of University administrative records. It is important that all departments follow the U of T File plan and consult UTARMS before the destruction of any records.