Go Green with Document Management

Document Management vs Records Management vs Content Management

Posted by Mike Paperalt on Aug 29, 2018 10:42:00 AM

Document Management vs Records Management vs Content Management

This is an update of an article published by Paper Alternative in February, 2017.  It's also the most popular post we've ever published.  Apparently a lot of people are confused about the various terms that are used – document management, records management and content management.

When you need a better way to organize and manage essential business information, we invite you to refer to this article.  You need to know what each of these is before you can decide which of them you need. Bookmark this article for future reference.


Document Management

What are documents? A post in the AIIM Community blog has a definition that we like:  “The term document encompasses paper, electronic forms and files, emails, faxes, contracts, leases, vendor communications, etc.”

Documents are different from records in that “Records are any of those documents that have been made final and are no longer meant to be altered.” (from the same post).

 Another way of looking at the difference between documents and records is that documents are what you’re actively working on, or working with; while records are work that’s finished.

Thus, document management is a systematic way to handle documents that enables documents to be created, shared, organized and retrieved efficiently.


  • Reduce paper
  • Reduce lost and misfiled documents 
  • Provide easier, faster access and retrieval of documents
  • Reduce the costs and storage space involved with paper documents
  • Streamline information and workflow (also known as process improvement).

Records Management

As defined above, records are completed documents.  So, the goal of records management is principally one of archiving.  Archiving requires a system of classification, storage and security, along with a plan for determining what should be destroyed and when.  In the case of some important historical records, it may also include preservation of the original paper document. 


  • Control the quantity and quality of records
  • Simplify the way records are stored, maintained and accessed
  • Easily locate the correct record when needed
  • Ensure records security
  • Determine required retention periods
  • Develop a deletion/destruction system for records at end of retention period

Content Management 

We like to say that content management systems are document management systems on steroids.

Here’s what we mean: 

  • Document management systems manage the data contained in structured documents and files like Word, PowerPoint, Excel spreadsheets, PDF, and other popular formats.
  • Content management solutions manage all the data that document management systems manage plus the unstructured data that is available in a broad range of digital assets, such as audio, video, Flash, multimedia files, and raw data collected from a variety of sources.

Deciding What You Need and Where to Start

In the end, most companies need to manage documents, records and content.  But, as a practical manner, doing it all at once is seldom wise. 

Most organizations find that starting with paper documents and paper-based workflows in one department provides a cost-effective, controlled beginning.  The most important thing to remember at this stage is to ensure that the solution you choose doesn’t limit what you can do with it. 

Choose a solution that will let you start as a simple document management system in one department, but that is capable of scaling upward to encompass records and content, as well as workflow processes in all departments. 

How Can Paper Alternative Help Your Business?

No matter what your business is, we can show you a more efficient way to do your business. Our experts at Paper Alternative have extensive experience and knowledge in managing document conversion and workflow in many different industries.  Check out any of our industry solutions.

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Topics: Document Management, HR Records Management, Information Management Services

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