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Call us for a free FastStart Consultation: +27 87 550 3493

Call us for a free FastStart Consultation: +27 87 550 3493


by Craig Borowski,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: October 28, 2016

You might assume that records management and document management are the same thing. After all, the terms “records” and “documents” are often used interchangeably. However, that doesn’t mean they are the same. And if you want to protect your business from legal, regulatory or compliance problems, you really should know the difference.

Records are a specific type of document or file, which can be either physical (paper) or digital. What sets records apart is the fact that they can be used as legal proof that something (or some relationship) exists or existed at the time the record was created. The preservation and management of records is an absolutely critical aspect of businesses that rely on them. Records management software ensures that nothing is lost or overlooked.

In this Buyer’s Guide, we’ll focus on records management software and discusses the following topics:

What Is Records Management Software?
Common Features of Records Management Systems
Advice for Choosing Records Management Software

What Is Records Management Software?

A records management system serves two general functions. The first, discussed below, is to ensure that a company meets legal and regulatory requirements.

But records management systems also serves a more general function: They greatly simplify the many workflow processes required to create, distribute and maintain accurate records. They have this in common with (the more general purpose) document management software, and for this reason there are many similarities between the two.

As mentioned above, records are a very specific type of document that can serve as legal proof or evidence. (Think of it like squares and rectangles: a record is a type of document, but not all documents are records.) As such, records are often necessary in order to prove compliance with regulations and laws.

In some industries, compliance must be shown at periodic intervals. For example, a food distributor uses records to demonstrate compliance with food safety regulations and may need to do so every year or every quarter, as mandated by local regulations.

In other cases, records may not be requested until after an incident. If a worker gets injured at work, for example, a resulting lawsuit could compel the employer to demonstrate that safety guidelines were followed. Without the appropriate records showing that the safety guidelines were in place, the business could be exposed to increased liability.

Common Features of Records Management Systems

Many vendors offer records management software, and there can be substantial differences among their offerings. However, there are some basic features that are common to most records management systems.

To give you a better understanding of the core functionality, we've created a table outlining those most common features.

Inventory management The core feature of a records management system. Includes basic functions, such as scanning, duplicating, sending and saving, as well as more advanced functions, such as automation based on a company’s retention and classification policies.
Search tools Make sure employees can find the correct records when they’re needed. These usually work with a variety of search operators or content fields, so users can locate a record even if they only know, for example, the record’s date of production or last use.
Compliance tracking Assists with ensuring records are maintained (updated) as required by law or company policy. A compliance tracking function might, for example, issue periodic alerts that certain records need to be updated, modified or replaced.
System of record Used to organize multiple versions of the same record, ensuring that the master copy reflects any changes made to other versions and lets administrators track changes and record ownership as records move through an organization.
Retention and classification tools Retention tools ensure documents are saved in the system for as long as needed, either as required by law or company policy. Classification tools help automate the organization, storage and retrieval of records by grouping them into categories depending on their business function.

Advice for Choosing Records Management Software

Choose the wrong customer service software, and you might start to lose customers. On the other hand, if your company has poor records management, it could end up facing fines, penalties, lawsuits, and even criminal prosecution. Clearly, neither situation is ideal, but at least there are warning signs if customers start to leave. If you have the wrong records management software, you may not even be aware of the problem until it’s too late.

  • If your company has a large amount of paper records that it hopes to digitize, then look for records management software with integrated scanning capabilities.
  • If your company has so many paper records that digitizing them all would be unfeasible, but you still need to organize and manage them, consider solutions with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking to help bridge the gap between digital and paper.

Capture document scans in records management software Docufree's Path to Paperless Software

Record scanning app in Docufree's Path to Paperless Software

Finally, ensure that records management software is really what you need. Sometimes companies think they need records management software, but they’d actually be better served with a document management platform. And the opposite can also be true. Ultimately, companies must find the right balance of functionalities that will improve existing workflow processes while adding a layer of safety and oversight to its management of important records.

If you’re unsure which type of system best fits your organizational needs, make sure you examine both types before making a decision. Alternatively, give us a call, and we’ll help you decide.

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