Differences between Document Management and Document Control

Having so many software solutions available on the market makes people see document management as an overall process for an efficient document organization and archiving. Nevertheless, document control and document management are two different processes and it’s vital for each company which decides to implement such a system to be aware of the difference when choosing one system or another.

Document management is basically a system where documents can be stored, indexed, searched, accessed, archived or deleted. It also provides the opportunity of a collaborative environment, allowing multiple users to access and edit digital documents. It is also possible to scan paper documents and convert them into digital versions which can be managed easily.

Document management systems are becoming more and more complex due to the technological evolution over the years. At first, these systems were able to scan papers and store them, but now a days, these systems are making it easy for the users to manage every aspect of electronic records, acting like content managers and knowledge managers at the same time because the users are able to continuously modify the content and keep track of all of the modifications made by other users.

To sum it up, document management covers the management of a high volume of short lived documents, including emails, letters, contractual documents, all of them having usually a single version existence.

Document control, on the other hand, involves the management of documents that are essential to a business or organization. Essential documents are those who are put together for a specific goal, have been released for a reason and have to go through approval procedures in order to ensure accuracy and relevance. When working with documents, it’s crucial to know who and when did what modifications to a document and to have different versions of it separated to avoid confusion. That’s why document control systems enable users full control on the entire document life-cycle. Especially when using different versions of a document, access rights should be well established and outdated or unnecessary documents (at least for the time being) should be archived for future references.

Given the fact that document control systems are able to manage the life-cycle of a document, these systems can replace a document management system (if the number of documents is not too large), whereas a document management system doesn’t always provide the same features as a document control system.

The main benefits of choosing a document control system:

  • Keeping track of only truly useful documents
  • Reducing the number of wasted resources
  • Only up to date and valid information is published
  • All the information provided can be accessed by prior established users
  • Restricted, private or classified information is restricted to the the people who really need to access it

Before choosing to implement a document control system, have the answer to the following questions:

  1. Is there a need for each document?
  2. Who has the right to prepare the document?
  3. What standards should documents follow?
  4. What version control conventions are applicable?
  5. Who has the right to review documents?
  6. Who has the right to approve them?
  7. Who has the right to print them (restrictions may apply)?
  8. Where should the documents be distributed?
  9. Who has the right to use them?
  10. Where should they be stored (indexing, security, access and location)?

After you established all these terms, find out what’s the best document control system according to your company’s needs and enjoy the financial and organizational benefits of gaining full control over your documents.

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