Enterprise Content Management vs. Records Management Software: What’s Right for You?

Posted by TAB on

Organizations are increasingly turning to software solutions to help manage records content—not only to improve information access, but also to help with risk management, compliance and any potential discovery process.

Vendors have rushed in to meet this new demand for software, and with so many of them pushing different solutions, there is bound to be confusion.

At TAB, our customers often ask “what is the difference between enterprise content management (ECM) and records management software (RMS), and which one is right for us?”

This blog post helps answer that important question.

1.0 ECM software—what it does

When electronic content started to replace physical records in business processes, ECM software was developed to do the following:

  • Provide productivity gains
  • Streamline workflow and routing processes
  • Deliver key capabilities for versioning control and electronic signatures

2.0 RM software—what it does

This software was designed to manage physical and electronic content when it is deemed a record of the organization’s business activities. Its primary goals are to:

  • Provide controls to manage retention schedules for the record’s lifecycle
  • Provide capabilities for retention rules to be changed or added as needed
  • Apply legal holds to content when a discovery order is issued

3.0 Functionality and ease of use

Most ECM software products include an RM module in the overall suite. The RM component often has insufficient functionality. Why?

Many large-scale ECM suites are very complex to configure and deploy; this complexity often prevents them from being put into practical RM use.

This complexity often extends to the RM module offered by the ECM vendor—these modules can require extensive vendor intervention or programming to build retention rules around classification structures.

This adds to on-going costs, not to mention a gap in your RM strategy if the module is idle.

4.0 Integrating ECM and RM software

Many organizations benefit from implementing an RM solution that is separate from their existing ECM solution.

Each solution has core competencies and, if integrated properly, will deliver the best approach.

5.0 RMS and litigation

RM software is designed in part to address discovery-related orders through “legal holds.”

This functionality allows an organization to identify content already classified in the RM software and temporarily override any retention rules applied until the litigation is complete and discovery orders removed.

Given the enormous costs of discovery, especially e-discovery, the ease in which RM software allows for designated individuals to place “legal holds” is a great asset.

5.1 RMS and risk avoidance

Litigation and discovery-related orders often highlight weak or non-existent business practices related to an organization’s management of business records.

If there is no real substance to the lawsuit itself, opposing counsel may simply attack the lack of business practice, policies and procedures. That could cause an organization to settle and incur costs.

Used in conjunction with a complete records management program that the organization uses consistently and audits periodically, RMS forms the risk avoidance part of the equation.

6.0 Choosing between ECM and RMS

For your RM software solution to be most effective, it has to be properly tied to your records management program, most notably your classification and retention rules.

Given that ECM providers simply don’t have the knowledge of records management to do this, the best choice you can make is an RM solution with a provider that knows how to make it work with your RM program.

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