Kaizen Infosource LLC

DM, RM, and ECM – What’s the Difference?



When searching for technology solutions to fit your needs, it helps to answer a few questions before beginning the search.

  • Do I want to manage paper and electronic information?
  • Is email used in my organization to document official communications?
  • Do I want to track versions of all documents or just some?

Answering these simple questions will tell you whether you’re looking for DM, or Document Management; RM, or Records Management; or ECM, or Enterprise Content Management.

Many vendors claim they can do all three in one neat package. It’s been our experience that, though vendors say they can do all three, only a few vendors can actually do all three well. Most system vendors can provide partial elements to do some of the functionality of each. And, nothing is equal, some components, services or functions are handled better than others. With that said, let’s examine all three for similarities and differences.

DM. Document management is the collaborative process of creating a “finished” version. Contracts go through many hands before reaching agreement on the final version. This tracking of versions, managing a document, in the collaboration process is all that makes up “DM”.

RM. Records management is the placing of rules and governance around all those “finished” versions. Most tech folks think that means “paper”, but to the RIM professional, it means all finished documentation, whether in paper or electronic form. The rules are how long to keep the record—or records retention. It also means, “who has access to see and handle the record?”. Access and security are key components of records management that many IT departments take for granted. Litigation preparation is also part of RM. That means the ability to redact, or shield, information from view to protect proprietary information or trade secrets from public scrutiny. Many people think this is a feature of DM, and if your collaborative work product is subject to legal hold, it would be; however, DM is the creating of final version documents, while RM is applying the rules of management to documents once they have been locked down as “records”.

ECM. For most vendors, enterprise content management is the management of electronic information with separate modules to handle “paper” and workflows. Some even include electronic communications (email, text messaging, and instant messaging) as a separate, differently-managed form or electronic information requiring a different module.

IT professionals see each of these as separate functions, but the RIM professional sees all characteristics or stages of information worthy of management. It’s time to stop thinking of them as separate animals requiring different tools for taming. DM, RM, and ECM are all parts of the whole.