Virtually every business today uses documents to get their work done. From tax documents and contracts to complex research reports and multimedia files, working with content is the backbone of today's organizations. As a business grows, organizing and securing documents takes on a more significant role. Both document control and document management become a necessity.
Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are some important distinctions. Document management and document control refer to separate, but equally important and entwined, aspects of handling documents and content. Knowing the difference is essential to choosing how your company will handle its content. Let's look a little closer at document control and management, how they compare, and what they mean for a business.
What is document management?
Document management covers most of the ways we interact with documents, from saving a file to the cloud to adding tags that make it easier to search for. Document management refers to a wide range of activities, including the following:
- Version controlling
Essentially, anything you can do to a document falls under document management. Today's increasingly digital workplace usually entails a massive range of documents, like contracts, marketing materials, memos, and invoices. With so many different types of content moving through a business, managing the content effectively is essential for optimizing efficiency, ensuring high-quality data, and getting the most from your documents. Document management makes files easy to work with so team members can improve performance and spend more time on other tasks.
From small, mom-and-pop stores to large, multinational enterprises, nearly every business has some level of document management. You might be using the bare minimum required to run a business, or thousands of documents could be moving through your business each day. In both cases, you're managing documents. Typically, this occurs digitally, but some businesses still use physical mediums. Converting papers to digital formats is a necessity for effective management.
Most of the content today's businesses use falls under the category of unstructured data. This type of data is generally created by humans and doesn't conform to preset data models. It includes emails, documents, spreadsheets, videos, and photos. For reference, structured data is data generated by machines, such as atmospheric and digital surveillance data. Unstructured data needs to be managed appropriately so users can make sense of it. They need a platform that can read the data, navigate files, and make modifications, among other tasks.
The more data a business works with, the more likely they are to need a formal document management program. While the document management tasks we mentioned can sound like a lot to deal with, they're fairly straightforward with the help of modern management platforms. A system like Box can save you time and take care of document management.
Certain file management technologies, like electronic signatures and integrations, make digital documents especially easy to edit, store, and use. Digital document management is a highly visible solution. It can collect all your documents in one place with a range of organizational tools. You can attach metadata to an image to make it searchable, find and delete duplicate files, and use plenty of other tools to create an easy-to-use file system.
What is content management?
A similar concept is content management, which extends the purposes of document management to any file type, such as photos, videos, and presentations. Like documents, these various files need to be carefully managed and monitored. Content management also tends to refer to using files more effectively to meet business goals. For example, a content management system incorporates files of any type into a management strategy, so more types of content can share the same benefits document management offers.
A creative company, for instance, may work primarily with images, while an accounting firm might generate more spreadsheets. Even those who work primarily with documents will need to use other content types at some point. A manufacturer that normally deals with invoices and memos could create informative videos, for example, and a publishing company that usually works with manuscripts may need to create presentations on upcoming projects.
Folding these files into a document management strategy allows you to have the same level of control and visibility with all the content that moves through the business. By focusing on efficient content management, organizations can handle increasing complexity, save time, and get more out of their files.
Benefits of content management
Content management helps businesses in many different ways:
1. More productivity
The less time an employee has to spend finding a document or recreating one that was lost is more time they have to do important things. Organizations can lose countless hours accommodating poor organizational practices. Content management can help significantly, especially when combined with integration tools and application programming interfaces (APIs) that can embed into any workflow.
2. Better security
Resources that aren't well managed are more likely to be lost or exposed. A physical piece of paper can be destroyed in a number of ways. Files stored on a computer's hard drive or a flash drive are also more vulnerable if they aren't backed up anywhere else. A cloud-based management program can keep these files in a secure, centralized location where they can't get lost or destroyed as easily.
3. Effective teamwork
In our current technological age, collaboration isn't limited to in-person meetings. Strong content management makes it possible for employees to work with others in real time through live editing tools, easy sharing, and centralized file storage.
Content management is a significant part of future-proofing your business in evolving industries. It provides a foundation for ingesting and storing content and adds valuable productivity-boosting tools. Wherever your business goes in the future, strong content and document management can help ensure you have what you need and can work as efficiently as possible.
What is document control?
Document control is part of document management, but it specifically refers to the security of a file throughout its lifetime. Generally, adding document controls will restrict access or otherwise protect the file from premature or unauthorized release and destruction. This affects the document from the time it is created to the time it is deleted. Topics document control covers include:
- Access controls: Controlling who can view or edit files is key for security — such as keeping ex-employees out of documents or preventing accidental file sharing — and access controls dictate who can and cannot open or edit a file
- Version controls: Maintaining multiple versions of a document allows users to revert to previous versions, keep modified files organized, and access an audit trail for the document
- Approval and submission processes: Document controls also ensure files go through approval processes and meet detailed requirements before release, such as publication or submission to a client
- Archiving: There are many reasons companies need to save old documents, such as taxes, regulatory requirements, and internal audits, and archiving can place them in a secure location that's out of the way
Document control can look very different from business to business, but it's necessary for virtually all of them. Whether you're archiving some old records or need to ensure top-secret files stay top-secret, document control makes it happen. This process might be handled by one person, an entire department, or various staff members, depending on the size of the organization. Document controller systems can implement controls automatically.
These systems can also play a big role in meeting requirements, both from third-party organizations and internal needs. Many companies have to save client data for a certain amount of time, but it shouldn't be kept where it can get mixed up with your everyday documents. Archiving files into safe, secure locations is essential, especially for businesses in highly regulated industries like health care and finance. Access controls also create clear restrictions to keep data safer, such as only granting access on a need-to-know basis.
Controls can also ensure a document cannot move further on its path until it's been approved by the right person. This helps prevent unedited documents from reaching a client or being published, and it helps businesses adhere to certain guidelines more easily. It also creates more responsibility and accountability during audits, since the approving party's name is attached to the document.
Much of document control is about creating a paper trail. You should be able to find out when files were opened, who edited them, when they've been downloaded, and other important details related to privacy and document security. As with document and content management, nearly every aspect of document control can be automatically managed with the right system. Box, for instance, allows you to add controls manually, but you can also use artificial intelligence (AI) and custom settings to control files.
Document control vs. document management
Keep in mind that document control is a form of document management, which is an umbrella term that includes many other actions you can do with a file. Document control is more focused on security concerns and data integrity, while content and document management encompass a more comprehensive collection of aspects, such as those related to efficiency, collaboration, and navigation.
In some ways, document controls are geared toward files being used long term. You might not access a client's contract again after it's signed, but you still need to have document controls in place so it stays accessible and secure. On the other hand, a managed document is typically being used in the moment. An ongoing project that's being edited each day needs to be updated and easy to find and work with. That's where you would use the more wide-reaching features of document management.
Of course, there's significant and nuanced overlap. Controlled documents are managed documents, but a managed document is not necessarily controlled. When you place controls on a file, you're doing something to protect it from destruction or unauthorized access. A managed file could simply be a file that's been scanned into a digital format or one that's been placed into a folder — the user hasn't necessarily enacted any controls. Document management can involve many combinations of actions, but controls aren't always included. Adding document controls, a form of file management, turns it into a managed file regardless of what else has been done to the document.
Many documents are both controlled and managed. After all, businesses need to keep files secure while they work with them. A strong document management system can do both, offering any combination of document management and control tasks so users can stay compliant and maximize the value of their files. Box can help with all the processes we've mentioned, with efficient management tools and secure, detailed controls.
Which is more important?
Document management and control work hand in hand, so it's hard to say that one is more important than the other. A controlled document is inherently a managed document. While you could have managed documents without controls, it's not very common, especially in a business setting. A comprehensive management control system like Box includes controls along with management tools.
Holistic systems make strong document management attainable even for small businesses, so you don't need to choose one or the other. That's useful because they're both equally important regardless of business size. While organizations in highly regulated industries need to take special care of document controls, they're likely to need robust document management tools, as well.
Different companies might use certain features more than others, but they'll almost always use elements of both document control and management. Take a health care provider, for instance. They likely need to archive documents and control access to stay compliant with industry regulations, but they also need to share test results with patients, send claims to insurance companies, digitize documents that were signed in person, and easily navigate client records.
An advertising agency might be more interested in features for the long-term use of a document, like collaborative tools, sharing capabilities, and version histories. They'll also need to navigate project files, generate and save contracts, and send images through an approval process.
In both instances, management and control work hand in hand. As users collaborate on a file, they need to have permission to access it. When employees share a contract and get it back from the client, they need to securely store or archive the signed version. Accessing the edit history on a file could be useful for internal accountability or for proving adherence to regulations. However your documents are managed and controlled, there's a good chance the two components work together to create a secure, efficient experience.
How Box approaches document management and control
For businesses looking for the simplest way to achieve both document management and control, there's Box. Box is a comprehensive system that allows for extensive visibility, efficiency, and security. In the Box Content Cloud, you get total control over your files for their entire lifecycle, from ingestion to deletion. As a cloud-native platform, Box offers easy and secure document management from any device.
Here's how Box addresses different components of document control and management:
1. Content creation
Whether you're creating all-new documents, importing images, or digitizing your files, it's simple and straightforward to add to your catalog of files. Box supports almost any file type, from documents and spreadsheets to videos and presentations. No matter what your business does, you can bring your files to the cloud.
Finding the right files should be quick and easy. Box can add custom metadata to your files through manual input, APIs, or machine learning, so you can sort and classify with ease.
3. Storage and access
A user-friendly, cloud-based interface adds simplicity so users can access files at any time, from any device. They can sign and send a document while grabbing coffee or jot down some data on a tablet on the shop floor. Granular permissions allow users to determine access on a document-by-document basis or add permissions based on automated processes set by the organization. Plus, with plenty of storage options, Box supports small businesses, large enterprises, and everything in between.
If you can speed up how employees work with files, you can help them work more efficiently. Box has over 1,500 integrations with popular enterprise resources. Access Box files from within Salesforce, Office 365, Adobe, Google Workspace, and many other applications.
You can also use Box integrations to electronically sign documents, share files on a Zoom call, enjoy live editing on native Apple programs, and take advantage of other valuable integrations with industry giants like IBM, Oracle, and Okta. Box APIs also allow you to incorporate the platform into your own business applications.
You probably have a lot of data going through your business, and AI can help you maximize the potential of your content. Box AI technologies can help with tasks like image labeling and speech-to-text transcriptions. Pull the most important information from a document for easy scanning or flag sensitive data that allows you to better protect a document.
Box can eliminate repetitive tasks with automated workflows — no coding knowledge necessary. Leave the IT team and other employees to do what they do best and speed up work with Box.
7. Collaboration and sharing
About 39% of employees in one survey said people in their organization don't collaborate enough. Box can help change that. It has several features for collaboration, with live editing tools, a centralized workspace, and tools to support varying work styles.
8. Retention and disposal
Set up easy retention and disposal policies to handle documents according to relevant industry regulations, like those from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Box offers enterprise-level security and detailed controls to help keep data safe and compliant. Security is native to the platform, with built-in document controls, 2-factor authentication, and AES 256-bit encryption.
Learn more about document management solutions from Box
Document management is a key part of any 21st-century business strategy, and Box is the go-to provider for some of the world's top companies. Over 100,000 organizations and 68% of the Fortune 500 trust Box to bring security, productivity, and much more to their workdays. With controls and extensive functionality built in, we've created a comprehensive, centralized, and easy-to-use platform that helps small and large businesses manage their content.
No matter how many contracts, reports, spreadsheets, brochures, videos, photos, and other files go through your organization, Box can help you keep them safe and organized. Learn more about what Box has to offer and reach out to a knowledgeable representative today.
Learn more about our comprehensive centralized and easy-to-use platform
**While we maintain our steadfast commitment to offering products and services with best-in-class privacy, security, and compliance, the information provided in this blogpost is not intended to constitute legal advice. We strongly encourage prospective and current customers to perform their own due diligence when assessing compliance with applicable laws.