Mythics Blog

WebCenter Content:  Records - Understanding the Life Cycle of Content.  Part 1 of 2

Posted on August 8, 2013 by Larry Baker

Tags: Mythics Consulting, Oracle, WebCenter

With the mounting concerns around identity theft, confidentiality of personal information, privacy of health information and accurate accounting of financial transactions, the proper retention of documents has become critical.  Oracle’s WebCenter Content product is tool that will address these concerns and properly manage content.  With all of the publicity of court litigation due to inappropriate actions and the mishandling of information, we have lost focus of the true definition and classification of records.  There now is a trend of referring to all documents as records.  However, there is a distinct difference between a general document and a record.  All records are documents, but, not all documents are records. This distinction is important in understanding the additional functionality Records adds to WebCenter Content beyond Core Capabilities.

What are Documents?

Any piece of written information received by an individual or an organization, in any format, is a document.  These documents can contain a variety of types of content.  Documents can be in many forms.  They can be structured or unstructured and are varying lengths.  Documents can be in either paper or electronic format.  They can be hand written files, paper forms, letters, memos, E-mails, MS Word docs, MS Excel files, charts, databases, web site content, and etc.  Documents of this nature might include information about general building maintenance, non-business luncheons, team outings, office supply orders, PTO schedules, lists of phone numbers, plant layouts, or spare parts lists. There are many other examples of this type of information that continues to accumulate.   Although all of this information is valuable at one point in time, it eventually becomes useless information and no longer needs to be retained.

A Document’s Life Cycle

Documents have varying values, life cycles, and legal ramifications.  There are no requirements for maintaining and retaining general documents.  Some documents have very short life spans.  However, documents are frequently kept indefinitely.  Some organizations feel that they need to keep every document forever.  This happens as the life cycle for a document is usually unstructured and differs from one document to another.   Since non-record documents have no legal ramifications, they frequently are never destroyed.  With the relative low cost of disc space, maintaining unused electronic documents is not a concern.  However, the cost to maintain paper documents can be very expensive.

The time line below shows the typical life cycle of a non-record document.

What are Records?

Contracts, Policy Records or any other document that has value from a business transactions perspective must be kept for legal purposes.  Documents that obligate a company or individual to specific actions, transactions, or procedures, are records.  Records are documents that serve as evidence of matters to which the parties involved are obligated to act or as evidence of a written commitment.  A record is a formal, written account of a case or actions to be executed in accordance with a contract.  A record can contain history of actions taken, transactions of events, results found, employee personnel documents, papers filed, product warranties, court rulings and written opinions. 

Records always start-out as documents, but at some point they become executed as a legal record.   This point varies depending upon the nature of the record.  Some documents become records when they are signed.  Some become records at a specified point in time.  And others become records when they are legally executed or distributed.

A Record’s Life Cycle

Records are static documents.  Amendments can be created for records, but, the content of a record cannot be changed.  Records have governance for a specified, or determinable, period of time.   The end of a record’s life is determined either in a time based manner or by an event based action.  Although a record comes to the end of its life, there are still strict compliance requirements for the record’s retention.  There can be very stiff penalties for not retaining an expired record for the required minimal period of time.

The time line below shows the typical life cycle of a record.


As we have seen, there are distinct differences between non-record documents and records.  There are a number of differences in the two types of content.  The basic differences are included in the table below:

It is easy to understand how organizations are getting the two confused.  But, if you are looking for content management systems, make sure that you are getting the correct system to handle your content.  Just as there are differences between records and documents, there are significant differences between Document Management systems and Records Management systems.  Oracle provides WebCenter Content: Core Capabilities to manage storage, retrieval and revision of documents.  Oracle also provides a DoD 5015 certified WebCenter Content: Records tool that adds retention and disposition for the management of both electronic and paper records.  

In Part 2, we will explore how Oracle’s WebCenter Content: Core Capabilities and WebCenter Content: Records differ.


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