Records management , also known as records and information management , is an organizational function devoted to the management of information in an organization throughout its life cycle , from the time of creation or inscription to its eventual disposition. This includes identifying, classifying, storing, securing, retrieving, tracking and destroying or permanently preserving records.
An organization's records preserve aspects of institutional memory. In determining how long to retain records, their capacity for re-use is important. Many are kept as evidence of activities, transactions, and decisions. Others document what happened and why. The concept of record is variously defined. Proper records management can help preserve this feature of records.
Recent and comprehensive studies have defined records as "persistent representations of activities" as recorded or created by participants or observers.
In contrast, previous definitions have emphasized the evidential and informational properties of records. A Records Manager is someone who is responsible for records management in an organization. Section 4 of the ISO Records-management principles and automated records-management systems aid in the capture, classification, and ongoing management of records throughout their lifecycle. Such a system may be paper-based such as index cards as used in a library , or may involve a computer system, such as an electronic records-management application.
A defensible solution is one that can be supported with clearly documented policies, processes and procedures that drive how and why work is performed, as well as one that has clearly documented proof of behavior patterns, proving that an organization follows such documented constraints to the best of their ability.
While defensibility applies to all aspects of records life cycle, it is considered most important in the context of records destruction, where it is known as " defensible disposition " or " defensible destruction ," and helps an organization explicitly justify and prove things like who destroys records, why they destroy them, how they destroy them, when they destroy them, and where they destroy them.
Not all documents are records. A record is a document consciously retained as evidence of an action. Records management systems generally distinguish between records and non-records convenience copies, rough drafts, duplicates , which do not need formal management. Many systems, especially for electronic records, require documents to be formally declared as a record so they can be managed.
Once declared, a record cannot be changed and can only be disposed of within the rules of the system. Records may be covered by access controls to regulate who can access them and under what circumstances. Physical controls may be used to keep confidential records secure — personnel files, for instance, which hold sensitive personal data, may be held in a locked cabinet with a control log to track access.
An audit trail showing all access and changes can be maintained to ensure the integrity of the records. Just as the records of the organization come in a variety of formats, the storage of records can vary throughout the organization.
File maintenance may be carried out by the owner, designee, a records repository, or clerk. Records may be managed in a centralized location, such as a records center or repository, or the control of records may be decentralized across various departments and locations within the entity. Records may be formally and discretely identified by coding and housed in folders specifically designed for optimum protection and storage capacity, or they may be casually identified and filed with no apparent indexing.
Organizations that manage records casually find it difficult to access and retrieve information when needed. The inefficiency of filing maintenance and storage systems can prove to be costly in terms of wasted space and resources expended searching for records. An inactive record is a record that is no longer needed to conduct current business but is being preserved until it meets the end of its retention period , such as when a project ends, a product line is retired, or the end of a fiscal reporting period is reached.
These records may hold business, legal, fiscal, or historical value for the entity in the future and, therefore, are required to be maintained for a short or permanent duration. Records are managed according to the retention schedule. Once the life of a record has been satisfied according to its predetermined period and there are no legal holds pending, it is authorized for final disposition, which may include destruction, transfer, or permanent preservation.
A disaster recovery plan is a written and approved course of action to take after a disaster strikes that details how an organization will restore critical business functions and reclaim damaged or threatened records. An active record is a record needed to perform current operations, subject to frequent use, and usually located near the user. In the past, 'records management' was sometimes used to refer only to the management of records which were no longer in everyday use but still needed to be kept — 'semi-current' or 'inactive' records, often stored in basements or offsite.
More modern usage tends to refer to the entire ' lifecycle ' of records — from the point of creation right through until their eventual disposal. The format and media of records is generally irrelevant for the purposes of records management from the perspective that records must be identified and managed, regardless of their form. The ISO considers management of both physical and electronic records.
The records life-cycle consists of discrete phases covering the life span of a record from its creation to its final disposition. In the creation phase, records growth is expounded by modern electronic systems. Records will continue to be created and captured by the organization at an explosive rate as it conducts the business of the organization. Correspondence regarding a product failure is written for internal leadership, financial statements and reports are generated for public and regulatory scrutiny, the old corporate logo is retired, and a new one — including color scheme and approved corporate font — takes its place in the organization's history.
Examples of records phases include those for creation of a record, modification of a record, movement of a record through its different states while in existence, and destruction of a record.
Throughout the records life cycle, issues such as security, privacy, disaster recovery, emerging technologies, and mergers are addressed by the records and information management professional responsible for organizational programs. Records and information management professionals are instrumental in controlling and safeguarding the information assets of the entity.
They understand how to manage the creation, access, distribution, storage, and disposition of records and information in an efficient and cost-effective manner using records and information management methodology, principles, and best practices in compliance with records and information laws and regulations.
Records managers use classification or categorization of record types as a means of working with records. At the highest level of classification are physical versus electronic records. This is disputable; records are defined as such regardless of media. ISO and other best practices promulgate a functions based, rather than media based classification, because the law defines records as certain kinds of information regardless of media.
Physical records are those records, such as paper, that can be touched and which take up physical space. Electronic records , also often referred to as digital records , are those records that are generated with and used by information technology devices.
Classification of records is achieved through the design, maintenance, and application of taxonomies , which allow records managers to perform functions such as the categorization, tagging, segmenting, or grouping of records according to various traits. Enterprise records represent those records that are common to most enterprises, regardless of their function, purpose, or sector.
Such records often revolve around the day-to-day operations of an enterprise and cover areas such as but not limited litigation, employee management, consultant or contractor management, customer engagements, purchases, sales, and contracts. The types of enterprises that produce and work with such records include but are not limited to for-profit companies, non-profit companies, and government agencies.
Industry records represent those records that are common and apply only to a specific industry or set of industries. Examples include but are not limited to medical industry records e.
Legal hold records are those records that are mandated, usually by legal counsel or compliance personnel, to be held for a period of time, either by a government or by an enterprise, and for the purposes of addressing potential issues associated with compliance audits and litigation.
Such records are assigned Legal Hold traits that are in addition to classifications which are as a result of enterprise or industry classifications. Legal hold data traits may include but are not limited to things such as legal hold flags e.
Managing physical records involves different disciplines or capabilities and may draw on a variety of forms of expertise. Commercially available products can manage records through all processes active, inactive, archival, retention scheduling and disposal. Some also utilize RFID technology for the tracking of the physical file. The general principles of records management apply to records in any format.
Digital records almost always referred to as electronic records , however, raise specific issues. It is more difficult to ensure that the content, context and structure of records is preserved and protected when the records do not have a physical existence. This has important implications for the authenticity, reliability, and trustworthiness of records. Much research is being conducted on the management of electronic records.
Based at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia , in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the InterPARES Project is a collaborative project between researchers all across the world committed to developing theories and methodologies to ensure the reliability, accuracy, and authenticity of electronic records.
Functional requirements for computer systems to manage electronic records have been produced by the US Department of Defense ,  The United Kingdom's National Archives and the European Commission,  whose MoReq Model Requirements for the Management of Electronic Records specification has been translated into at least twelve languages funded by the European Commission. Particular concerns exist about the ability to access and read electronic records over time, since the rapid pace of change in technology can make the software used to create the records obsolete, leaving the records unreadable.
A considerable amount of research is being undertaken to address this, under the heading of digital preservation. A digital archive has been established by PROV to enable the general public to access permanent records.
Archives New Zealand is also setting up a digital archive. There is substantial confusion about what constitutes acceptable digital records for the IRS , as the concept is relatively new. The subject is discussed in Publication and Bulletin , but not in specific detail. Businesses and individuals wishing to convert their paper records into scanned copies may be at risk if they do so.
While public administration, healthcare and the legal profession have a long history of records management, the corporate sector has generally shown less interest. Corporate records compliance issues including retention period requirements and the need to disclose information as a result of litigation have come to be seen as important.
Statutes such as the US Sarbanes-Oxley Act have resulted in greater standardization of records management practices. Since the s the shift towards electronic records has seen a need for close working relations between records managers and IT managers, particularly including the legal aspects, focused on compliance and risk management. Privacy , data protection, and identity theft have become issues of increasing interest.
The role of the records manager in the protection of an organization's records has grown as a result. The need to ensure personal information is not retained unnecessarily has brought greater focus to retention schedules and records disposal.
The increased importance of transparency and accountability in public administration, marked by the widespread adoption of Freedom of Information laws, has led to a focus on the need to manage records so that they can be easily accessed by the public. For instance, in the United Kingdom, Section 46 of the Freedom of Information Act required the government to publish a Code of Practice on Records Management for public authorities.
Implementing required changes to organisational culture is a major challenge, since records management is often seen as an unnecessary or low priority administrative task that can be performed at the lowest levels within an organization. Reputational damage caused by poor records management has demonstrated that records management is the responsibility of all individuals within an organization.
An issue that has been very controversial among records managers has been the uncritical adoption of Electronic document and records management systems. Another issue of great interest to records managers is the impact of the internet and related social media, such as wikis , blogs , forums , and companies such as Facebook and Twitter , on traditional records management practices, principles, and concepts, since many of these tools allow rapid creation and dissemination of records and, often, even in anonymous form.
A difficult challenge for many enterprises is tied to the tracking of records through their entire information life cycle so that it's clear, at all times, where a record exists or if it still exists at all. The tracking of records through their life cycles allows records management staff to understand when and how to apply records related rules, such as rules for legal hold or destruction. As the world becomes more digital in nature, an ever-growing issue for the records management community is the conversion of existing or incoming paper records to electronic form.
Such conversions are most often performed with the intent of saving storage costs, storage space, and in hopes of reducing records retrieval time. Tools such as document scanners , optical character recognition software, and electronic document management systems are used to facilitate such conversions. Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in library and information sciences which cover records management.More...