Records management is an essential part of an organization’s broader function of governance, risk management, and compliance. It is primarily concerned with managing the evidence of an organization’s activities.
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 Records Management Life Cycle
The records management life cycle is the process a record goes through from the point of creation where the record is no longer in use. Historically valuable records should always be transferred to an archive for permanent preservation. Records with no enduring value are destroyed.
The life cycle is described in more detail below.
Records Managers control this process and make sure that each record ends up in the appropriate place at the right time. Throughout the records life cycle, issues such as security, privacy and disaster recovery are all addressed.
Managing records involves different disciplines or capabilities. Information professionals understand how to manage the creation, access, distribution, storage, and disposition of records and information in an efficient and cost-effective manner. They are also skilled at using records and information management methodology, principles, and best practices to maintain compliance with records and information laws and regulations.
Digital records have their own specific issues. It is 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. This includes identification, retrieval and appropriate disposal of records. A records retention schedule can help manage the process.
Retention schedules are an important aspect of records management. Many organizations are subject to rules and regulations that govern how long they are required to keep records before they can safely dispose of them. Holding onto records for longer than required can expose the organization to unnecessary risk. A records retention schedule is a document that outlines how long records need to be retained for before they can be destroyed. The retention schedule should be made available to everyone involved in the life cycle process of the record outlined above.
Don’t Risk it – Know Your Records
The Archive and Records Association run a campaign called ‘Don’t Risk It – Know Your Records’ which advocates for the importance of good records management, particularly in a business context. More information can be found here .