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What is the records management process?

Managing the life cycle of your information is crucial. Discover the right approach with records and retention management.

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What is records management?

Records are “information created, received and maintained as evidence and information by an organization or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business”, as defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Records can take the form of paper, digital files, photos, audio recordings or videos, and contain information regarding legal, financial, historical and daily operations.

Records management includes tasks like:

  • Identifying, classifying and storing records
  • Establishing and enforcing policies, standards and guidelines
  • Assigning responsibilities and managers
  • Maintaining usability
  • Providing internal and external access 
  • Integrating records management as part of daily operations

The records management process

The records management process is the records lifecycle from creation, usage and maintenance, to destruction or archival preservation. These steps can be further explained as:

  • Create or receive. This is the beginning of the records management process, which starts with creating or receiving a document relating to an organization’s transaction or activity. 
  • Use or modify. In this active phase, records are used by and distributed to employees. The active phase varies depending on the nature of the records, but the usage rate eventually decreases as the records enter the inactive stage.
  • Maintain or protect. The records are applied with an appropriate security classification and organized accordingly in file cabinets or digital platforms to protect from unauthorized access and damage.
  • Dispose or destroy. Even if records become inactive, they have to be retained according to policy and government rules and regulations. At the end of the retention schedule, these records are destroyed according to company policy.
  • Archive or preserve. Some records have to be kept permanently and in these cases, they are moved to an archive. It is important that these records are indexed and searchable to facilitate retrieval if required.

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Best practices in records management

The concepts and principles of managing records fall under ISO 15489-1:2016, which applies to management of records in any form or structure for all types of organizations over a period of time. Records management is a requirement for many governmental agencies and businesses, and provides evidence of an organization’s compliance and conduct. This serves as proof during audits and legal cases and failing to produce well-maintained records could cause fines or penalties.

Some of the principles you can put into practice for a compliant records management process are:

  • Setting up a records retention policy
  • Creating a records management procedure
  • Managing the records database
  • Implementing records management compliance auditing
  • Determining disposal methods for records

Coming up with a records management plan can be overwhelming, especially if your organization has been relying on manual processes and paper files for recordkeeping.

One of the most effective and efficient methods is to look into a records management solution that gives you a complete view of your records database — both physical and digital files — with the ability to automate repetitive tasks. The security and privacy of your records can be better managed for improved compliance.

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