What is a record?

According to the International Council of Archives (ICA), a record is any “recorded information produced or received in the initiation, conduct or completion of an institutional or individual activity and that comprises content, context and structure sufficient to provide evidence of the activity.”

This quote brings up an important distinction. While records are often considered synonymous with documents, they include one important characteristic that makes them unique: records, whether physical or digital, include evidence of a particular business activity, requiring them to be stored and retained over an extended period.

While the definition of a record is often identified strongly with a document, it includes any tangible object or digital information, which has value to the organization.

Common records are:

  • Documents created in the course of business (correspondence, agreements, studies).
  • Items that require organizational action (FOIA requests, controlled correspondence).
  • Documented organizational activities and actions (calendars, meeting minutes, project reports).
  • Items mandated by statute or regulation (administrative records, legal/financial records, dockets).
  • Items supporting financial obligations or legal claims (contracts, grants, litigation case files).
  • Items needed to communicate organizational requirements (guidance documents, policies, procedures).
  • In addition, some industries require organizations to treat items posted on social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc…) as records.

Why is records management important?

The U.S. alone has more than ten federal records management laws and regulations that must be followed when managing government records. Then there are financial regulators like the the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that have their own set of rules for the financial and health industries respectively.

Storing files on an organization’s shared drive is not enough to meet industry compliance standards. Beyond the legal mandates, a records management strategy is vital to the lifecycle of your organization’s information.

The record lifecycle encompasses the following phases: the creation, distribution, active storage, inactive storage and retention, disposition and archiving of an organization’s records.

A strategy at an organizational level will govern how information is created, stored, shared, tracked and protected.

This ensures your organization’s information will never be in the wrong hands or the wrong place and can still be accessed by those who need it.

What are the benefits of electronic records management systems?

Electronic (or digital) records management is the modern standard for how organizations control their information and records.

A quality records management system should provide:

  • Improved efficiency in the storage, retention and disposition of records and records series.
  • Detailed reports of which records are eligible for transfer, accession or destruction.
  • Audit trails to track all system activity and the entire lifecycle of records.
  • Customizable and flexible capabilities—tailored to the needs of the organization.

A dependable, efficient records management system can help meet these challenges without drastically altering business operations. In the words of Justin Pava, Principal Technical Product Manager at Laserfiche, “The best records management solution is one you don’t need to think about.”

In summary, building a records management strategy should be a top priority for any organization that values efficiency, security and compliance with regulatory record-keeping requirements.

Get The Ultimate Guide to Records Management to get started on or improve your records management strategy. 

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