What counts as 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 council clearly deals more with records than people, so I’ll explain this in language that actually makes sense.
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 received for 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 now 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 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 just isn’t enough to meet industry compliance standards. Beyond the legal mandates, a records management strategy is vital to the life cycle of your organization’s information. 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 becoming the standard for how most organizations control their information and records. Many records management systems 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 life cycle of records.
Aside from following federal regulations, a records management strategy is largely customizable and can be tailored to an organization’s information use. Unfortunately, records management is frequently forgotten until after it’s really needed.
Get The Ultimate Guide to Records Management to get started on creating your own records management strategy.