Elements of a Records Management System

Elements of a Records Management System

What makes a ‘record’? This is a familiar term in organizations pertaining to files that before were dominated by hard copies, but now are as much used to mean soft copies or digital information.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) describes records as, “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.” Simply, a record is an “evidence of an event.”

It becomes clear why on a doctor’s appointment you might be asked if you already have a record with the clinic/department/hospital. It simply means a previous consultation, check-up or treatment you might have had with them. Even a simple reservation for a day at the spa could retrieve your record of medical condition and services you’ve had with them before.

This shows that records are also documents or files that require retention for some time. A form thrown in the trash can or a message deleted right after the event doesn’t qualify as a record, even if there has been a transaction.

With the growing number of records, effective records management is necessary to ensure that they are secure and safe, as well as accessible when and if needed. More than just keeping the records in order and well bolted in your storage facility, away from the prying eyes of unauthorized personnel, there are more important rudiments that constitute the records management system.

• It determines the kinds of information that business should consider as records.

• It determines how to handle active records (documents that are currently and/or often utilized by the company), as well as how these records should be collected.

• It establishes how to retain the records and for how long each record type should be kept to meet legal, business, or regulatory requirements.

• It initiates and implements technological solutions (for digital records in particular, like e-mails, voice messages, and digital images) and business processes to ensure that the organization follows the records management guidelines in a cost-effective and non-intrusive way. This is where the government’s regulations and policies for the records management industry play a significant role. They serve as the organization’s foundation in executing its own records management system.

• It handles related tasks, such as disposing of expired or inactive records, or locating and protecting records that may be relevant or useful to external events. One example of such event is a company lawsuit.

As much as we hear of ‘records’ in hospitals and insurance companies, records management is an integral part of any, if not all organizations, and not just limited to these two industries. By efficiently managing your business’ records, both physical and electronic documents, you can better support your business’ activities.

Records management helps protect an organization legally; guides the workforce in complying with regulatory obligations; and increases efficiency that ultimately leads to better results for the company in the form of profits, (good) publicity, leverage, etc. simply because records management takes care of the business records - records are secure, accessible and relevant.

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