What is Records Management?

What is Records Management?

Papers, papers everywhere! Our world, particularly our workplace, is filled with a seemingly endless amount of files, invoices, documents, reports and others.

We are plagued with paperwork and surrounded by piles and piles of records. They can be stored in filing cabinets, boxes, storage room or maybe in an off-site storage facility where the records are handled by records storage professionals. With the amount of important records in an organization, it is crucial to have a proper and efficient records management. It doesn’t matter if the business is a thriving small-scale enterprise or an already established multinational. The same principle applies that records management is important to keep the company’s records safe, secure and accessible.

Let us first talk about “records” to get a clearer picture of records management, as they after all, concern our subject.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines 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." In layman’s terms, every relevant file, document and other significant written material both hard copy and soft copy that has any “business in your business” can be considered a record. A simple handwritten acknowledgment receipt or a hastily signed note that still pertains to your business or work is already and still is a record. This article in itself is a record. Something that when managed could be filed under the topic of records management, or perhaps included in the references for handling and maintaining business documents. Therefore, those invoices, minutes of the meetings, resumes, receipts, employee files, e-mails, contracts, reports, etc. call for an efficient and effective records management.

Another definition of records worth noting is that of the International Council on Archives (ICA) Committee on Electronic Records, which defines a record as "a 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." A more straightforward take is to say that a record is an "evidence of an event."

Records management meanwhile, is simply the method of ascertaining that documents – hard copy and soft copy (digital) - are stored and maintained safely until the time when they are to be disposed of or completely destroyed. Records management does not only pertain to active records or those that are currently in use. It even involves archival preservation of records. Now here’s something to thank for if someone needs information from years past. What does a calligrapher for instance, do if he wants to research on soldiers’ letters to their loved ones during World War II? Right, dig up archives; old records, and his work gets a good start for writing that research paper.

More modern usage of records management and storage refers to the entire life cycle of documents, from their ‘birth’, that is their creation until their ‘death’ or the eventual disposal of the files.

The proliferation of important documents, most of which are bases for closed deals, potential clients, progress or evaluation evidences, income generating tools, and advertising and marketing medium seals records management as an integral company practice. It is no longer regarded as a mere administrative task nor an unnecessary practice a business should implement. Records are also part of the simple yet powerful concept of “can make or break a company.” How many times have we heard a competitor gaining leverage due to “leaked information?” How about strained relationships between client and provider because of a confidentiality agreement gone wrong that is often a result of messed up paperwork say, a contract seen by an unauthorized person? Such instances and more are liabilities and risks for any company.

Records management then becomes of utmost importance to avoid problems like these. Regulations and policies abound to make the practice of managing and storing records better with the objective of ensuring records of all kinds are safer and more secure in a workplace; for a business or company; and for the people's peace of mind.

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