Records Management

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Records management is the system for creating, maintaining, and destroying a company's or organization's records. Records, as distinct from documents, are best defined as formal evidence of business activity. The focus of an auditor, for example, is records (generally financial) rather than documents. That is, records for the most part are documents, but all documents are not records. If you think about a think tank, a print shop, and a payroll services vendor, the distinction becomes more clear.

One of the more interesting developments in the evolution of records systems has come with the move from paper to digital format. The biggest question is the legality of the image of a document or record versus the original. Several shared guidelines across governments and jurisdictions are accepted. Among them is, first, that digitized records must be archived on unalterable media, such as CD or DVD. Second, the records system must incorporate both controls and an audit trail. Third, the system must document how the electronic software running the records system works.

Records Management Life Cycle, Step by Step
After information is gathered and generated into a record, it is then distributed across the organization. After distribution, it is stored in a filing system that enables ready access by staff and management as their responsibilities and needs dictate. One component of records management is the defined logical scheme and security controls for electronic storage and retrieval.

Depending on the nature of the record, it will be archived for a defined duration or destroyed. Some records, such as by-laws, payroll data, tax filings, and financial documents, for example, are preserved in archive permanently. The strengths and flaws of a records management system almost without exception will come to light during the course of an organization's annual financial audit.


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