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Records management, also known as records and information management, is an organizational function devoted to the management of information in an organization throughout its life cycle, from the time of creation or receipt to its eventual disposition. This includes identifying, classifying, storing, securing, retrieving, tracking and destroying or permanently preserving records.[1] The ISO 15489-1: 2001 standard ("ISO 15489-1:2001") defines records management as "[the] field of management responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records, including the processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records".[2]

An organization's records preserve aspects of institutional memory. In determining how long to retain records, their capacity for re-use is important. Many are kept as evidence of activities, transactions, and decisions. Others document what happened and why.[3] The purpose of records management is part of an organization's broader function of Governance, risk management, and compliance and is primarily concerned with managing the evidence of an organization's activities as well as the reduction or mitigation of risk associated with it. [4] Recent research shows linkages between records management and accountability in governance.[5]

Concepts of record

The concept of record is variously defined. The ISO 15489-1:2016 defines records as "information created, received, and maintained as evidence and as an asset by an organization or person, in pursuit of legal obligations or in the transaction of business".[2] While there are many purposes of and benefits to records management, as this definition highlights, a key feature of records is their ability to serve as evidence of an event. Proper records management can help preserve this feature of records.

An organization's records preserve aspects of institutional memory. In determining how long to retain records, their capacity for re-use is important. Many are kept as evidence of activities, transactions, and decisions. Others document what happened and why.[3] The purpose of records management is part of an organization's broader function of Governance, risk management, and compliance and is primarily concerned with managing the evidence of an organization's activities as well as the reduction or mitigation of risk associated with it. [4] Recent research shows linkages between records management and accountability in governance.[5]

The concept of record is variously defined. The ISO 15489-1:2016 defines records as "information created, received, and maintained as evidence and as an asset by an organization or person, in pursuit of legal obligations or in the transaction of business".[2] While there are many purposes of and benefits to records management, as this definition highlights, a key feature of records is their ability to serve as evidence of an event. Proper records management can help preserve this feature of records.

Recent and comprehensive studies have defined records as "persistent representations of activities" as recorded or created by participants or observers.[6] This transactional view emphasizes the importance of context and process in the determination and meaning of records. In contrast, previous definitions have emphasized the evidential and informational properties of records.[7] In organizational contexts, records are materials created or received by an organization in the transaction of business, or in pursuit of or in compliance with legal obligations.[8][9] This organizational definition of record stems from the early theorization of archives as organic aggregations of records, that is "the written documents, drawings and printed matter, officially received or produced by an administrative body or one of its officials".[10][11]

Key records management terminology

Not all documents are records. A record is a document consciously retained as evidence of an action. Records management systems generally distinguish between records and non-records (convenience copies, rough drafts, duplicates), which do not need formal management. Many systems, especially for electronic records, require documents to be formally declared as a record so they can be managed. Once declared, a record cannot be changed and can only be disposed of within the rules of the system.

Records may be covered by access controls to regulate who can access them and under what circumstances. Physical controls may be used to keep confidential records secure – personnel files, for instance, which hold sensitive personal data, may be held in a locked cabinet with a control log to track access. Digital records systems may include role-based acces

Recent and comprehensive studies have defined records as "persistent representations of activities" as recorded or created by participants or observers.[6] This transactional view emphasizes the importance of context and process in the determination and meaning of records. In contrast, previous definitions have emphasized the evidential and informational properties of records.[7] In organizational contexts, records are materials created or received by an organization in the transaction of business, or in pursuit of or in compliance with legal obligations.[8][9] This organizational definition of record stems from the early theorization of archives as organic aggregations of records, that is "the written documents, drawings and printed matter, officially received or produced by an administrative body or one of its officials".[10][11]

Not all documents are records. A record is a document consciously retained as evidence of an action. Records management systems generally distinguish between records and non-records (convenience copies, rough drafts, duplicates), which do not need formal management. Many systems, especially for electronic records, require documents to be formally declared as a record so they can be managed. Once declared, a record cannot be changed and can only be disposed of within the rules of the system.

Records may be covered by access controls to regulate who can access them and under what circumstances. Physical controls may be used to keep confidential records secure – personnel files, for instance, which hold sensitive personal data, may be held in a locked cabinet with a control log to track access. Digital records systems may include role-based access controls, allowing permissions (to view, change and/or delete) to be allocated to staff depending on their role in the organisation. An audit trail showing all access and changes can be maintained to ensure the integrity of the records.

Just as the records of the organization come in a variety of formats, the storage of records can vary throughout the organization. File maintenance may be carried out by the owner, designee, a records repository, or clerk. Records may be managed in a centralized location, such as a records center or repository, or the control of records may be decentralized across various departments and locations within the entity. Records may be formally and discretely identified by coding and housed in folders specifically designed for optimum protection and storage capacity, or they may be casually identified and filed with no apparent indexing. Organizations that manage records casually find it difficult to access and retrieve information when needed. The inefficiency of filing maintenance and storage systems can prove to be costly in terms of wasted space and resources expended searching for records.

An inactive record is a record that is no longer needed to conduct current business but is being preserved until it meets the end of its retention period, such as when a project ends, a product line is retired, or the end of a fiscal reporting period is reached. These records may hold business, legal, fiscal, or historical value for the entity in the future and, therefore, are required to be maintained for a short or p

Records may be covered by access controls to regulate who can access them and under what circumstances. Physical controls may be used to keep confidential records secure – personnel files, for instance, which hold sensitive personal data, may be held in a locked cabinet with a control log to track access. Digital records systems may include role-based access controls, allowing permissions (to view, change and/or delete) to be allocated to staff depending on their role in the organisation. An audit trail showing all access and changes can be maintained to ensure the integrity of the records.

Just as the records of the organization come in a variety of formats, the storage of records can vary throughout the organization. File maintenance may be carried out by the owner, designee, a records repository, or clerk. Records may be managed in a centralized location, such as a records center or repository, or the control of records may be decentralized across various departments and locations within the entity. Records may be formally and discretely identified by coding and housed in folders specifically designed for optimum protection and storage capacity, or they may be casually identified and filed with no apparent indexing. Organizations that manage records casually find it difficult to access and retrieve information when needed. The inefficiency of filing maintenance and storage systems can prove to be costly in terms of wasted space and resources expended searching for records.

An inactive record is a record that is no longer needed to conduct current business but is being preserved until it meets the end of its retention period, such as when a project ends, a product line is retired, or the end of a fiscal reporting period is reached. These records may hold business, legal, fiscal, or historical value for the entity in the future and, therefore, are required to be maintained for a short or permanent duration. Records are managed according to the retention schedule. Once the life of a record has been satisfied according to its predetermined period and there are no legal holds pending, it is authorized for final disposition, which may include destruction, transfer, or permanent preservation.

A disaster recovery plan is a written and approved course of action to take after a disaster strikes that details how an organization will restore critical business functions and reclaim damaged or threatened records.

An active record is a record needed to perform current operations, subject to frequent use, and usually located near the user. In the past, 'records management' was sometimes used to refer only to the management of records which were no longer in everyday use but still needed to be kept – "semi-current" or "inactive" records, often stored in basements or offsite. More modern usage tends to refer to the entire "lifecycle" of records – from the point of creation right through until their eventual disposal.

The format and media of records is generally irrelevant for the purposes of records management from the perspective that records must be identified and managed, regardless of their form. The ISO considers management of both physical and electronic records.[2] Also, section DL1.105 of the United States Department of Defense standard DoD 5015.02-STD (2007) defines Records Management as "the planning, controlling, directing, organizing, training, promoting, and other managerial activities involving the life cycle of information, including creation, maintenance (use, storage, retrieval), and disposal, regardless of media".[12]

The records life-cycle consists of discrete phases covering the life span of a record from its creation to its final disposition. In the creation phase, records growth is expounded by modern electronic systems. Records will continue to be created and captured by the organization at an explosive rate as it conducts the business of the organization. Correspondence regarding a product failure is written for internal leadership, financial statements and reports are generated for public and regulatory scrutiny, the old corporate logo is retired, and a new one – including color scheme and approved corporate font – takes its place in the organization's history.

Examples of records phases include those for creation of a record, modification of a record, movement of a record through its different states while in existence, and destruction of a record.

Throughout the records life cycle, issues such as security, privacy, disaster recovery, emerging technologies, and mergers are addressed by the records and information management professional responsible for organizational programs. Records and information management professionals are instrumental in controlling and safeguarding the information assets of the entity. They understand how to manage the creation, access, distribution, storage, and disposition of records and information in an efficient and cost-effective manner using records and information management methodology, principles, and best practices in compliance with

Examples of records phases include those for creation of a record, modification of a record, movement of a record through its different states while in existence, and destruction of a record.

Throughout the records life cycle, issues such as security, privacy, disaster recovery, emerging technologies, and mergers are addressed by the records and information management professional responsible for organizational programs. Records and information management professionals are instrumental in controlling and safeguarding the information assets of the entity. They understand how to manage the creation, access, distribution, storage, and disposition of records and information in an efficient and cost-effective manner using records and information management methodology, principles, and best practices in compliance with records and information laws and regulations.

The records continuum theory is an abstract conceptual model that helps to understand and explore recordkeeping activities in relation to multiple contexts over space and time.

Records management practices and concepts

A records manager is someone who is responsible for records management in an organization.A records manager is someone who is responsible for records management in an organization.[citation needed]

Section 4 of the ISO 15489-1:2001 states that records management includes:[2]