Office Record Management: Objectives, Benefits, Key to Effective

  • Post last modified:3 October 2021
  • Reading time:16 mins read

What is Office Records?

The term record may be defined as “any written data that are made for possible future use”. It refers to the vast bulk of correspondence and other documents which are created, received and stored in any business office.

The term “record” includes all forms of information processing media used by a business, whether they are in the forms of correspondence, vouchers, cards, registers, files, tapes or microforms of the records. A typical business has dozens of kinds of records, which constitute the memory of the entire organization.

Classifications of Records

They may be classified into the following categories:

  • Correspondence records: These include letters, notices, circulars, memoranda etc., received or sent by the organization.

  • Accounting records: These include accounting and financial records, whether in the form of account books, vouchers, invoices, orders,, contracts or documents etc., which are evidence of various accounting and financial transactions.

  • Personnel records: These include the records relating to the personnel of the organization, eg., performance records, labour turn over records, personal histories of employees, wages sheets or payrolls, etc.

  • Legal records: These records are maintained under various statutes – The income Tax Act, The Sales Tax Act, The Companies Act etc., They may include records which may serve as evidence in legal proceedings.

  • Other Business Records: These include purchase records stock records, sales records, production and cost records and all the other records which are not covered by the above categories.

What is Record Management?

Record management is the management control of records. (Peterson) the term records management has been defined to include “the activities of designed to control the life cycle of a record, its creation to its ultimate disposition. The life cycle of a record refers to the stages through which it passes, including the following: creation, utilization, storage, retrival, and disposition.

According to Littlefield, ” Records management, broadly defined, includes forms, reports, reproduction of written material, filling records, retention, microfilming and related services.

The guiding principle of records management is to ensure that information is available when and where it is needed, in an organized and efficient manner, and in a well-maintained environment.

Organizations must ensure that their records are:

Accountability

Assign a senior executive who will oversee and be accountable for the record-keeping program (aka information governance program, or IGP) and delegate program responsibility to appropriate individuals; adopt policies and procedures to guide personnel, and ensure program auditability. Make all business managers accountable for information governance and the records management principles, policies, and costs.

Integrity

Construct an IGP so that records generated or managed by or for the organization have a reasonable and suitable guarantee of authenticity and reliability. Identify technologies and processes that can provide suitable and reasonable guarantees. To do this of course requires an organization to first define and classify the difference between official records and business information.

Protection

The IGP must ensure a reasonable level of protection to records and information that are private, confidential, privileged, secret, or essential to business continuity. These attributes are the core differentiators when comparing content management to records management systems.

Compliance

The IGP must be established to comply with applicable and jurisdictional laws, regulations, and the organization’s policies. The challenge for most organizations is not developing policies but instead enforcing these policies across a vast number of information repositories and file systems.

Availability

The IGP must maintain records in a manner that ensures timely, efficient, and accurate retrieval of needed information, as more and more organizations are turning to information governance and IGP to do more than meet compliance regulations.

Retention

Maintain records and other information for an appropriate time (and for no longer), taking into account business, legal, regulatory, fiscal, operational, and historical requirements.

Disposition

An IGP provides for the deletion for records that have no incremental business value or that create liability for the business.

Transparency

The IGP must be implemented in a defensible, understandable, and efficient manner and be available and understood by internal and external business stakeholders.


Objectives of Record Management

Following are the objectives of office records management:

  1. To keep the accounts of progress in an order.

  2. To facilitate the preparation of financial statements.

  3. To know the true condition of the business organization.

  4. To facilitate in business plans and decision making particularly in the context of changing environment.

  5. To facilitate comparisons between one period of time with another.

  6. To facilitate comparisons between different product lines.

  7. To facilitate comparisons between two similar business firms.

  8. To detect errors, prevent frauds and avoid wastage.

  9. To facilitate the performance of the business functions.

  10. To keep the various records under various laws and fulfill the legal requirements.

  11. To use the records as written proof of the every business transaction.

  12. To bring and keep the efficiency in office operations

Benefits of Record Management System

Every organization manages information, and this process can be approached intentionally, increasing value, or haphazardly, leading to business impediments. Here are some reasons why your organization would benefit from having a records management system.

Knowledge Sharing and Learning

An organization that positions itself to allow employees to learn from the past and position for the future is one that will better serve its stakeholders.

Compliance with regulatory requirements for information management

Organizations in Ontario must adhere to PIPEDA, a regulatory act that specifies requirements for working with personal information. A records management system not only helps organizations meet regulatory requirements but also offers a clear demonstration of due diligence, reducing or avoiding fines and penalties.

Business continuity planning

Without information flowing through the organization at the right place and the right time to the right people, business comes to a halt. Information management helps ensure that despite disasters or unexpected events, your organization can continue to function with the vital data required.


Key to Effective Records Management System

The lifecycle for an information asset may include record creation, access, classification, modification, archive, backup, and disposal. Every record within an organization will go through one or more of these stages. Each stage is managed by business policy and processes, human resources, technology systems, or any combination of these.

The key to an effective records management system rests in unlocking the strengths of each area as well as integration to serve the needs of the organization and meet regulatory requirements.

Develop or hire information management professionals

Without qualified and experienced professionals, information management will be limited in its impact on your organization. Having the right skill set and growing your team to become more adept at information management is a crucial focus area.

With the information footprint of each organization expanding daily, it would be prudent to expand the expertise in managing the information. A trusted provider can also provide training and insights to your team, allowing them to marry business experiences with a technical information management skill set.

Create a classification scheme

AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) suggests that a classification scheme helps an organization share information in a form that people in the organization can understand and make it easier for staff to utilize. Having a classification scheme will bolster your organization’s ability to quickly search and retrieve information.

Develop a metadata model

Metadata is information about a subject that can help describe and classify information. On a computer, each file has information such as date created and file type that aids in searching the information. Likewise, a metadata model for various types of records can help your staff understand when it should be disposed of and who is authorized to view the information.

The association suggests that a metadata model that can be leveraged across the organization can help ensure consistency and save time for new departments wishing to better manage information deposits.

Ensure records management representation

Having a records management representative at planning meetings can help ensure that your organization plans for information management rather than reacting to mismanagement. Allowing a voice for records management allows your organization to plan to make use of information.

Leverage broad staff quality control

Platforms like Wikipedia and community forums have provided ways for countless users to take part in information management and knowledge sharing. We spoke earlier about how records management is everyone’s responsibility.

Using tools like Confluence, Jive, or Social text will help your team collaborate and improve the quality of your information. The continuous cycle of improving the quality of records and increasing staff participation is accelerated through the clear articulation of the benefits of accessing content that can help everyone do their jobs.

Invite regulator input

Often when companies are tagged with a penalty for noncompliance, this is their first encounter with the privacy arm of government. Inviting regulators to be part of the process of planning and initiating a records management system can help build relationships and ensure your company meets compliance requirements. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is available here to help answer questions or to provide input. Don’t wait till an issue arises. Demonstrate due diligence from the get-go.

Create buy-in by engaging stakeholders and invite on-going feedback

Without the wide support of your organization’s staff, it is difficult to create a records management system that serves the needs of your team. Ensure that they are given ample opportunity to be educated and made aware of the challenges that are being addressed and how these issues can also make their work more efficient and effective. Invite ongoing feedback to keep in touch with changing needs and to bolster their continued participation in helping ensure records security and availability needs are met.


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