A series of documents pertaining to a specific project or person creates a company history of that project or person. These records are often stored for future examination and for routine business activities. Finding a stored record is much easier and more efficient when using a unified record management system. It also should secure and protect a company's records.
What Is Record Management?
Businesses create records, or data, documenting many things—personnel, processes, court proceedings, finances, daily tasks and client information. The management of these records from their creation, storage and final destruction is the domain of record management. Record management requires creating a framework from which to create and categorize records. From this framework the decision to store, archive, destroy or secure the records can be made. Software products like IBM's Records Manager and Iron Mountain's Accutrac Records Management Software make high-volume record management easier.
Who Uses Record Management?
Any business or individual should practice some level of record management. Records are evidence of activity and the events that take place on a daily basis. This includes paper records, voice records, x-rays and photographs as well as electronic records (email, order forms, shipping notices). Doctors, lenders and the local cable company use records to establish the history of a patient or customer.
Incorporating Record Management
Record management systems begin when a document is created. Specifications for how each document is to be handled should include where it resides and who has access to it while it is in use, at what point the document should become a record and how it should then be collected, classified and stored. Storage should be secured and only be accessible through an agreed-upon process. International Standards Organization (ISO) has created a standard for records management—ISO 15489. This standard is available for purchase online.
Using Record Management
Record management systems incorporate ways of tracking compliance and thus aid in businesses meeting regulatory, legal and business requirements. Record managers and compliance officers work hand in hand to make sure records are safe and handled properly. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and bankruptcy courts all require records to prove certain events and the storage of those records for designated time periods. Federal agencies and employees have agreed to certain records and document responsibilities that are outlined via the National Archives agency.
The Association of Records Managers and Administrators International (ARMA International) is a nonprofit professional organization that provides information on creating record management systems, develops standards and best practices recommendations and tracks legislation important for record management professionals. Standards being written include Records and Information Management for Technology Professionals, Website Records Management and a revision to the Vital Records Program: Identifying, Managing, and Recovering Business Critical Records. The Vital Records Program revision is including a look at the impact of Hurricane Katrina on vital records.