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Defining your organisations Records

Before you can manage your records, you first have to define them.


Every organisation creates, collects, and stores documents and electronic data. Some of these records and data can be considered to be ‘records’, while some of it is not. So how do you go about determining what a ‘record’ actually is?


Record Definitions


To ‘record’, in common terms, is the action of preserving something using any number of means; this includes writing, videos, and scanning.

‘Record’, in a business sense, means information in any number of forms and on any type of storage media that pertains to the operations of the organisation.

A record can be a paper or electronic record and it may include letters, articles, videos, audio recordings, photographs, scans, etc. It can be recorded  or stored on anything from standard office paper to photo paper, DVD, magnetic tape, micro-film, hard drive and more.


Examples of Records


In order to understand what a record is, it is probably helpful to know what types of documents do not constitute a record.

In most cases, these items are not considered a record

  • old manuals
  • catalogues and brochures
  • flyers and posters
  • duplicate copies of reports
  • general reference material
  • rough drafts
  • pricelists
  • doodles


Generally, documents that are original, unique, and complete can be considered to be records, so long as they are also a record of actions or control or form the basis of actions. Communication documents such as emails, voice recordings, and video recordings of meetings or disciplinary hearings would also be considered records.

At times, it can be difficult to determine if a document is a record or not.

The minutes of a meeting for example are considered a record. However, copies of the minutes are not, unless they have been annotated in such a way as to change the original.

While a flyer design may not be considered a record, a print proof provided by a printer could be considered a record. This is because it provides evidence that a print run will be carried out correctly and should the printer deviate from that proof you can prove that they are at fault.


Record Ownership


Another important aspect of a record is the fact that it belongs to the organisation. No employee can claim to own a record even if they created it or received it. A record is subject to the policies of the organisation, except where legislation determines how a record is handled, and employees have no say in how it is used, stored, or otherwise disposed of.

Being able to determine what documents and electronic data can be described as records, will help you implement an effective Records Management Programme. It will also help you create efficient backups and ensure important information is secured and complies with legislation.


Image Credit: Copyright: jbd30 / 123RF Stock Photo


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