Records management, or RM, is the practice of maintaining the records of an organization from the time they are created up to their eventual disposal. This may include classifying, storing, securing, and destruction (or in some cases, archival preservation) of records.
A record can be either a tangible object or digital information: for example, birth certificates, medical x-rays, office documents, databases, application data, and e-mail. Records management is primarily concerned with the evidence of an organizations activities, and is usually applied according to the value of the records rather than their physical format.
Records and information management (RIM) is the field of management responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use, and disposition of records, including processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records. Records, therefore, have value and add to the intrinsic worth of the organization. Records need to be managed in a meaningful way so they can be accessed and used in the course of daily business functions throughout the organizational environment. Records are recorded information, regardless of medium or characteristics, made or received by an organization in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business. There is consensus within the organization regarding how a record is distinguished from other non-record material, such as a convenience file or draft. How records are managed throughout their life cycle is formalized into the policies and practices of the RIM program. 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. Once a record is created, controls are triggered to regulate its access and distribution. A human resource employee may separate documents from a personnel file and keep them in a locked cabinet with a control log to control and track access. Role security may be set on a repository allowing access to approved users. Software may identify the official record, versions, copies, and distribution. 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. Throughout the records life cycle, issues such as security, privacy, disaster recovery, emerging technologies, and mergers are addressed by the RIM professional responsible for organizational RIM programs. RIM 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 RIM methodology, principles, and best practices in compliance with records and information laws and regulations.
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