If organisations manage their records well, it makes it so much easier to make sound, evidence-based decisions, and to maximise the value of information your organisation holds. If, on the other hand, records are poorly managed, you could soon find yourself coming face-to-face with serious business, legal, and financial issues. Remember, information is one of an organisation’s most important assets – it needs to be recorded and stored with care.
The life cycle of records is an important process when it comes to records management. It is basically a way of looking at how records are created and used, highlighting how records become less important as time passes. This is backed by the fact that the first 90 days of the “life” of a record are when 90% of the use takes place; after that 90 days period, records tend to be forgotten about and stored away. Since there’s a short period of high-use, followed by a longer period of low use, the use and value of a record will come to an end and it may be destroyed.
This process is known as the lifecycle of a record, made up of four stages: create, maintain, store, and dispose of. Weirdly, the lifecycle of a record actually holds similarities with that of a biological organism:
- It is born = Creation
- It lives = Maintain and Store
- It dies = Dispose
When you first create a record you need to make sure that you’re creating it in the best format possible. Checking on factors such as accuracy, validity, reliability, and relevance is important at this stage.
Accessibility is vital for a record, if you fail to store it correctly there is little point having it at all! Records should be stored in a well-organised filing system to ensure that people can always find them in order to use them when needed, without having to go on a wild goose chase in the process!
Maintaining records correctly means that no matter how old they are, they can always be accessed when required. The information contained in the records should be easy to read by explaining any jargon or codes, achieving a consistent level of understanding from the readers as a result.
Records must be disposed of appropriately to avoid problems in the future, whether this means they’re transferred to archive storage, to another organisation, or completely destroyed. Details of destroyed records must be kept by the organisation to avoid anything getting into the wrong hands.
Why is the Lifecycle of a Record Important to Manage?
The lifecycle is crucial as it is the starting point when creating a records management program. If you didn’t have the lifecycle, records management programs wouldn’t ever be cost effective and the efficiency of how they are run would decrease.
Tools, systems, and procedures are developed to manage each phase of the life cycle. For example, file plans and tracking systems are specifically made to help manage records. A retention schedule is a tool that manages the movement of records from one phase to the next.
Having good record management means that the efficiency, performance, and accountability of the business is increased because of how they manage their records.