What is a record anyway?

I recently wrote an article for IDM Magazine discussing the essential rules behind what is and is not a ‘record’. Paradoxically, although it is obviously fundamental to what records managers do, this is one of the topics that seems to be most misunderstood.

It’s clear from the legislation and regulation that anything showing evidence of business is a record (yes, even most drafts). The article spells out the ruling in more detail, but it’s unavoidable that most information, in most formats, does need to be formally managed – either as a record on its own merit, or as data used to create a record with continuing value.

I think the main reason that confusion abounds about what comprises a record isn’t that the rules are unclear (they aren’t), but that it has, to date, not been possible to manage most information as records. From the article:

For most agencies, it’s not possible to manage all their information as records in electronic records management systems. This leads to value judgements about what is and is not a priority for formal records management, which leads to judgements about what is and is not a record.

This subjective approach becomes policy-by-necessity, and flows down all the way from governance, to technology configuration, to user training.

Now that we have made records management possible for all systems, we are starting to see clients acknowledge the value of their other information, beyond shares and emails. By classifying and auditing their information, we are showing that there are indeed items with continuing value (and risk) in legacy, bespoke or non-traditional systems. Our clients are taking more control of their business systems, both because now they can, and we can also show evidence that they should.