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 A Quick Guide to Records Management

Why records management?        Records Management and Record Keeping        Records Management and Record Keeping Glossary 


Other sources of information about records management.

Why records management?

A good records management programme has a number of benefits for an organisation, but often people are not aware of them. We have listed some of these benefits below.

  1. It reduces time spent searching and accessing your records (and also the costs associated with this).
  2. It reduces duplication of documents and unnecessary workflow associated with duplication.
  3. It reduces storage costs.
  4. It enables compliance under relevant legislation.
  5. It makes electronic file systems more effective.
  6. It enables an organisation to generate and maintain an overview of what records they hold.
  7. It enables information to be viewed in context.
  8. It enables accountability – information clearly reflects the functions, activities, strategies, purposes etc of an organisation.
  9. It reduces the “information silo” mentality and fosters organisation-wide sharing of information.
  10. It helps improve information security.
  11. It ensures that information can be provided in the right time in the right way to the right person, whether that is an employee or a client.


There are many ways of creating a records management programme, all depending on the unique requirements of each organisation. We are happy to talk to you further about your records management requirements.



 What is the difference between Records Management and Recordkeeping?


Although records management is a key part of what we do, Lindisfarne is also experienced in the broader systems and concepts related to recordkeeping.  Recordkeeping is essentially the suitable management of a record from its creation to its disposal (either by archiving or destruction) so that the record is adequate for evidential and compliance purposes.


We have described records management and recordkeeping in more detail below, as you may come across both terms in records discussions and literature. If you are not clear about what some of the words mean, check out our glossary.


Records Management


1.       Records management deals with current, semi-current and closed records that are still used by an organisation.

2.      Records management looks at how records need to be managed to suit the requirements of the organisation. That is, how the records can be used to mirror the functions, processes of the organisation in a way that aids accountability and access.

3.      Records management mainly deals with the capture, control, maintenance, dissemination and closure of an organisation’s records.

4.      An ideal records management programme ensures that records present a complete, accurate and reliable picture of an organisation at any given point in time.




1.       Recordkeeping includes records management AND archives management. It ensures the creation and maintenance of adequate evidence when it comes to business transactions (i.e, by the use of records) and how they are managed from creation to disposal.

2.      An ideal recordkeeping programme ensures that accurate and reliable evidence is kept of all business transactions while the records are current, and of significant business transactions after the records are no longer in current use. ( While this is essential for a government agency, private firms and businesses often apply this as well to ensure that the memory of their business is kept for administrative and historical purposes.)

3.      Recordkeeping also ensures that records are disposed of (either by destruction or by archiving) in legal and accountable ways.

4.      If an organisation is a government agency, they cannot destroy any record without having the permission of Archives New Zealand.


There are many practical and accountable ways of managing these recordkeeping requirements so that they become a part of your day to day records management processes.  Feel free to contact us about them.




The management of records often involves its own terminology. We have listed some of the more common ones below, as well as terms you will find on our website.

If you find other records and information terms that you would like defined, please contact us.



The "principle that individuals, organisations, and the community are responsible for their actions and may be required to explain them to others". (ISO 15489-2001, Part 1, 3.2)


Records are the main way of proving accountability as they provide evidence of all business transactions. A good records management programme ensures that records are full and accurate.



1. The process of evaluating records to determine which are to be retained as archives, which are to be kept for specified periods and which will be destroyed.

2. "The process of evaluating business activities to determine which records need to be captured and how long the records need to be kept, to meet business needs, the requirements of organisational accountability and community expectations." (AS 4390-1996, Part 1, 4.3)

In both cases, appraisal involves the process of establishing which records are minor and which are significant based on the concept of continuing value.



In most cases a report written for Archives New Zealand, outlining the context and reasons behind appraisal decisions for government agencies.


Appraisal reports can be written for private organisations as well. These focus not so much on which records have continuing value, but rather on which information needs to be captured into records, how long these records need to be kept and why.



Records that have had an appraisal carried out and are judged as having continuing value have archival value. That is, the value of the record justifies the continuing retention of the record as an archive. There are two main types of value:

Records of archival value are often transferred to an archival repository under retention and disposal schedules or under another appraisal method.

(Some of this information is sourced from Keeping Archives, p 462.)



1. Those records that are appraised as having continuing value. Traditionally the term has been used to describe records no longer required for current use which have been selected for permanent preservation, but records (especially electronic records) can be marked as archives while they are still active records or at the point of their creation.

2. The place (building/room/storage area) where archival material is kept. Some organisations have “archives rooms” where they hold their closed records, but this is a bit of a misnomer as the records within them have not been appraised.

3. An organisation (or part of an organisation) responsible for appraising, acquiring, preserving and making available archival material. This would be Archives New Zealand for government agencies in New Zealand.

(Some of this information is sourced from Keeping Archives p.463)



Formerly called the National Archives. Archives New Zealand's two main roles are

1.      To ensure the government’s activities are recorded, and the records are kept permanently

2.      To provide access to these records.

It operates under the Public Records Act 2005.



The "systematic identification and arrangement of business activities and/or records into categories according to logically structured conventions, methods, and procedural rules represented in a classification system". (ISO 15489-2001, Part 1, 3.5)


In other words, a classification scheme is the “backbone” which organises all the records of an agency by what they were created to do rather than by subject. It is a key part of any recordkeeping system and serves as a functional map to all the records created by the organisation. It provides a consistent and accountable way of managing records that is not affected by structural, political, technical or internal change.


A classification scheme also allows for appropriate grouping, naming, security, protection, user permissions and retrieval. (DIRKS, Glossary, p.6 taken from AS4390-1996, Part 4, 1)

Such schemes are also known as (records) classification structures, classification lists or file structures.



This is also referred to as permanent or ongoing value. It most often refers to records that become archives due to their archival value. This value does not diminish over time, but is continuing due to the nature of its content or context. For example, a record may have continuing value because it is summarises a major policy decision made by an organisation. Even if the organisation no longer exists, it provides key evidence of how the organisation made an important decision in terms of its day to day business.



1.      The final decision concerning the fate of records, i.e. usually destruction or transfer to Archives New Zealand (or, in the case of private records, another archival repository).


2.      A programme of activities to facilitate the orderly transfer of records that are not often used from current office space into low-cost or archival storage.

(Some of this information is sourced from Keeping Archives, p.467)



Recorded information regardless of medium or form, and usually considered to be the smallest complete unit of record material, e.g. a letter, photograph, report.

(From Keeping Archives, p.468)



Electronic Document and Records Management System. A system that is specifically designed to manage the content of electronic documents and provides facilities for version control and access control. A shared drive or information management systems such as Customer Relationship Management System are not EDRMS.



"Records capable of being processed in a computer system and/or stored at any instant in a medium which requires electronic or computer equipment to retrieve them." (From Keeping Archives p.469).

Includes paper records which have been digitised. 



1.      An organised unit of documents, accumulated during current use and kept together because they deal with the same subject, activity or transaction. The unit may be paper or electronic. For example, an electronic file or a paper file.

2.      The action of placing documents in a predetermined location according to an overall scheme of control." For example, “to file” documents. (Some of this information is sourced from Keeping Archives, p.470)

File does NOT mean a single electronic document in recordkeeping contexts.



In order for organisations to establish and maintain recordkeeping systems to appropriate standards (whether these are internal, external, or both) records must be full and adequate. That is, they must be:


Compliant - complying with the recordkeeping requirements arising from the regulatory and accountability environment in which the organisation operates;

Adequate - for the purposes for which they are kept;

Complete - containing not only the content, but also the structural and contextual information necessary to document a transaction;

Meaningful - containing information and/or linkages that ensure the business context in which the record was created and used is apparent;

Comprehensive - documenting the complete range of the organisation's business for which evidence is required;

Accurate - reflecting accurately the transactions that they document;

Authentic - enabling proof that they are what they purport to be and that their purported creators did indeed create them; and

Inviolate - securely maintained to prevent unauthorised access, alteration or removal.

(From AS 4390-1996, Part 3, 5.3)



The largest unit of business activity in any organisation. (AS 4390-1996, Part 1, 4.15). Functions are usually that aspect of the business that continues over time, regardless of the structure of the company. For example: a health organisation’s main functions may be to govern, plan, fund and provide health and disability services, carry out research, develop, maintain and monitor agreements with external providers and monitor and reduce adverse health affects in communities.



An information audit looks at the information created within an organisation and the processes and workflows that contribute to it. Once completed an audit should be able to provide an overview of how chosen forms of information are created, used, managed and owned within an organisation, and based on this, improvements can then be suggested.



Guidelines for staff on the naming of documents in both paper-based and electonic systems. Can include advice on the metadata or properties of electronic deocuments. These help to clearly define the content of the document, its date of creation, creator, version, editing, form of proper names, and so on.



Under the Public Records Act, all public agencies and local authorities are required to create and maintain full and accurate records in accordance with normal, prudent business practice. They must also be accessible over time. The objectives of the legislation are to:

·        Promote accountability between the Crown, the public, and Government agencies

·        Enhance public confidence in the integrity of public records

·        Enhance and promote NZ’s historical and cultural heritage

·        Encourage partnership and goodwill envisaged by the Treaty of Waitangi in relation to public records.


The Act has two key duties that public agencies must adhere to. They are:

1.      To create and maintain records.

2.      To obtain the authority of the Chief Archivist before disposing of public records.

(Archives NZ http://www.archives.govt.nz/about.php )



A recordkeeping programme is similar to a records management programme (the term is often used interchangeably) but is technically broader in scope as it considers the ongoing management of closed and archival records created by an organisation as well as records used in day to day business.  Additional standards and processes such as retention and disposal advice are implemented that consider if and how the records are going to be kept as full and accurate records after they are no longer required for administrative purposes. These standards and processes decide whether a record is to be kept as an archive, or destroyed. They can be designed so that even at its creation, the ultimate disposal of a record (and its requisite use, storage, access, migration etc requirements that lead to this point) is decided.



A records management programme is a subset of a recordkeeping programme as it focuses more on the day to day use of an organisation’s records. It ensures that clear policies, processes and responsibilities underscore the routine and ongoing use of any manual or electronic system that creates, controls or manages an organisation’s records. 

The ultimate goal of any records management programme is to aid business accountability by ensuring records compliance. This means records should be complete and accurate in accordance with the guidelines of the international recordkeeping standard ISO 15489 (which was heavily based on AS 4390). In most cases this objective is carried out by introducing a set of tools that combine to make up the records management programme. These tools include an overall policy, a classification scheme, naming conventions and guidance on how all should be used.



"Information systems which capture, maintain and provide access to records over time." (AS 4390-1996, Part 1, 4.20).


Recordkeeping systems can be in a variety of sizes and formats from index cards and file lists to EDRMS.  The key aspect of all systems is that they need to be able to control and manage full and accurate records, usually through the application of classification scheme.

They form part of a Records Management or Recordkeeping Programme.



For business purposes records are "information created, received, and maintained as evidence and information by an organisation or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business". (ISO 15489-2001, Part 1, 3.15)


Records can be in any format.



A systematic list of the records held by an organisation, either onsite or in off-site storage, or at an archival repository such as Archives New Zealand. A good list will organise records by function and will include reference numbers, title (with additional details as required) and date range of each item.


Listing is a form of registration.  It allows an organisation to find out what records actually exist in contrast to what is expected to exist based on mapping structures such as classification schemes.That is, the act of listing allows records to be identified in places or contexts that may be outside the purpose for which they were originally created.