8 Crucial Principles of Records Management

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Written By Haisam Abdel Malak

About: Haissam is a digital software product manager with 15 years of expertise in developing enterprise content management solutions. His core capabilities encompass digital transformation, document management, records management, business process automation, and collaboration.

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The principles of records management are designed to lay the foundation of a structured framework for organizations that are serious about achieving high efficiency in handling their documents and records. Using the best records management system will provide a holistic approach to record keeping starting from managing records to securely protecting sensitive information.

Why should organizations prioritize these principles you may wonder? Well, the importance lies in achieving efficiency, maintaining compliance, and reducing risks. When businesses embrace and adhere to these principles, they can streamline their operations, ensure they meet requirements, and safeguard against the dangers of data breaches and mishandling sensitive information.

Here are the top principles of records management.

Principle 1: Records Lifecycle Management


This principle serves as the basis for implementing an effective record-keeping program within organizations. Without understanding the path for each record type from creation to destruction, you are exposing our business to higher risks of noncompliance or getting rid of a record that is still be important for the business.

It all starts with the moment a record is created or obtained which means that organizations need to establish guidelines on what qualifies as a record and ensure that all relevant information is thoroughly recorded.

As these records accumulate, they should be categorized systematically to make it easy to find them when needed. Additionally, it is crucial to store and protect these records securely preventing access, loss, or damage.

Lastly, having mechanisms for accessing and retrieving records ensures that authorized personnel can quickly retrieve them improving efficiency and compliance adherence.

Check this guide about the phases of records if you want to get a deeper understanding about this principle.

Principle 2: Records Classification and Organization

Principles of records management - records organization

This involves making sure that records are efficiently organized and categorized as per their types and content to store and locate crucial information in a fast manner.

By adopting common categorization methods, companies can simplify their documentation procedures and facilitate the retrieval of important information. This involves factors like the type of record, date, department or project depending on the requirements of the organization. Moreover, organizing records based on metadata or folder structure promotes consistency and transparency across the organization.

Although the process of creating an organized digital repository to assist users in finding records easily may seem straightforward, it actually has a significant impact on the overall record keeping procedure. It requires brainstorming and numerous trial and error attempts to achieve perfect results.

Principle 3: Retention and Disposal Policies

Most often organizations focus on creating, storing, and sharing records and forgot about their liabilities of making sure that records are archived or deleted when it is required. That is why, this principle highlights the importance of having a strict policy for retaining records and disposing them according to industry regulations like HIPAA and GDPR.

Have clearly defined business rules for maintaining or deleting a record will help organizations always have access to records that are still important for the business operations while reduce the cost of storage by getting rid of records after a specific period of time.

Principle 4: Access Control and Security

This is considered one of the most important principles of records management and record keeping as it forms the pillar of safeguarding sensitive information. In our digital where we are always in need to be connected, data breaches and unauthorized access poses significant threats to our organizations.

To combat this, businesses need to establish robust mechanisms to make sure that all their records are protected and stored in a very secure repository and only people with authorized role can have access to them. This involves implemented the strictest user authentication, encryption, and other security measures to ensure that sensitive data is not exposed.

During the first quarter of 2023, more than six million data records were exposed worldwide through data breaches. 

source: Statista.com

Principle 5: Audit Trails and Documentation

Among the most critical principles of record keeping is the ability to apply high accountability and transparency measures for handling records within organizations. At any point in time, you should be able to have a report of all the actions taken on any records. Audit trails creates a digital footprint by providing the ability to see who viewed, modified, downloaded, change version of any document.

These trails not only prevent unauthorized or unethical actions but also provide valuable insights for compliance auditing and internal investigations. Additionally, thorough documentation practices ensure that organizations can track the history and provenance of their records, enforcing trust and confidence in the integrity of their data.

Principle 6: Compliance and Regulatory Requirements

In today’s business landscape, organizations have no choice but to adhere to data protection laws, industry regulations, and internal policies to prevent data loss and penalty fines. This means that they should have a deep understanding of the frameworks that are applied to their business activities.

This makes sure that their records management implementation is aligned and covers the regulations that they need to abide by.

Principle 7: Accountability

Accountability is a fundamental principle in records management because it establishes a clear chain of responsibility and ownership over an organization’s records. Without accountability, it becomes challenging to ensure the integrity, security, and compliance of records.

Organizations need to create an environnement that promotes accountability for each record owner. That means make employees responsible for their records and increase awareness about the impact of altering or deleted a record without making sure that it can be safely edited or deleted.

Principle 8: Continuity and Disaster Recovery

The last point in the principles of records management is to ensure the proper preservation and accessibility of important information at any point of time. To achieve this, a comprehensive plan should be clearly defined to detail the existence of an automatic and schedule backup. This step minimizes the risk of data loss and make it easy to recover in the event of any unexpected disaster.

Continuous and automatic backups allow data to be replicated to storage systems without requiring manual intervention. This helps protect records from unexpected data loss. Making backups at set intervals further strengthens this process by creating consistent copies of files and documents. By following a planned backup schedule organizations can effortlessly restore data from a specific point, in time reducing the risk of losing critical information.

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