What is Records Lifecycle: The Complete Guide

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Written By Haisam Abdel Malak

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Every record has a lifecycle which could be a few days, or it could be permanent. The records lifecycle is determined by how long it must be retained to meet legal, administrative, fiscal, and historical requirements. Throughout this process, a record must be appropriately managed and regulated for the duration of its existence.

Records lifecycle refers to the stages that each record must go through and be managed during its lifespan. The lifecycle of records consists of three major stages: creation or receipt, distribution and use, and disposition. Different policies and procedures exist at each phase.

The lifecycle is based on the notion that some records retain their value for a longer period of time than others and that the value of records frequently changes throughout time. A record with permanent retention, for example, retains its worth indefinitely, but a record with three-year retention loses its value totally after three years.

Records lifecycle helps organizations in effectively managing and maintaining records from creation to disposition, ensuring that important records are accessible at any time and improving compliance with various rules and regulations.

Records management benefits are enormous, it ensures that info is available when and when it is required, in an organized and efficient way, and in an appropriate setting.

I strongly advise you to read the following article to have a better understanding of how records management can ensure that your records are properly maintained and cared for.

8 Tips For Effective RECORDS MANAGEMENT (theecmconsultant.com)

Various records management activities occur at various stages of the records lifecycle, which a records administrator undertakes at the beginning or end of the phase. The duration of the life cycle is comprised of the phases taken together.

records lifecycle
Records Lifecycle Stages: Creation, Distribution and use, and Disposition

What Are The Stages of a Records Lifecycle?

We utilize the records lifecycle as RIM specialists to track the flow of records through their various life stages. There are several interpretations of the major phases in a record’s lifecycle, but they all begin with the same ones. RM goals and objectives should be clearly stated to identify the lifecycle of records within your organization.

The 3 stages of a records lifecycle are:

1- Creation and/or Receipt

The first stage in the records lifecycle is creation. It refers to the reproduction or production of recorded or documented data. This stage begins with the creation or receipt of a record. For example, you may write a financial report (creation) or receive a memo by email (receipt).

Records must be created in the finest format available, and they must be of high quality, accurate, valid, and dependable. They may be created in different ways within organizations.

  • Compose and send emails
  • Creation of any MS office document types such as word, presentations, spreadsheets, etc.
  • Transaction within an enterprise system
  • The receipt of word documents, emails, excels, and so on

Records are considered active at this stage.

2- Distribution & Use

Stage two of the records lifecycle is called “Distribution & Use”. After a record is created or received, it passes through a distribution and usage phase. The distribution in the life cycle of a record includes both internal and external distribution and the impact on the entire or a portion of a business.

The record is widely used during this phase and must be maintained in an easily accessible location for easy access and use. The record might be kept for a few hours or years, depending on the retention schedule.

I strongly advise you to read the following article covering the full guide to records retention.

3- Disposition

The last phase of the records life cycle is the disposition and involves records being destroyed. When inactive records retention periods expire, the records life cycle comes to an end.

Now that the records are no longer required, the record can be deleted or transferred to archives.

At the end of a record’s lifecycle, the records management team must determine whether to destroy or keep the record. Records must be disposed of properly to avoid future issues, whether this involves transferring them to archive storage, another organization, or fully destroying them.

In most situations, this will imply physically destroying the record or, in the case of electronic records, removing the records from the electronic system and its backups.

Destruction can be carried out in a variety of methods, including, but not limited to:

  • Disposing of in the bin
  • Shredding of paper document
  • Deleting of electronic document
  • Shredding of optical disk

Other Records Lifecycle Stages

The above is the fundamental records life cycle, however your company’s demands may necessitate changes. For example, you may wish to include a phase to govern how documents are stored, whether on paper or electronically.

Let’s look into some of the stages that you can include in your records lifecycle.

1- Store

It is critical to ensure that records are correctly preserved in order to give simple access throughout the firm.

This phase will cover how to properly keep paper documents, classify records, as well as how and where to store electronic documents.

2- Secure

Maintaining records appropriately ensures that they can always be accessible when needed, no matter how old they are.

It is not enough to just gather and preserve records; it is also critical to guarantee that only those with the appropriate access may examine their content.

Depending on the format of the documents, securing them is handled differently. Records must be filed in a cabinet that should only be accessible to authorized staff. Furthermore, permissions on electronic documents should be addressed immediately following the storage phase.

What Are The Importance of Records Lifecycle?

Organizations may handle their records more efficiently and effectively with strong records management best practices, which increases productivity and the overall effectiveness of corporate operations.

Records lifecycle ensures that all records are managed and preserved appropriately and that they are disposed of or archived in line with their retention plan in order to comply with various compliance standards and regulations.

Without the lifecycle, records management challenges will hinder the possibility for a perfect implementation plan.


What are the stages of a records lifecycle?

Records lifecycle is a process that helps organizations to manage their documents and data throughout their life cycle. The process is broken down into five stages:
1. Creation
2. Maintenance
3. Preservation
4. Disposition
5. Destruction

What determines lifespan of a record?

The lifespan of a record is determined by the time it takes to create the record, the frequency and speed at which data is added to it, and its relevance.

What is the first step in the records life cycle?

The first step in the records’ life-cycle is to decide what needs to be kept. This decision will depend on the type of records, their legal and regulatory requirements, and the organization’s business needs.

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