Have you seen the film Brazil from director Terry Gilliam? It is a futuristic sci-fi dystopian story with a comic element of a man lost inside a bureaucratic world of paper and archives. A man trying to find the woman of his dreams – a woman that appears in his dreams – while working in a mind-numbing job, in a consumer driven world where everyone is over relied on poorly maintained and functioning machines.
In the world of Brazil “errors” happen often. Just like when a fly got jammed in a printer causing it to misprint a file. The result of this “error” was the death of Mr. Archibald Buttle instead of the suspected “terrorist” Archibald Tuttle.
Well, this doesn’t have to be the way your life looks like. Even if you haven’t found your dream girl yet – in your dreams or in reality – in a world based on information, archiving and managing correctly saves time, space and money. And prevents costly errors that could put you and your organization in trouble!
The term that describes this process is “records management”.
Records management is all about maintaining the different kinds of records of a specific type of an organization from the time they start existing to their eventual disposal.
But it is not just about maintaining records. It is also about organizing these records in a way that they can be functional and easy to use.
Moreover, it is about making sure that everything that should be kept as a record will be retained while also deciding for how long this record should be kept, in which specific location, who will have access. And when (if ever) it should be destroyed.
Therefore we speak of a process that includes classification, storage, security, preservation and even destruction (when necessary) of records. It is a process which while it might seem boring or trivial it is crucial for the well being of any type of organization.
Either you believe it or not, there is even an ISO standard for those who develop a records management program. According to Wikipedia, the ISO 15489-1:2001 standard defines record management as:
“[the] field of management responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records, including the processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records”
Even like that, even when there is an accepted standard of records management which makes it systematic and scientific, the decision of what is a record, and how long it should be kept is never an easy one. The choice seems to be made through a combination of prescribed practice and an unavoidable amount of subjectivity depending of course on the documents in question.
So let’s start from the beginning and ask the key question: “what is a record?”
While for you fans of music, a record might be a round thin object that when put in a specific type of machine called record player, you can hear the music of your choice, in reality, a record can be this and many more different things: From a tangible object like a paper note, to bits and bytes in your computer.
In a hospital a record might be the medical x-rays of patients with a specific disease, or the documents that describe who would eat what and when. It could be databases of materials used and the cost of these materials, even emails. Different types of information and evidence in different formats. Records, therefore, have value and add to the intrinsic worth of the organization.
For example, for an organization like a hospital it is crucial to have the information on a patient in a correct and an efficient manner. Any time lost or any information given incorrectly might be extremely costly. Therefore, what is then evident is that it is necessary to make crucial choices about what the value of information is: To create a functioning hierarchy of necessities based on time and space.
To make it simple what we have to do is to decide what is more important, what is going to be used more often, what might not be used so often but is of great interest and value to the organization.
So, what are records for an organization?
1) Records are the foundation of a business daily functioning and therefore need to be organized in an efficient and meaningful manner. The more efficiently an organization’s records are managed the greater their value for the organization. If it is not easy to access and use them efficiently it makes life much more difficult, a bit like the film Brazil, a bureaucratic nightmare. And we do not want that. Do we?
2) Records are vital. There is unique and irreplaceable information that might not have to do with a business daily functioning but require special protection, such as annual reports or shareholder records. For these specific pieces of information there should be a well defined disaster recovery plan or operation.
3) Records can also be the source of an organization’s richness, the heart that makes everything working. Such a record, for example, is the secret recipe that makes Coca-cola what it is. It is the “heart” of the organization and needs to be protected at any cost.
4) Records are finally a necessity by law. In Greece, for example, every television station is obliged by the law to keep a 24 hour record of its program for a time period of 12 months. In many different countries companies are obliged by the law to keep and store records for many different purposes.
For all this and many more reasons, either you are a small or a big company, you need an expert in record management.
Iron Mountain is the industry leader in storage and information management services since 1951 with 156.000 customers in 32 different countries on 5 continents bringing solutions on every records management issue that your business might have. Iron Mountain has clients in healthcare, in the public sector and the entertainment industry, in the energy sector and the manufacturing industries. Iron Mountain is also considered an expert for those small or medium enterprises who just want to make sure that they will have this competitive advantage that will permit them to keep growing.
So here you have it. Record management is a crucial part for the everyday activities of any organization.
An efficient management can make our lives a lot easier. And this is crucial not just for those who work within these organizations but also for the efficiency of these organizations and those people who interact with these organizations. These might be customers, or employees from different organizations, patients if we speak of hospitals or students if we speak of schools.
An efficient record management makes life better for everyone. It makes society better. And that is the issue. To avoid those “errors” that can have a cost. To make life simpler. And that is not a small thing. Don’t you agree?