Thoughts on the establishment of a records management programme

Author: Quintus van Rensburg

A records management programme looks after important records, see to it that they are preserved and makes them available for use.

After obtaining the backing of management the first step would be to draw up a proposal for a records management programme. This is an important aspect as it states why such a programme is necessary and what it entails.

The following issues should be addressed in the proposal for a specific organization:

  • How records were handled in the past and the problems it created, the financial benefit of a change and how it will make the organisation more efficient.
  • How the new programme will address the problems of the current management programme; including an explanation on some of the elements of the new programme.
  • What resource will be required for the new programme.
  • A timetable and sequence of events for implementing the new programme.

If the proposal receives support from management a following aspect which should receive attention is preparation of a formal policy for the new programme. This may be a difficult phase as the policy will need to be approved by different levels of management in an organisation.

For creating a new programme or changing an existing one the task of systems analysis needs to be performed. This usually entails looking at how the processes in the organisation work, trying to improve them and to standardise record content and style.

The purpose of systems analysis is to match the records that are created to the workings of the organisation. A filing series should reflect the different functions being performed. There should also be a distinction between substantive and facilitative records. Substantive records are primary to the functions of the organisation, while facilitative records are those records all offices have in common. Paperwork management, which includes creating files and distributing copies, should reflect the distinction of substantive and facilitative.

Record style is improved by studying the esthetics of forms and trying to improve on elements such as format and layout. Other important aspects are directives management (methods of communicating policy and procedures), mail management (handling internal mail), security surrounding records and disposal of records.

The importance of the different aspects will differ from one organisation to the other, depending on needs and size. For example, and organization might decide to focus on improving the filing, expecting to improve overall performance this way. The focus of the programme will differ in every case.