Decide what to capture and how
Table of contents
Records are created as part of everyday business processes–emails sent and received, tweets posted, photos taken, reports, spreadsheets and documents created. Some records will be created automatically by a system or process.
Records are based on content (what is being documented), not the format, technology used or where they are located (e.g. business systems, mobile device). For example, a project approval is a record regardless of whether it is in the form of a signed memo, an email, a verbal agreement, or a text message.
Records need to be meaningful and adequate for the purpose for which they were created and kept.
Include information on:
- the topic of the conversation or business it relates to
- date and time
- decisions or recommendations made
- advice or instructions given
- actions taken
- rationale for those decisions, recommendations, advice or instructions
- people involved.
Some of this information may need to be added when the record is formally captured (e.g. in metadata).
Note: The inclusion of a record class or type in a schedule does not mean that you need to create a record unless your business processes or legislation require it. A business process analysis should indicate the evidence you need to create and capture.
You need to capture any records that document a decision, action taken, or any recommendations, advice or instruction given, including:
- file notes
- meeting minutes
- leave applications
- discussion papers
- business cases
- finance approvals
- online transactions and communications
- recruitment and selection documentation
- approved CAD drawings
- internal/external advice
- consultation reports, feedback requests, public enquiries
- invoices for payment
- interactions – rights and entitlements of individuals and communities
- research – reports and data
- drafts – at key milestones (e.g. consultation, approval), that show change in direction, significant feedback or comments
- legal agreements.
You also need to capture any records that are created, received or kept to meet:
- legal requirements–needed for future legal/disciplinary action (e.g. licences, permits, contracts, advice, application assessments)
- community expectations–value to community groups (e.g. registration forms, reports, protective clothing logs, consultation)
- business requirements–support decisions and actions (e.g. service contract, general ledger, advice, expenditure approvals).
This applies to records in all formats, regardless of the technology used to create or capture them or where they are located (e.g. business systems, mobile device). This includes:
- text messages
- social media
- websites and web content
- video and audio recordings
- significant drafts
- surveillance records
- shared drives
- mobile devices and storage
- cloud storage and services
- business applications/systems–client management database, infrastructure maintenance system etc. (e.g. audit logs, data files, system change requests)
Any records formally captured must be full and accurate records.
To help you decide what you need to capture, ask yourself:
- Is this a business decision or activity?
- Are these significant changes to a business decision or activity?
- Are there any legal requirements as part of this work?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you must keep a record.
What you don’t need to capture
You do not need to capture:
- transitory records created for a specific purpose (e.g. post-it note for a phone message)
- information that does not record your work activities (e.g. personal emails and messages, external publications and external training material).
Use the cheat sheet for deciding what you need to keep . You can edit and personalise this for your agency.
Read more about the records you need to keep.
Your business processes and requirements determine when you capture records.
Capturing records when they are created can reduce the risk of them being missed or lost, but you may have to wait to capture others–for example, until an email conversation is finished in order to capture the whole conversation as one record.
If the original is not available (e.g. lost or damaged), you may need to capture a copy on a backup or in an email archive. Records from backups will need to be extracted and captured in your recordkeeping system.
When capturing records, you need to use controls so that records are findable and accessible. These include:
- naming conventions
- suitable format
- metadata applied
- basic recordkeeping knowledge among staff
- basic recordkeeping functions in business applications.
Email archives and back-up tapes are not reliable methods of capturing and managing your business records.
Find out which file formats, materials and paper to use.