Decide what records to capture and how

Once you have determined your recordkeeping requirements and your risks, you can determine what records you will capture and how.

1. Create records

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 an application or process.

What makes a record a record is 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, or a text message.

Records need to be meaningful and adequate for the purpose for which they were created and kept.

Make sure you include enough information to ensure the content, context and structure can be trusted as a true and accurate representation of the transactions, activities  or facts that they document.

Include information on:

  • the topic of the activity 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.

2. Decide which records to capture

You need to capture any records that document a decision, action taken, or any recommendations, advice or instruction given, including:

  • policies/procedures
  • file notes
  • meeting minutes
  • leave applications
  • discussion papers
  • plans
  • authorisations
  • 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:

Any records formally captured must be complete and reliable records.

We recommend that you:

  • focus on each activity and business area at a time
  • consider each transaction from start to finish
  • identify what records act as or are needed as evidence of each step in a transaction or activity (e.g. minutes, emails, drafts, approvals, etc)
  • ensure that each transaction in an activity is captured in a record and determine how long the record should be kept.

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 (DOC, 47 KB). You can edit and personalise this for your agency.

Read more about the records you need to keep.

3. When to capture records

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 records governance framework.

4. How to have discoverable and accessible records

It is important not just to capture a record, but to make sure it can be accessed and used afterwards.

When capturing records, you need to use controls so that records are findable and accessible. These include:

Find out which file formats, materials and paper to use.

Digital records

Make sure digital records can be found and used.

Start by organising them in a logical way, using consistent naming conventions, and ensuring they’ve been tagged with appropriate metadata.

The recordkeeping or business application they are stored in also needs to be kept running and accessible. This is usually the responsibility of the IT team.

For some core business applications, responsibilities may be divided between a recordkeeping team and those who actually manage the applications.

Physical records

How you make physical records available will depend on your agency’s recordkeeping policies and procedures:

  • if records are stored in local filing cabinets or in an open file room, users can self-serve
  • if records are stored in a secure file room or in off-site storage, the recordkeeping team may need to provide retrieval services.

How employees search for and find physical records depends on your recordkeeping system.


It is important to keep track of the location of records. If they can’t be found they can’t be used. This is especially important for physical records, which can be misplaced or lost by users.

If your agency holds a lot of physical records, think about doing a regular census or audit to help identify any missing records.

Digital records may be in a range of business applications. To help keep track of digital records and ensure digital records are captured in the right system, it’s important to train and educate users on the benefits of good recordkeeping practices.