Develop recordkeeping policies, procedures and tools
The Records Governance Policy (external) has replaced Information Standard 31: Retention and disposal of public records, and Information Standard 40: Recordkeeping. These information standard have been repealed.
Any references to IS31 and IS40 may be taken as a reference to the current Records Governance Policy if the context permits.
Use policies, procedures and tools to provide guidance and rules to all staff for how recordkeeping is done in your agency. They will help ensure rules about how records are to be made, kept, managed, and disposed of are applied consistently, transparently and in accordance with your requirements.
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Your recordkeeping policy should state what your agency must do and will shape the way your recordkeeping procedures and tools look.
Your recordkeeping policy should be based on your agency’s specific needs and circumstances, however it will need to:
- establish your key recordkeeping principles and values
- establish rules for how records are made and kept
- ensure compliance with your legislative and business requirements
- clearly describe the recordkeeping roles and responsibilities for all employees.
We recommended that you consult with business areas and staff when developing policies to ensure they can implement strategies.
You can use and adapt the recordkeeping policy template or develop your own.
Once a policy has been approved, you include it in your training and awareness program. You may also need to distribute it to employees and/or introduce it at meetings.
You can use procedures and standards to control how records are made and kept. They can be developed for:
- storage requirements
- security and access
- certain record formats (e.g. email, CCTV, social media)
- destruction or transfer of records
- recordkeeping metadata requirements.
You can use the recordkeeping procedure template or develop your own.
Use tools and rules to support your recordkeeping system, and help people comply with requirements.
The most common are naming conventions, business rules, and a business classification scheme (BCS). You can also develop a thesaurus, mapping tools between your BCS and schedules , and rules for using and applying metadata.
The tools you use will vary depending on your agency’s specific requirements and circumstances.
Naming conventions cover how records are titled when they are captured. Naming records consistently will help ensure that they are findable and usable.
See examples of naming conventions when capturing emails and names.
A naming convention is different from a data entry standard, in that it is specific to the titling of records for your agency (most agencies will already have business-wide data entry standards).
Naming conventions may include:
- use brief, simple and meaningful names that are easy to understand
- be specific and use terms that accurately describe the subject/topic of the document
- avoid using words such as ‘miscellaneous’, ‘general’ and ‘other’ unless they form part of a specific name (e.g. general staff meeting)
- avoid using: the, for, and, in, of, if, so
- use only alpha-numeric characters
- avoid using special characters such as: # & = ; : ^ \ / “ $ < > ?
- words are not to be abbreviated unnecessarily (e.g. use committee instead of ‘cttee’)
Note: Consider developing a list of accepted abbreviations and acronyms for ones most commonly used (e.g. for department names)
- where there are different versions, it is good practice to indicate it with the inclusion of a ‘V’ followed by the number (e.g. Annual Report 2013-2014 V2)
- names relating to recurring events (e.g. monthly meeting) should indicate the date and description of event (e.g. Monthly Staff Meeting July 2014).
You can put business rules in place to control the use of certain functionality within recordkeeping applications is used (e.g. records deletion, management of drafts, classification of information, managing certain formats).
Base your business rules on your recordkeeping procedures.
A BCS can help you establish a structure for titling records and makes it easier to find, share and dispose of them.
The structure of the BCS is hierarchical:
- the top level represents the business function (e.g. Financial Management)
- the second level represents the activities that make up the function (e.g. Accounting)
- the third level represents the transactions that take place within each activity (e.g. invoice processing).
Developing a BCS can be a major project and usually forms part of a larger program (like the implementation of a new recordkeeping application).
To develop a BCS, you will need to:
- research your agency’s functions and activities
- identify recordkeeping requirements
- consult with the business to make sure the right terminology is used
- understand how your BCS will be implemented (knowing the technology it will be used with and how you will get the business to use it).
Note: The process of functional analysis is described in the Australian Standard 5090–2003: Work process analysis for recordkeeping.
You may need to review or update your BCS if your agency’s functions and activities change (for example, as part of a machinery-of-government or administrative change). You should clearly document changes to your BCS, including where terms have been removed or replaced.
Consider mapping between versions and the different terms if there are significant changes; for example, if you’ve merged multiple schemes.
A thesaurus can be used:
- as a controlled list of words or phrases to be used by your agency
- to indicate a preferred term among synonyms
- to shows relationships between terms
- as a guide to allocating classification terms to individual records.
A thesaurus should be based on a functional approach rather than subject or organisation structure.
You should specify the meanings of terms and provide sufficient entry points to enable users to navigate from terms which are not to be used to those that are preferred.
If you currently have multiple schemes within different areas of the organisation, consider developing a single thesaurus for use across the whole organisation.
Indicate non-preferred terms if you have multiple terms for the same thing, or old terms that have been replaced.
You may need to review or update your thesaurus periodically, or after a MOG or administrative change. Check for terms that no longer apply, or need to be revised or added, particularly if you have inherited or lost a function.
When implementing a thesaurus, decide how it will apply to existing records. You can:
- carry over all files into the new ‘system’
- carry over only current or open files and archive all others
- archive all existing files and begin creating new records using the new thesaurus as new files are needed.
Also consider how it will be rolled out throughout the organisation (e.g. staged implementation by area, trial with one area first, whole organisation) and what training will be required for different staff.
Plan and document these decisions in your policies and procedures.
For information on developing a thesaurus for records titling, after identifying functions and activities, see State Archives & Records NSW Guideline 15: Developing and implementing a keyword thesaurus.
State Archives & Records NSW has developed Keyword AAA and Keyword for Councils as standard classification tools.
Keyword AAA contains common administrative terms that cover functions of most state government agencies. Keyword for Councils covers most functions of local governments.
These tools can be used to develop your own BCS, however, you will need to add other terms, functions and activities specific to your agency.
Using Keyword AAA or Keyword for Councils
If you have an existing thesaurus, you may need to review it to:
- remove any terms covered by or duplicated in Keyword AAA / Keyword for Councils
- ensure core business terms match the three-level structure.
Both can be modified where necessary to suit your agency. You may need to alter terms, scope notes, or add or remove terms. Any changes you make will increase the maintenance required in future in order to incorporate any updates made by State Archives & Records NSW.
Note: A summary of changes is included in the introduction to each new version of Keyword for Councils, making changes easy to identify.
If you are importing it into a recordkeeping application, be aware that it may over-write any existing thesauri. To prevent any loss of any data or links, check with your software vendor before uploading.
Request a copy of Keyword AAA or Keyword for Councils
To obtain a free copy under a whole-of-government licence agreement, email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Both are available in a variety of formats to allow them to be imported into an eDRMS, recordkeeping application or business system. These include:
- RecFind import format
- TRIM import format
- Hierarch import format
- Word 95 and 97 format
- Tab delimited
- Comma separated
In addition to an alphabetical list of terms, they both come with:
- Classification Guide (i.e. a table showing the subject and activity descriptors that may be used with each keyword)
- Introduction and instructions for applying Keyword AAA / Keyword for Councils
- Frequently Asked Questions.