Develop recordkeeping policies, procedures and tools

1. Recordkeeping tools

Recordkeeping tools are tools that support your records governance and how it is used.

Consider what recordkeeping tools are currently in place and if the introduction or redevelopment of an existing tool may address any issues you have identified.

Common tools include:

The tools you use will vary depending on your agency’s specific requirements and circumstances.

2. Naming conventions

Naming conventions cover how records are titled when they are captured. Naming records consistently will help ensure that they are findable and usable.

For example, when capturing an email into an eDRMS, in the title field enter ‘Email from [First Name] [Surname] from [Department] regarding [Subject of email]’.

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:

  • using brief, simple and meaningful names that are easy to understand
  • being specific and using terms that accurately describe the subject/topic of the document
  • not using words such as ‘miscellaneous’, ‘general’ and ‘other’ unless they form part of a specific name (e.g. general staff meeting)
  • not using: the, for, and, in, of, if, so
  • using only alpha-numeric characters
  • not using special characters such as: # & = ; : ^ \ / “ $ < > ?
  • only using approved abbreviations
    Note: Consider developing a list of accepted abbreviations and acronyms for ones most commonly used (e.g. for department names)
  • using version numbers (e.g. Annual Report 2013-2014 V2)
  • including dates and a description for names relating to recurring events (e.g. Monthly Staff Meeting July 2014).

See examples of naming conventions when capturing emails and names.

3. Business Classification Scheme (BCS)

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 Information and documentation—Work process analysis for recordkeeping standard (SA/SNZ TR ISO 26122:2012).

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.

4. Thesaurus

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.

5. Keyword AAA and Keyword for Councils

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.

Find out more about Keyword AAA and Keyword for Councils.

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

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
  • Word 95 and 97 format
  • Tab delimited
  • Comma separated
  • ASCII.

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
  • Glossary
  • Frequently Asked Questions.

6. Business rules

Business rules are rules built into the system that deal with how the system may be used.

For example, a business rule may be that only staff in certain roles are able to edit certain records in a database, though all staff may view the records.

You can put business rules in place to control the use of certain functionalities within recordkeeping applications.

Rules should be documented in a procedure or equivalent documentation.

Examples of business rules:

  • Only save business related documents into a recordkeeping application. Manage personal documents in personal drives.
  • Documents may be queued for deletion and the Information Management Director is able to purge these documents following a formal review process.
  • The Information Management Unit will create all folders in the eDRMS.
  • Create all documents, records and files with a default security classification of X-IN-CONFIDENCE.
  • Use the Queensland Government information security classification framework.

7. Policies and procedures

Policies and procedures are a way to provide guidance and rules to all staff for how to achieve certain goals and aims or carry out certain tasks. 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.

Your recordkeeping policy should state what your agency must do and will shape the way your recordkeeping procedures and tools look.

You may have a stand-alone recordkeeping policy or include recordkeeping as part of some or all of your policies.


  • if all of your recordkeeping requirements are covered by a policy or procedure
  • if they clearly articulate the link between the actions required from staff and the achievement of your strategic goals
  • how often they are reviewed and whether or not they are up to date.

You can use procedures to control how records are made and kept.

The Records governance policy requires agencies to have some form of documentation around:

  • how and when records must be created, captured and kept
  • the format they must be created in
  • who must create them
  • how security, access and preservation are handled for these records
  • how these records will be disposed of
  • how visibility of permanent, high-value and high-risk records is maintained.

Also consider if you need documentation for:

You can use and adapt the recordkeeping policy template (DOC, 66 KB), the recordkeeping procedure template (DOC, 119 KB) or develop your own.

We recommend that you consult with business areas and staff when developing policies and procedures to ensure they are appropriate and fit-for-purpose.