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Characteristics and functionality of recordkeeping systems

This section examines: the qualities recordkeeping systems should have, and; the types of operations they need to be able to perform.

DIRKS builds recordkeeping systems

The DIRKS methodology helps you to transform business information systems that should be managing evidence of their operations into recordkeeping systems.

To operate effectively, recordkeeping systems have to meet a defined set of characteristics. These characteristics are summarised here to provide an overview of the types of qualities your recordkeeping systems should possess. These characteristics are revisited in Step D: Assessment of existing systems and Step F: Design of a recordkeeping system, the sections of the methodology where you focus on transforming relevant business information systems into recordkeeping systems.

Characteristics of recordkeeping systems

Recordkeeping systems should possess the following characteristics, in order to produce and maintain authoritative records:

The characteristic of… Means that systems should…
  • routinely capture all records
  • organise records appropriately
  • provide adequate information about the records within them
  • provide ready access to records and make records of system operation
  • prevent unauthorised access, destruction, alteration or removal of records
  • be managed in compliance with all requirements that apply to the business documented within them
  • manage all records resulting from the business activities that are documented or managed by the system
  • store records in ways that mean they cannot be tampered with, deleted inappropriately or altered
  • allow records to be shared as information resources across a work space, business unit or organisation [2]

Functions that should be performed by recordkeeping systems

In addition to having these characteristics, recordkeeping systems must be capable of performing a range of standard recordkeeping functions.

The function of... Means that systems should be capable of...
  • capturing records by assigning them unique identities and attributing brief descriptive information to them, such as a title and date
  • arranging records into categories based on the business activities they document, as a means of facilitating record control, retrieval, disposal and access
  • establishing access points to facilitate record retrieval
Access and security monitoring
  • assigning and implementing rights or restrictions that protect records against unauthorised or inappropriate use or access
  • monitoring record use to ensure no inappropriate use occurs and an auditable record of use is maintained
  • utilising disposal authorities, linking disposal periods to records, triggering any required disposal actions, reviewing any history of use to confirm or amend disposal status and maintaining an auditable record of disposal (retention, destruction or transfer) actions
  • appropriately maintaining records in consideration of their form, use and value for as long as they are legally required
Searching, retrieval and rendering
  • making records available as corporate information resources
  • identifying and presenting records in response to user search requests and, where appropriate, enabling records to be printed on request
  • generating any reports deemed necessary by the organisation

Additional requirements

Recordkeeping systems should be capable of:

Managing records in any form

This involves:

  • managing electronic records, scanned images, voice files, video clips, digital plans, databases, information from other applications etc.
  • managing electronic signatures and encrypted records, where appropriate

Some systems may only be required to manage records in one format, while others will need to be capable of managing multiple formats

Integration with electronic applications

This invloves:

  • integration with applications used for transaction of business (office utilities, e-mail, websites, database applications, workflow, etc) [3]

InformationTip: Don't underestimate the importance of system useability
When you are designing and implementing recordkeeping systems and considering the functionality they should possess, it is important to consider the overall useability of the system. Many systems with recordkeeping capacities have great strength in relation to record creation and capture, but do not necessarily enable the search paths or retrieval flexibility that may be required by system users. Recordkeeping systems have to be useable and it's important not to overlook this key requirement.

What these qualities provide

Developing systems that meet these criteria provides you with recordkeeping systems. These systems provide the structures and controls within which:

  • accurate
  • accountable and
  • information-rich

records are created and maintained.


[2] Many of these requirements are derived from AS ISO 15489.1-2002, Records Management - Part 1: General, Clause 8.2

[3] This range of functions and additional requirements is drawn from recordkeeping best practice and Functional Requirements for Electronic Recordkeeping, Department of Public Works and Services Request for Tender No ITS 2323 for the Supply of Records and Information Management Systems (March 2001), accessible in the short term through the Department of Public Works and Services website at and the European Commission's Model Requirements for the Management of Electronic Records, March 2001, accessible via the IDA (Interchange of Data Between Administrators) website at