State Records Home
Personal tools
You are here :: Home Recordkeeping in the NSW public sector Government Recordkeeping Manual Guidance Guidelines Guideline 13 - Create and capture: Guidelines on better recordkeeping

Guideline 13 - Create and capture: Guidelines on better recordkeeping

Filed under: ,
The purpose of these guidelines is to assist NSW public offices to create appropriate records of their activities and to capture these records into official records systems.

Foreword

Under the State Records Act 1998 (NSW), ‘each public office must make and keep full and accurate records of the activities of the office’. State Records’ annual records management surveys have nevertheless revealed that record creation and capture is not systematically and consistently occurring within NSW public offices. As a result, organisations are placing themselves at risk of not being able to operate effectively, account for their actions and decisions or comply with legal requirements. These guidelines aim to specifically support compliance with Principle 1 in the Standard on Full and Accurate Records (issued April 2004) which states that:

A public office must ensure that records are made that document or facilitate the transaction of a business activity.'

Often, the ways in which people and organisations do business results naturally in the creation and accumulation of records. However, this is not always the case. New business processes may be introduced without regard for recordkeeping. Likewise, electronic business systems may not be designed to create or capture records of the business activities undertaken using those systems. Consequently, organisations need to consciously develop and implement strategies for ensuring that records are created and incorporated into official records systems.

These guidelines suggest a range of strategies for fostering and promoting the creation and capture of records as evidence. The strategies described are consistent with strategies outlined in the  Australian and International Standard AS ISO 15489–2002, Records Management which has been adopted as a code of best practice within NSW. Public offices can choose to adopt the strategies, either individually or in combination, that best suit their corporate culture, business needs and technological environment.

Supporting the guidelines are a number of practical tools that can be utilised by Corporate Records Managers and others with responsibility for developing and implementing organisation-wide strategies for recordkeeping. It is hoped that adoption and implementation of these tools will ensure that public offices more consistently and systematically make and keep full and accurate records of their activities.

Section 1.  Introduction

1.1 Why are records created?

Records are created to facilitate business transactions and to provide evidence of business activity.

Creating records is a fundamental part of doing business. Records are created to transact business. Business processes that involve the creation and transmission of documents routinely result in the creation of records as evidence of those processes.

Records are also created to document what was decided or done. They are a means of providing evidence of business activity or of remembering events and transactions that have occurred.

There are legal and regulatory requirements too, to create and keep records. Various pieces of legislation and other regulatory and accountability instruments and systems establish explicit requirements to make and keep records or they imply that records should be created.

1.2 Requirements for record creation and capture

Whilst many requirements to create and keep records arise from business processes, there are also a number of laws, regulations, standards and codes of best practice which require or necessitate the making and keeping of records. Some of these are outlined below.

State Records Act 1998

This Act states that ‘each public office must make and keep full and accurate records of the activities of the office’ (s12). That is, it is a legal requirement that all NSW public offices create and capture records that facilitate and provide evidence of their business activities. To help public offices to comply with this requirement, State Records issued the Standard on Full and Accurate Records (April 2004). Principle 1 of the Standard on Full and Accurate Records specifically requires that records be created to document and facilitate the transaction of business in NSW public offices. The Standard’s other principles explain what it means to make and keep full and accurate records.

Treasurer’s Directions

A number of Treasurer’s Directions contain mandatory requirements to make and keep records of business activity. For example, Direction 240.01 states that 'authorities should maintain full and accurate records of expenditure from all accounts and funds under their control’. Financial records should therefore be subject to the same sorts of controls applied to records resulting from other areas of business activity. Because organisational finances are regularly subject to audits, all organisations should ensure that record creation and management is a systematic and accountable component of all financial activity.

NSW Ombudsman’s Administrative Good Conduct information sheet (1997)

This information sheet states that 'public officials should create and maintain full and accurate records which document their activities and decisions, plus the reasons for those decisions’. It also states that public officials 'should ensure the capture of these records into record keeping systems, such as file systems, routinely in the course of their duties'.

Australian and International Standard AS ISO 15489–2002, Records Management

Part 2: Guidelines of the Australian and International Standard AS ISO 15489–2002, Records Management establishes a general requirement for organisations to make and capture full and accurate records of their business activity. The Standard then explains what full and accurate means, outlines strategies for ensuring creation and capture of records and discusses cases in which records should be created or captured of specific types of transactions. The Standard has been endorsed as a code of best practice for the NSW public sector.

ISO 9000 Quality Management Systems

The ISO 9000 Quality Management series of standards contain explicit requirements to create and capture records. For example, ISO 9001 identifies a variety of records, such as reports, design specifications, system calibrations, customer requirements, and training records that need to be created and captured as a part of quality management processes. Meeting these requirements is an important part of obtaining compliance with the ISO 9000 series of standards.

Audit Office's On Board: Guide to Better Practice for Public Sector Governing and Advisory Boards (1998)

This publication states that Board meetings are effective if decisions, discussions and dissent are recorded and minutes are accurate.

Other sources

In NSW, requirements to make and keep records also appear in legislation relating to:

  • Tax
  • Superannuation
  • Occupational health and safety, and
  • Industrial relations.

Many government organisations have legislation that is specific to them and their operation and these laws can also contain requirements to make and keep records. Further information about identifying and documenting recordkeeping requirements can be found State Records' Strategies for Documenting Government Business: The DIRKS Manual.

1.3 How are records created?

Records are either automatically created as a part of transacting business or need to be deliberately created once a business activity is complete.

Doing business sometimes results automatically in a record being created. For example, when we transact business via email or letter we create a record that can subsequently serve as evidence of the transaction. Other transactions in which records are routinely generated include the forming of contracts, submitting draft documents for approval, and sending invoices.

Other business activities do not, by themselves, result in the creation of records. In these cases a record must be made on purpose because the nature of the work does not automatically result in a record. For example, minutes are deliberately produced to document the decisions made at formal meetings. Other examples of activities or transactions that do not necessarily result in records include making oral decisions and commitments, providing advice over the telephone, and receiving funds through the mail.

1.4 Are records only created in paper format?

Records can be created in any format.

Email messages, digital images of paper documents, video cassettes, photographs, tape recordings, databases and blood samples are all examples of record formats. In other words, it does not matter what format a record is in, if something acts as evidence of business activity or the conduct of affairs, then it can be considered a record.

Rules or guidelines may exist within your organisation that specify the format in which particular types of records should be created. This is because certain formats may be more appropriate to the business needs of your organisation. For example, transactions that must be witnessed will normally be recorded on paper as there is no established mechanism for witnessing electronic transactions.

1.5 What does it mean to ‘capture’ a record?

‘Capturing’ is the process of incorporating a record within an organisational records system and is a vital part of their management.

To function as good evidence over time, records should be managed in official records systems. Such systems maintain and demonstrate the connection between a record and the business it documents. Examples of official records systems include paper-based filing systems, electronic records management systems and business systems that manage records. Capturing records involves registering paper documents and attaching them to appropriate files, registering electronic documents and linking them to virtual files and using business systems to record transactions.

Records capture helps to ensure that records are:

  • Accessible to all who require them, subject to any restrictions that may apply
    Controlled and managed in accordance with policy and procedures
  • Secured against tampering, unauthorised access or unlawful deletion, and
  • Disposed of promptly in accordance with legal authority.

Where possible, records capture should be a routine part of doing business and integrated into standard business processes. The failure to capture records in official systems leads to personal stores of records that often remain uncontrolled, unmanaged and inaccessible to others who may need them.

1.6 What records should be created and captured?

Records should be created and captured whenever there is a business need for evidence and information.

Records are created in the course of our daily work as we go about our business. In most cases, people create records without thinking because they are integral to the business process. Sometimes, however, it is not clear from the business process whether a record needs to be created. For example, in which business processes do telephone conversations have to be documented? Ultimately the need to create records depends on the type of business being transacted and the requirements for evidence of that business.

Each organisation needs to determine for itself which records it must create and capture into its official records systems. Organisations can do this by examining their business, legal and accountability requirements for evidence which can be fulfilled by the creation of records. Organisations can also employ risk management strategies to determine what records should be created. For example, in areas of legal risk, organisations may need to ensure that records are more complete or more accurate, in order to protect the organisation if a legal challenge occurs.

Nevertheless, there are some general principles that can be applied to all organisations. The intent of this guideline is not to identify all possible points at which staff of your organisation should create records, but is to explore common business activities where many organisations may be at risk due to lack of record creation. State Records’ annual Records Management Survey has consistently revealed that the business activities identified in the following section are infrequently or irregularly documented in the majority of public offices. As a result, particular care has to be taken within your organisation to ensure appropriate record creation occurs in relation to these activities.

Making and keeping records of these activities is the subject of the leaflet Recordkeeping Reminders which is provided as part of these guidelines.

1.7 Common business activities that should be documented

Meetings

Records should be made to document decisions at meetings.

Meetings may be formal or informal. In either case, significant decisions are often made in meetings that need to be documented. If records are not made of meetings, organisations and individuals are at risk of not being able to account for decisions taken or actions committed to, and important information about the business conducted will not be available or accessible across the organisation.

Formal meetings of committees and boards are often governed by standard procedures and rules. It is important that such procedures and rules identify the records that must be created and kept of the business conducted at the meeting as well as outlining responsibilities for creating records of the meeting. Normally, business conducted in formal meetings is documented in minutes that are circulated for comment and signed or otherwise confirmed as a true and accurate record of the meeting. The Audit Office's On Board: Guide to Better Practice for Public Sector Governing and Advisory Boards (1998) provides guidance on what records are needed for effective Board meetings.

Informal meetings, including meetings of ad hoc groups and meetings with clients, may simply be documented in a note for file or report prepared by the convenor of the meeting. File notes or minutes that have been confirmed should be captured into an appropriate records system.

Telephone conversations

Records should be made to document substantive business conducted via the telephone.

Despite the proliferation of email systems, much business communication still occurs via the telephone. Such communication includes providing advice or information, giving consent or permission, dealing with complaints, and making decisions and commitments. If business conducted via the telephone is likely to have a significant impact on the organisation's resources or its staff and the information needs to be available to others, then the conversations should be documented in notes for file or in systems designed for recording such transactions. The need to create records of telephone conversations will ultimately depend on the nature of the business being conducted.

In some organisations, the business undertaken by telephone may be so contentious or significant that conversations are taped. In these situations it may not be necessary to ensure that staff create and capture records of their telephone conversations, however, it will be important to ensure that the recordings are appropriately captured and managed in official records systems.

Decisions, discussions and recommendations

Where appropriate, records should be made of informal discussions or face to face contact.

As with meetings and telephone conversations, important business can be conducted orally in informal, conversational situations or through face to face contact, such as over the counter in a shopfront. If, in these situations, firm commitments to undertake a particular activity have been made, or advice has been given, the decisions made or information provided should be documented. The record documenting this activity, for example a file note, should then be captured into the appropriate records system.

Sending and receiving correspondence

Records of correspondence sent and received by email, fax or post should be captured into official records systems

Important business is routinely conducted by email, fax or letter. Capturing records of correspondence received and sent, including internal correspondence, is a significant responsibility of all organisations. Failure to capture these records can place an organisation at risk, as evidence and information will not be available for many important transactions. All essential correspondence should therefore be captured into official  records systems.

Section 2. Assessing existing record creation and capture

Before embarking on strategies for promoting records creation and capture, you may wish to examine your organisation’s existing practices to determine whether appropriate records are being made and kept. Undertaking such an assessment will enable you to identify whether any of the strategies proposed in Part 3 is necessary or relevant in your organisation. There are a number of mechanisms you can use to determine whether your organisation is appropriately making and keeping records of its business.

2.1 Analyse business activities and recordkeeping requirements

A comprehensive method for determining whether appropriate records are being created and captured in your organisation begins with analysing the business activities your organisation performs and identifying the recordkeeping requirements that relate to these activities. These requirements usually come from business processes, legislation or accountability needs. Once these requirements have been identified, you are in a better position to assess whether existing systems satisfactorily result in the necessary records.

Analysis of business activity and identification of recordkeeping requirements are fundamental steps in the methodology for designing and implementing recordkeeping systems. This methodology is described in State Records' Strategies for Documenting Government Business: The DIRKS Manual.

2.2 Use risk assessment techniques

Risk assessment techniques can be used to determine the areas of your organisation’s business that are, or would be, particularly at risk from poor recordkeeping practices. You may discover, for example, that one area of your business which is frequently subject to litigation has sound processes and systems for records creation and capture, while another equally litigious area has poor recordkeeping practices and systems which has cost the organisation dearly. In this scenario, it may be necessary to only target the high risk area with the poor recordkeeping practices.

2.3 Examine surveys and other records of performance

Public offices in NSW are periodically required to complete an annual records management survey that is distributed by State Records. Specific questions within this survey relate directly to record creation and capture. Your organisation's responses to these questions should indicate whether the creation and capture of records have been identified as problematic for your organisation.

If your organisation undertakes benchmarking or other assessments of recordkeeping practice (note that this is a requirement under the Standard on Management of a Records Management Program – Principle 9, Measured), these too can be used to help identify whether strategies are needed to improve records creation and capture.

2.4 Be aware of business problems and concerns

An awareness of issues and challenges faced by your organisation can be useful in identifying recordkeeping failures. For example, if there are frequent complaints or queries about records that cannot be located, it could be that the records were not captured into official systems or even not created in the first place. Furthermore, if you are aware that your organisation lost a legal challenge because it was unable to provide records that adequately defended its position, you could use this information to identify areas to focus on in order to improve record creation and capture.

Section 3. Strategies for promoting record creation and capture

This section of the guidelines discusses strategies by which you can help to ensure record creation and capture is adequately undertaken within your organisation. Not all strategies will be applicable to all organisations. The decision about which strategies to use will ultimately depend on 'what will work for you' given the culture and requirements of your workplace. However, whichever strategies you adopt, you should aim to make record creation and capture as easy as possible for the staff of your organisation.

A range of practical tools are provided in Section 4 to support implementation of the strategies.

3.1 Communicate to staff their responsibility to make and keep records

It is the responsibility of all staff of your organisation to make and keep records. Many staff may, however, be unaware of this responsibility. Various methods can be employed to promote the importance of record creation to staff and to communicate to them their responsibility to make and capture records of the business that they do.

Who do you communicate with?

It is important that all staff in your organisation understand their responsibility to make and keep records. This includes contractors, consultants and any other parties who are creating records on behalf of your organisation.

Whilst all staff need to be aware of the need to create and capture records, it is particularly important to target managers throughout your organisation. Your CEO is, of course, responsible for complying with the requirements of the State Records Act, including ensuring your office makes and keeps full and accurate records of its activities. Other managers are generally responsible for ensuring that all staff in their area make and keep adequate records of their business. Targetting management can also help you to obtain greater organisation wide support for recordkeeping.

Another group of stakeholders to target is information technology (IT) and communications managers. IT managers need to be aware of requirements for creating and keeping records whenever electronic business systems are being developed and introduced or business processes are being redesigned and automated. Such requirements need to be included in system specifications and implemented in the final design of the systems.

What do you communicate?

What you communicate will largely depend on the target audience. For general staff, the following information should be communicated:

Responsibility to create and capture records

The leaflet What have records got to do with me? can be distributed in hardcopy or in electronic form to communicate to staff their responsibility to create and capture records of their work.

See 4.1 'Leafets', below, for details of how to obtain copies of the leaflets.

Types of business transactions which should be documented

The leaflet Recordkeeping Reminders identifies common types of transactions which should be documented in public offices and key records which should be captured in official records systems. It is designed for distribution to all staff within an organisation.

See 4.1 'Leafets', below, for details of how to obtain copies of this leaflet.

Rules for recording transactions within high risk activities

In areas of your organisation where activities are subject to significant business or accountability risks, it may be necessary to require relevant staff to make full records of these areas of activity, in order to protect the organisation if a legal or other challenge occurs.

This is particularly true of the electronic business environment. It may therefore be necessary to specifically highlight responsibilities to create and capture electronic records in the electronic business environment to your staff. Highlighting the business relevance of record creation and capture, and the potential legal risks that could result if it is not undertaken, can be a useful means for ensuring greater levels of compliance with electronic recordkeeping policies and standards.

New and amended requirements to create records

All staff should be regularly kept informed of new or amended legal and accountability requirements to make and keep records. For example, staff should be informed about new legislation that impacts on how they deal with information, such as privacy legislation. Additionally, if business requirements change, such as after a risk assessment exercise, staff should be kept informed of new business processes and the recordkeeping requirements that result from these.

Criteria for capturing records into the corporate records system

It is useful to provide staff with guidance on the types of records that need to be captured into the official records systems. The following criteria, or something similar, could be included in records management procedures or user guidelines and presented in training sessions for general staff.


Criteria for capturing records


Generally speaking, records should be captured into the corporate records system when they:

  • approve or authorise actions
  • constitute formal communications between staff eg. memos relating to official business
  • signify a policy change or development
  • relate to significant projects or activities being carried out
  • contain advice or provide guidance
  • constitute formal communications between staff and individuals outside the organisation, or
  • have value in support of a project or activity being carried out by you or your section.

Records do not need to be captured into the corporate records system when they:

  • are facilitative or ephemeral, or
  • are of a personal nature and do not relate to work matters.

Facilitative records are records of little value and of a routine instructional nature that are used to further some activity. Ephemeral records are records of little value that only need to be kept for a limited or short period of time. Most facilitative and ephemeral records have no continuing value to the organisation and, generally, are only needed for a few hours or a few days.

Some examples of facilitative and/or ephemeral records are: duplicates, some drafts (other than those of significant works or publications), telephone messages, stationery, advertising 'flyers', brochures, catalogues and price lists.

More information on determining which records can be disposed of without capture into a recordkeeping system is contained in State Records' guidelines on Normal Administrative Practice, issued February 1999.

Which systems to use to capture records

In cases where there might be confusion, specific advice should be given about the appropriate system in which records are to be captured. For example, policies and procedures for dealing with correspondence should indicate whether correspondence relating to financial matters is to be captured into the general correspondence system or into the finance system.

Means of Communication

Communicating requirements to make and keep records can be achieved through the following means:

Policies

Records management and other corporate policies can be used to set broad rules for creating and capturing records as evidence of your organisation's business activity.

See examples of records management policy statements on the creation and capture of records.

Procedures and guidelines

Procedures and guidelines on records management can be used to provide detailed instructions on what records to create and how to capture them into official records systems. Such procedures and guidelines should be issued or made available to all staff through distribution in hardcopy form (such as in a procedure manual), distribution electronically or publication on your organisation's intranet. When records systems or processes change, training or information sessions should be held to make staff aware of changing obligations or practices.

Procedures relating to other business activities can be used to identify what records need to be created of those activities and which systems the records should be captured into.

Training sessions and briefings

Ideally, all staff should be trained in records creation and capture requirements. This could be undertaken as a specific exercise or it could be included in staff training on other aspects of operations, such as using a new business system. Training sessions can be delivered face to face in small groups or can utilise new technologies and be delivered via CD ROM or on the intranet. In the latter cases, training can be made available to staff at many locations, and at their convenience.

Induction manuals and processes

All new staff inducted into your organisation should have record creation and capture requirements explained to them and be trained in the use of organisational records systems.

Newsletters and intranet

Internal newsletters can be used to explain requirements for making and keeping records in a less formal way. They can also be used to keep staff up-to-date on changes to requirements and to changes to processes and systems for records capture. You could also set up a section on your organisation's intranet relating to records creation and capture.

Position descriptions or job profiles

Position descriptions and other documents that set out roles and responsibilities can include record creation and capture responsibilities. When using position descriptions in this way, responsibilities should be made clear and explicit and should relate directly to the activities the person in the position is expected to perform.

3.2 Refer to records creation and capture in records management policies and procedures

In strategy 1 we saw that policies and procedures can be used to communicate to staff the requirements and processes for creating and capturing records within your organisation. The preparation of a records management policy is a formal requirement under State Records’ Standard on Managing a Records Management Program. A records management policy should be supported by more detailed procedures and guidelines that provide instructions and advice on how to comply with the policy.

What to include in a policy?

Your organisation's records management policy can be used to make broad statements about the types of activity that need to be documented in records as well as the importance of capturing records into official records systems. Such statements could include the following:

  • full and accurate records must be made of all business activities
  • records must be made to document all verbal business decisions
  • records must be made to summarise important telephone conversations
  • minutes of meetings must be routinely created
  • all appropriate records must be captured into the corporate records system.

Click here to see examples of policy statements.

What to include in procedures and guidelines?

Records management procedures and guidelines should be developed to support the records management policy. The procedures and guidelines should clearly indicate how record creation and capture can be achieved in your organisation.

Click here to see examples of procedure statements and guidance.

Promoting policies and procedures

Records management policies and procedures must be promoted to staff throughout your organisation. This can be achieved through a variety of mechanisms, such as:

  • your intranet
  • broadcast email messages
  • staff newsletters
  • training sessions
  • management briefings, and
  • induction manuals.

3.3 Design systems and processes to require or encourage record creation and capture

Where possible, organisational systems and processes should be designed, or redesigned, to ensure appropriate record creation and capture occurs automatically or routinely.

System design

Business systems must be designed to create and capture essential records of the business supported by the system. This is a requirement of State Records' Standard on digital recordkeeping.

Increasingly, business information systems are being automated. The processes of designing, building or acquiring new and updated information systems provides an opportunity to ensure those systems make and keep appropriate records as a part of their standard operation. To achieve this, it is essential to collaborate with IT managers and professionals, including contractors and consultants.

State Records' Strategies for Documenting Government Business: The DIRKS Manual provides more guidance about how business information systems can be designed or redesigned to better meet recordkeeping requirements.

Process design

Business processes can be highly structured, comprising a number of discrete steps and actions, or quite unstructured and unpredictable. Nevertheless, records creation and capture is ideally an integral part of any business process. Creating and capturing records should become second nature, and a part of the process, rather than an additional, burdensome activity.

Structured business processes tend to be controlled by rules and procedures. If such rules and procedures are documented, such as in procedure manuals or instructions, it may be possible to include specific references to the need to create and capture records during the process. In cases where workflow systems are being introduced, you should aim to ensure that requirements to make and capture records are included at relevant points in the workflow process.

Unstructured business processes are those with less predictable tasks and outcomes and they are often not as tightly controlled by standard operating rules. Some control over record creation and capture can however be achieved through the use of templates. Templates can be designed to prompt staff to create appropriate records of a broad range of transactions that occur within unstructured processes, such as receiving enquiries or sending information by fax. Not only does the existence of the template encourage creation of a record, but a requirement to include the file number when completing a template can also promote the capture of the record on a physical or virtual file.

Click here to see examples of templates.

3.4 Integrate records management with other business strategies

It can be useful to use the momentum of, or organisational support for, particular business strategies to promote record creation and capture. A number of these business strategies exist in all public offices’ operating environments. The following provides examples of just a few of these initiatives.

Governance

Public offices operate in a strict accountability environment. Records are a key ingredient in ensuring that your organisation can demonstrate compliance with accountability requirements applicable to it. For example, if your organisation has been subject to a performance audit which has identified a range of accountability failures, you should be able to identify some areas where better recordkeeping can be used to improve accountability. Governance initiatives can be used as a lever or driver to communicate the requirements for records creation and capture to key stakeholders.

eGovernment

To meet government objectives and targets for eGovernment, including electronic service delivery, new business systems and processes are being developed. This development environment provides an opportunity to promote the need for records creation and capture to be built into these systems and processes.

Knowledge management

Many organisations are seeking to incorporate knowledge management into their business operations. Effective knowledge management is reliant on a strong organisational recordkeeping framework. If your organisation is seeking to implement knowledge management, it would be beneficial to highlight the relationship between knowledge management and records management to staff and managers of the organisation. Significant amounts of organisational knowledge reside in records. If records are not created and captured, significant knowledge will either not exist or will not be accessible. Therefore the adoption of knowledge management can be another useful trigger to publicise the need to create and capture records.

3.5 Be aware of outsourcing or other workplace arrangements

In today’s business environment, it is important to be aware of outsourcing or other workplace arrangements that could affect record creation and capture.

Outsourcing

Although outsourcing brings many benefits, it can also bring risks if it involves the dismantling of structures and practices supporting the systematic creation and keeping of records. If your organisation is considering the outsourcing of some of its activities, it is important to consider the requirements for record creation and capture that exist for these activities and to ensure that contractors employed to undertake the outsourced activities are aware of these requirements. For example, if your organisation is outsourcing a particular activity, it should be written into the service contract that all appropriate records associated with the conduct of this activity must be created and captured into an appropriate records system.

Distributed workplaces

In the current work environment, staff in your organisation can be physically distributed across the country or even internationally. It is important that even in these situations, record creation and capture processes happen systematically and consistently and that all staff, irrespective of their location, are aware of their recordkeeping responsibilities.

In such situations, networked electronic business systems, which include appropriate record creation and capture, would obviously be ideal. All staff could then use these systems to conduct their work and to manage records of that work. Until such systems become more commonplace, distributed staff should create and maintain records within the relevant systems in their own geographic area. This will result in some information duplication, but will mean all staff have access to records when they require them. Home based workers are an exception to this rule. If home based workers do not have access to a centralised electronic records system, the records they create in the course of their work should be forwarded to the organisational records manager to file and manage in the relevant official records system.

3.6 Promote the value of records

A lack of record creation and capture can often occur because staff are simply unaware of the value of, or need for, records. You can counteract this by initiating a campaign to promote the value of records. Information about the value of records can come from a variety of sources.

Your organisation’s experiences

You can use your organisation's own experiences to promote the value of records. For example, if a group of records was successfully used by the organisation in its defence against a liability suit, you can use this as a mechanism to promote the benefits of records. In this example, you would be able to indicate an actual dollar figure that the effective management of records saved the organisation. Alternatively, if in a legal situation your organisation did not have adequate records to defend itself, you would be able to demonstrate what a lack of record creation actually cost the organisation. If the making and keeping of records has lead to particular efficiencies, you can use this information to promote the specific benefits of records to relevant staff of your organisation.

Others' experiences

Experiences of the value of records do not have to be specific to your organisation. For example, you can use articles from newspapers to indicate the importance of records to business operations. Articles that relate to records can be seen regularly in daily newspapers. If appropriate, you could use newspaper articles in in-house training programs or you could include them in staff newsletters.

Section 4. Tools

4.1 Leaflets

What have records got to do with me?

This leaflet is available in three different versions:

For State Government agencies:

For Local Government agencies:

For Local Government councillors:

Recordkeeping Reminders

To obtain a copy of this leaflet:

4.2 Example policy and procedure statements

Policy statements on records creation and capture

State Records' Records Management Policy (2000) includes the following statements:


Policy on Records Management


Rules
Staff are to observe the following rules associated with the records management system:

  • All staff are to use the system to document all substantive official business, unless using an authorised specific purpose recordkeeping system. Staff are not to maintain individual or separate files or recordkeeping systems or unmanaged electronic records.
  • All formal documents generated within State Records, including outwards correspondence, should bear a file reference number.

Accountabilities
All staff have a responsibility to create records to document:

  • decisions
  • oral decisions and commitments, including telephone discussions
  • meetings, and
  • other events.

All staff have a responsibility to capture records into official recordkeeping systems, except records that can be disposed of under normal administrative practice (see Guidelines on Normal Administrative Practice). This means that staff need to:

  • capture electronic documents they create (outgoing correspondence, presentations, file notes, reports etc.) when they become records, by attaching them electronically to file in the records management system, in accordance with the user guidelines
  • capture email messages electronically into a file in the records management system, in accordance with the user guidelines, and
  • capture paper based records, such as incoming correspondence, into the records management system by physically attaching them to a file, in accordance with the user guidelines.

The complete Records Management Policy is available to browse on-line.

Guidance on managing email

State Records' Records Management System (RMS) User Guidelines (2001) includes the following guidance on managing email:

Managing electronic messages as records using the RMS

One of the most important roles of the RMS is to manage records of business conducted using electronic messaging. Electronic mail has become the primary means by which we communicate for business both internally and with the ‘rest of the world.’

Use of corporate email templates
Where you are sending email for business purposes, you should use the appropriate template - either the 'e-memo' template (the electronic equivalent of the internal memo) or the 'e-letter' template (the electronic equivalent of the external letter). These allow for the inclusion of important textual information such as position titles and file numbers.

Titling your email
In the new RMS, careful titling of email has become even more important than it has been in the past. The title of the message will become the primary means by which you will search for it later on, and should therefore be accurate and comprehensive in referring to the content of the message.

Which electronic messages to capture as records
Under the State Records Act, each public office is obliged to keep full and accurate records of its activities. This applies to all the staff employed by the public office as well. For more information on your recordkeeping responsibilities, refer to State Records' brochure, What have records got to with me?, available from our Web site. Whilst it is important to keep records of the business you are engaged in, it is not necessary to keep everything; guidance on acceptable deviations from the disposal provisions of the Act are outlined in the Guidelines on Normal Administrative Practice, available from our Web site. The criteria for deciding what to keep have been prepared in accordance with these guidelines.

Generally speaking, electronic messages should be captured into the corporate recordkeeping system when they:

  • approve or authorise actions
  • constitute formal communications between staff eg. memos relating to official business
  • signify a policy change or development
  • relate to significant projects or activities being carried out
  • contain advice or provide guidance
  • constitute formal communications between staff and outside recipients about official business, or
  • facilitate an ongoing project or activity being carried out by you or your section.

Who should capture electronic messages as records, and when?
There are some useful rules to follow in deciding whether it is up to you to capture a record of a message.

» When you send a message:

  • it is the responsibility of the initiator of a message sent either internally or externally to keep a record of that message if it is appropriate.
  • outgoing messages should only be captured once they have been sent. If a message is received from outside the organisation, the recipient must keep a record if appropriate.

» When you receive a message:

  • if you receive a message from a staff member, it is their responsibility to capture the message as a record if necessary
  • you are responsible from capturing messages as records that you receive from outside the organisation
  • where you are CC'd a message (ie. you are not the main recipient), you should check whether the main recipient is a staff member, or is from outside the organisation. If the latter, you will need to capture a record of that message
  • if there are several main recipients of a message, the person who is mainly responsible for the matter or project should capture the message as a record. In cases where you can predict the group of people who will be receiving emails on the matter or project, it may be helpful to agree on one person as being responsible for the capture of messages relating to that matter or project.

Often messages become part of a series of replies. In these cases, it makes sense to capture the last message in the series, which will include all previous exchanges, rather than separately capturing all the messages.

Guidance on managing electronic documents

State Records' Records Management System (RMS) User Guidelines (2001) includes the following guidance on managing electronic documents:


Managing electronic documents as records using the RMS

There are a range of electronic documents other than electronic messages which may require capture as records in the RMS. These non-message based electronic documents include documents created in Word, such as file notes, training notes, forms, reports, letters and faxes, PowerPoint presentations and HTML documents.

Drafting documents: corporate templates, directory structures and document titling

State Records has a set of corporate templates which should be used for official documents. 
While a document is being drafted, the appropriate place to manage it is in the corporate directory structure. This is organised into several main directories:

  • Joint - for keeping working documents to be accessed by staff from different program areas
  • Masters - for keeping 'final' versions of document such as training materials and publications
  • Workgroups - for keeping working documents to be accessed by your own program area only.

Each of these directories is organised according to our business classification scheme (ie our hierarchy of functions and activities). Once you have identified the appropriate directory, you should save your draft document to a folder according the business it supports.

Just as it is important that you title emails appropriately, document titling is important in terms of retrieval and version control. A useful convention for document titling is: Document type; subject; identifier (version number, date etc.)

Which electronic documents to capture as records

In deciding whether to keep a record of business conducted the same basic rules apply as for email. As a staff member of a NSW public office you are obliged to keep full and accurate records of the business you transact. Refer to the What have records got to do with me? brochure for more guidance on this. Summary advice on keeping records of business transactions is also provided in the Australian Standard AS4390 - 1996, Records Management, Part 3 Sections 8.2 and 8.4.2. At the same time, the rules of 'normal administrative practice' mean that you need not keep everything you create, generate or received.

Some general rules to follow are:

  • An electronic document (or a particular version of one) should be captured on a file when it is required as, or as part of, a record of a transaction
  • Any document created from a template with a file number must be attached to the file as a matter of course.
  • A draft (or a particular version of a draft) must be captured as part of the record when it is submitted for approval, circulated for comment, revised as a result of comments, and when it is finalised.

4.3 Example templates

The following examples of templates are used by State Records. Each one can be downloaded as an Outlook or Word file and adapted for use by your organisation.

E-letter | E-memo | Facsimile | File Note | Minutes

E-letter

Use for official email correspondence with external organisations.

Download e-letter template (MS Word, 24 KB)

E-memo

Use for official internal email correspondence with staff members.

Download e-memo template (MS Word, 23 KB)

Facsimile

Use for official correspondence with external organisations sent by facsimile machine.

Download Facsimile template (MS Word, 28 KB)

File Note

Use to record actions or decisions that need to be documented on official files.

Download File Note template (MS Word, 27 KB)

Minutes

Use to record minutes of meetings.

Download Minutes template (MS Word, 21 KB)

Further Guidance

Publications

Australian Standard AS 4390–1996, Records Management, Part 3: Strategies

State Records NSW / National Archives of Australia, Manual for Designing and Implementing Recordkeeping Systems (DIRKS Manual) Exposure draft, February 2000

State Records Authority of New South Wales, Standard on Full and Accurate Records 1998

Records Managers’ Forums

State Records hosts regular Records Managers’ Forums. These forums provide an opportunity for State Records to present information about recordkeeping policies, guidance and standards or other significant recordkeeping developments and to hear from records managers about issues of concern to them. Guest speakers from public offices are also invited to discuss recordkeeping developments, projects or initiatives in their organisation. The forums are a useful opportunity to network with records managers from across the State. Further information about past and future forums is accessible via State Records Web site.

Contact us

Please feel free to contact State Records to discuss any recordkeeping queries or concerns you have.


© Copyright reserved by the Government of NSW, 2001. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method without the prior written consent of the State Records Authority of NSW.

Terms and conditions of use of our on-line publications.

ISBN 0-7313-5386-2