Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles

Living Up to the Principles

Recordkeeping of old was an untamed frontier, with practices ranging from clear-cutting to maintaining forests of file cabinets. That changed as organizations began to see the strategic value of information and embrace a set of principles governing that asset — from creation to disposal.

Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles® were put forth by ARMA International as set of common guidelines for managing records. Routinely called “the Principles” (not GARP®, which is a trademark owned by another association), these guidelines provide a shared language and common benchmarking method, and serve as a model for related legislative and judicial decisions.

The Principles emerged in 2009 in the wake of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the federal law that governs the accounting and financial activities of public corporations. The legislation was assembled hastily after high-profile financial irregularities, such as those that brought down Enron and Arthur Andersen, prompted public backlash. Businesses have wrestled with compliance ever since, even though its roots hark back to the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression, when Congress passed legislation to standardize accounting practices.

ARMA sought a well-reasoned solution that would be acceptable to policymakers without the confusion that came with Sarbanes-Oxley. A task force carefully reviewed international standards, court case law, and best practices to forge eight general Principles that organizations can use to build an effective governance program. They are:

  • Accountability – Information governance gets senior-management oversight, and recordkeeping has clear-cut policies to ensure appropriate openness and ease of auditing.
  • Integrity – Records are authentically, honestly and reliably managed.
  • Protection – Information that’s private, confidential, privileged, secret and/or essential to the business is safeguarded.
  • Compliance – Recordkeeping consistently meets regulatory requirements and organizational standards.
  • Availability – Information can be identified and retrieved easily through a clearly understood process.
  • Retention – Materials are maintained for the right amount of time, which is dictated by legal mandate, fiscal and operational considerations and historical precedent.
  • Disposition – A secure, thorough process for destroying (or donating, as in historical archives) unneeded records is in place. Litigation or audit concerns would suspend this process.
  • Transparency – Information is handled lawfully, ethically and accurately.

These form the foundation of ARMA’s Maturity Model, which sets the standard for records and information management.

While few would disagree with the principle of the Principles, they only have value when they are practiced — and applied consistently. Employee engagement is vital to that success and can be summed up in three e-words:

  • Educate – Provide the information and tools for employees to understand and apply the Principles.
  • Encourage – Help colleagues make the connection between the Principles and their work. Use positive means, including recognition and robust support.
  • Evaluate -You are what you measure. Make sure employees who are responsible for managing records have the means to track their success in applying the Principles.

Embracing the Principles lifts recordkeeping from a defensive tactic to a proactive, goal-oriented business strategy. Vital information becomes easy to access, quickly available to review and cost-effectively secured to ensure to the legal and business strength of the company.

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Abraxas knows how the Principles affect every element of records management — and applies them effectively. We provide clients with tailored records and information management solutions, delivering the business intelligence that matters most — and we do it more efficiently and reliably than anyone else, particularly in highly regulated industries. To learn more, email solutions@abraxasworldwide.com or call us: 866.535.0016 (toll-free) or 269.226.0016.