Standards & Best Practices

You Are What You Measure: Embracing Records Management Standards

There is much chatter about adherence to industry standards in the records management field. That’s a good thing. There is, however, one nagging question: What standards and best practices are we talking about?

As it turns out, there are many standards that influence RIM practice. Some are legal or regulatory in nature and thus inviolable. Others are influenced by associations, best practices, business demands and even national trends. There remains no single set of international standards, though the industry has been moving in that direction in recent years.

In 1996, Australia established a national RIM standard. This generated interest at the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, in expanding those guidelines to a global level. The result was ISO 15489, issued in 2001 as a basic framework for good records management that could be tailored by country and business.

The process hasn’t stopped there. As new technologies and business concerns have emerged, other rules and regulations have come into play. While they may address all or parts of records management, the guidelines that exist today contain common themes aimed at quality and compliance. Here are a few that are important to consider:

  • Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles – These are common guidelines for managing records. Developed by ARMA International and routinely called “the Principles,” they provide a shared language and common benchmarking method, and serve as a model for related legislative and judicial decisions. Read more in our Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles article.
  • ISO 15489 – This set of global standards comprises two parts: 1) a definition of records management, benefits of a solid process and regulatory considerations; and, 2) practical guidelines for applying the framework described in the first part, including monitoring, documenting, retrieving, auditing and training. While helpful, ISO 15489 may require interpretation based on the needs of an organization and regulations that vary between nations.
  • National Archives and Records Administration – NARA oversees the keeping of records within the U.S. federal government. It issues guidelines and directives based on new laws, regulations and executive orders – for example, the 2011 presidential memorandum calling for more efficient government records management. For organizations that aren’t governed by NARA regulations, those standards remain strong examples for any RIM operation.
  • Open Archival Information System – Created for use by NASA, the OAIS model has expanded across other disciplines as a means to collect, store and access digital records regardless of time and technological changes.
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act – This oft-cited law, passed in the wake of several corporate scandals in the last decade, established more uniform and stringent records retention, legal preparation and auditing requirements. Its provisions elevated RIM from a low-priority activity to one with major business implications.
  • Various national standards – Many nations have their own standards and models for records and information management. These may have clear connections to ISO 15489 as well as specific requirements that meet in-country laws and regulations.

A complete list, including standards that touch on specific elements in RIM processes, would be exceptionally long and ever-changing. (For a glimpse of a few significant standards, read our A Few Laws Governing Records Management article.) The key takeaway is to translate the standards, models and best practices into a system that meets your business, legal, regulatory and quality requirements.

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Abraxas embraces the highest standards for quality, efficiency, knowledge, and capabilities in records management – assuring compliance and giving clients a competitive advantage. 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 or call us: 866.535.0016 (toll-free) or 269.226.0016.