What Defines a Business Record?

Record or not a record… that is the question.

And its an important one for every business and organization that uses the term.

Monica Crocker, Corporate Records Manager for Land O’ Lakes, suggests that the choice to deem a document an official record is not black and white (or bi-tonal, as we say in the industry). In her article, “Does “record” or “non-record” really matter?“, she proposes a few scenarios that illustrate the complexity of the matter. One in particular drives the point home:

I arrange lunches with my co-workers using email.  Non-record, right?  Then one of them accuses me of using email to harass them?  Now it’s a record, right?

Good question, and it’s certainly one that deserves attention. In all likelihood, it’s not a discussion that will take place in the conference room at the outset of the records management implementation project. However, a clearly-defined record rule set can help Records Managers categorize documents of this kind when they are encountered. One way is to use a broadly generic format like Ohio State University has. Doing so even gives you the opportunity to use great words like “fixity,” but be prepared to have the guideline serve as exactly that—a general overview that doesn’t specifically address every potential instance.

To reiterate that these are general principles, OSU provides their “may include, but not limited to” bullet list:

  • general correspondence
  • financial transactional records
  • working papers, including drafts, versions, and copies databases (including the underlying tables, as well as routine reports)
  • student and course documentation and transcripts
  • personnel documentation
  • web sites (including Web pages, images, documents, and audio/video files)
  • electronic backup media (including tapes, disks, and other storage devices)
  • e-mail

The American Records Management Association (ARMA) defines “record” in their glossary as such:

Recorded information, regardless of medium or characteristics, made or received by an organization in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business

If nothing else, these definitions can help provide a great starting point for building a rigorous records management system. At E-BizDocs, our team is trained to both help develop and implement a workable definition of records management. We deal with records every day, and we have had many conversations with our customers to help them decide what documents will ultimately go into their records management solution, how they will be indexed, and what purpose they will serve.

So, what constitutes a record? Contact us today or give us a call at 519-456-1011.  We’ll be happy to take a look at your documents with you and help you make that decision!

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