Division of Archives and Records Service

Preparing to Set Out On the Records Management Trail

Heidi Steed
July 18, 2022

Howdy! Looks like you are getting ready to depart on a records management journey. The road to a good records management program will require endurance, patience and perseverance. Here are 5 things to prepare for before you hit the trail: 

1. Determine your destination: You will want to determine your destination by setting records management goals. Do you want to be able to find records more easily? Or make more room in your offices or on your shared drives? Do you want to provide better privacy protections by securing sensitive records? Different goals will result in different routes, and knowing what you want out of your records management program will help you map out the best road to arrive at your ideal destination. 

2. Get to know what you are bringing along for the trip:  Inventorying your records is a great way to start any records management journey. Because knowing what you have can help you set specific goals for the records you create. Inventorying your records means you know what is prepared, owned, received or retained by your agency. During your inventory ask yourself how many versions of the records are being created? Which version of the record will be the official copy that your agency manages according to its legal retention? Make sure you inventory both your paper and electronic records and know where they are being stored in your agency, and if they are being stored offsite. 

3. Identify who will be traveling in your wagon train: Now that you know what kind of records you create and what goals you have for their management. It is time to identify who will be in your records wagon train. The records management trail can be a rough road, and it can be difficult to trek alone. Identify team members who create, use and destroy records. Make sure they clearly know their records management role, your institution’s records goals and are trained on records management concepts. This way they can help keep the team on pace for the long records management journey ahead. 

A good team will help you along the trail by contributing their knowledge about your agency’s unique functions. This knowledge will be invaluable in determining the informational needs of the different records you create, which will help you determine how they need to be kept. 

4. Make sure you are equipped with the right amount of records: A good wagon is equipped with the right amount of supplies to weather the journey. Too many things and the wagon is difficult to pull, slowing the team from arriving safely at their destination. Too few, and you risk not having what you need when the road gets tough. A good records retention schedule helps you ensure that your team is carrying just enough records to help people do their jobs, but that records are being disposed of in a timely manner so as to not bog things down. Create a records management policy and procedure so that everyone who creates records knows the expectations for how long things should be retained, and the proper procedures for disposing or archiving records that have met their retention.

5. Ask for help along the way! Conditions along the route are bound to change, and it is easy to get lost along the way to a good records management program. Don’t hesitate to reach out for directions. There are lots of resources out there to help you make your records more manageable and accessible. The Utah Division of Archives and Records Services is happy to help you along so don’t hesitate to reach out to ask for help in establishing goals, procedures, retention, training materials and more!