Magazine article Information Management

Establishing a Records Appraisal Workflow

Magazine article Information Management

Establishing a Records Appraisal Workflow

Article excerpt

Although many standards and other publications advise on the ways to properly manage physical records, theoretical knowledge from reading about it is no substitute for practical experience. This case study describes the workflow established for a records and information management (RIM) project to appraise and manage the inactive records of the procurement unit in a United Nations (UN) agency in Germany.

Setting the Stage

RIM as its own operating section was established in the middle 2000s as a result of the release of the UN's formal archive and records management program, which had been authorized by the secretary general. It declared: "Archives and Records Management Section shall be responsible for establishing policy and setting standards, including the design of record-keeping systems and procedures for the management of the records and archives of the United Nations, including their use, storage, retention and disposition and access rights."

Before the RIM unit became operational, each unit of the secretariat conducted records management with unique filing techniques according to its professional requirements and stored its records in a separate repository. Shortly after the secretary general's proclamation, RIM was staffed, minimally, and the department created its own policies and procedures based on the international recordkeeping standard ISO 154891:2001 Information and documentation--Records Management--Part 1: General.

RIM therefore had to manage information to ensure that it was accurately documented, that business records were managed efficiently, and that they remained suitably accessible during their retention periods. In addition to performing its daily records and document management operations, the young RIM section functioned as the records center for inactive records with a retention requirement and as an archive for records classified for permanent preservation.

RIM conducted several records appraisal projects for such departments as human resources and the procurement unit as part of the general administrative program, which for two decades had secured inactive records in a single storage repository --a room with shelves but without archival order or any appraisal or classification procedures. Anyone who required access to the inactive records had to search for them manually.

In 2013, after RIM had conducted several smaller appraisal projects, the procurement unit requested professional help on its entire inactive physical records collection. Afterwards, RIM developed a qualified project proposal and delivered it to management, which acknowledged the need for the project and provided the resources.

Getting Started

After the project proposal was developed, RIM and the procurement unit negotiated the project workflow, time schedule, and resources. Project managers and temporary RIM professionals were added, as was a staffer from the general services department who helped with records transport and destruction.

Upfront, RIM developed the retention schedule and the records classification scheme (RCS) according to UN standards, but tailored for the organization's special requirements. The organization-based RCS for the procurement unit was numerical, and in addition to describing per position a special procurement records series, it described the series content and its confidentiality and security requirements.

The RCS covered 15 main records series with their related retention requirements. Retention for inactive records had been set by the retention schedule, with a special trigger --for example, 10 years after then-expiration date. As shown in Figure 1 "Retention Schedule Excerpt," the retention schedule for the procurement department included the metadata schedule number, title, retention period, disposition, notes, trigger, and the related offices of creation of the records.

Developing the Workflow

The workflow developed by RIM contained these eight steps:

1. …

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