As part of our Records & Information Management learning journey a couple of definitions have been investigated and shared, you can find the links to previous articles here:
- Do you really know what Information is?
- What do we consider a record?
- Making sense of the value of Business Information
- The Lifecycle of Records
I always look for everyday examples to explain complex definitions to myself (and others). Today we’re talking about retention schedules and it made me think of my medicine cabinet (yes, age has caused the small plastic container to grow into an actual cabinet😊).
As a consumer of medicine I do not consider myself an expert on the topic, and definitely don’t trust my own judgement. I do however trust the protocols set out by those considered experts in the field.
The containers will usually supply the following information:
- Intended Use
- Date Issued
- Issued By
- Prescribed To
- Dosages and Instructions for Use
- Side Effects & Warnings
- Expiry Date
For medicine this information is unique and supplied on / with each product as it’s not possible to have a generic protocol / schedule across all products (for example, cough syrup always expires after 3 months, or headache tablets are always taken 3 times per day). So how is this similar to retention schedules?
What is a retention schedule?
the action of absorbing and continuing to hold a substance
A retention schedule provides information regarding your information (records and even non-records where applicable). This could include the document name, type, medium, location (official copy holder), retention period, legal & compliance regulations (motivation for retention), disposal action and disposal trigger. The purpose of course, is to define how we treat important documents, how long we should keep them, and any details regarding disposition thereof.
To manage the information life cycle of records, manual schedules can be kept and referenced when taking actions. Many electronic systems exist that automatically does this based on criteria met and triggers. The focus here is not only to manage the disposal (which helps with minimizing unnecessary content kept), but also importantly, making sure specific content is available at a later stage for specific reasons.
Information hold / preservation orders
Sometimes an exception needs to be applied to the standard retention schedule to accommodate a scenario where the records / non-records are required for discovery in the case of litigation, government, operational or financial audits.
For example, I sold a property in 2021 which I purchased in 2010. Although my standard procedure allows me to destroy the original OTP and cost breakdown records after 5 years, the possibility of sale of property required an exception, as I would need to document at time of sale for income tax purposes, regardless of how many years had passed.
Upon enactment, the information identified may therefore not be altered or destroyed.
KORTO is an electronic records management system which enables you to file records in a compliant and secure way, and which helps you to declare and maintain record schedules, and to securely dispose of records when retention rules require it. Furthermore, by using artificial intelligence, KORTO will help you to find and extract relevant information from your documents, which can then serve as a basis for retention schedules.
The easiest way for me to determine whether information has value to me, is to ask myself the following: “If I lose that folder with documents or box with files, will it have a negative impact on me and my business?”
ISO 15489 (Information and documentation – Records Management) states that records are “information created, received and maintained as evidence and as an asset by an organization or person, in pursuit of legal obligations or in the transaction of business.”
Data processed, analyzed, placed in sequence, and or remodeled, and then structured becomes information. The most valuable benefit is that it provides context and if done right, enables decision making.