Records management in the digital age

Why is records management so important?

The creation and management of records has always been important – from ancient times to today. The key reasons for keeping records have not changed: accountability, efficient business, protection of rights and entitlements and the ability to reconstruct the past. Now, the rapidly changing digital and online world has simply introduced additional reasons to create, capture and manage records well: the shift to data-driven business, open government initiatives, shared and collaborative services, greater emphasis on corporate responsibility and more. You only need to look at the frequency of information management, access and accountability issues being reported in the news to see that the job of managing records is more important than ever!

In a nutshell, what will implementing the new standard do and for whom?

ISO 15489-1 establishes the core concepts and principles for the design, implementation and management of policy, information systems and processes allowing people, organizations, governments, private enterprises and collaborative coalitions to:

  • Create and capture records to meet requirements for evidence of business activity
  • Take appropriate action to protect the authenticity, reliability, integrity and useability of records, as well as their business context, and to identify requirements for their management over time

By taking a principles-based approach, ISO 15489-1 allows for flexibility in implementation while retaining strong direction on what those implementations should be achieving. It sits at the centre of a range of other existing standards and advice on more specific aspects of managing records – from metadata for records to the analysis of work processes – and will be complemented by subsequent Parts to complete this guidance, focusing on appraisal and design of systems for records.

Is its significance restricted to one sector, or does it have broader business and societal relevance?

ISO 15489-1 has very wide relevance. Every part of society makes and keeps records. They underpin corporate activity, the delivery of government or NGO services and personal lives. Not only is the creation and management of records essential to the conduct of current business and affairs, but it will prove crucial into the future, in that without well-managed records there are no archives.

How we make and keep records today can have far-reaching consequences – think about records of our climate, or buildings and other infrastructure that depend on records to be maintained. There is no sector or part of society that cannot afford to pay attention to the making and keeping of records, especially in the age of digital disruption and change that we live in.

ISO 15489-1:2016 is available from your national ISO member or on the ISO Store.

By Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis on


Records Management benefits

As stated by ISO 15489, approaches to the creation, capture, and management of records ensure that authoritative evidence of business is created, captured, managed and made accessible to those who need it, for as long as it is required. This enables the following:

  • Improved transparency and accountability.
  • Effective policy formation.
  • Informed decision-making.
  • Management of business risks.
  • Continuity in case of disaster or catastrophe.
  • The protection of rights and obligations of organizations and individuals.
  • Protection and support in litigation.
  • Compliance with legislation and regulations.
  • Improved ability to demonstrate corporate responsibility, including meeting sustainability goals.
  • Reduction of costs through greater business efficiency.
  • Protection of intellectual property.
  • Evidence-based research and development activities.
  • The formation of business, personal and cultural identity.
  • The protection of corporate, personal and collective memory.
RMS (Records Management Solution) – the software you need to manage your records


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Five key points of Good records management practice:

  1. Helps you to do your job better: it supports ease and efficiency of working because you can find the information you need, when you need it.
  2. Protects you and the Company: it provides evidence of people’s rights and entitlements and shows what the Company did and why it did it.
  3. Saves you time by ensuring you can find the information you need easily
  4. Reduces costs, particularly space costs, by ensuring you don’t keep any more records than you have to, and that you know when you can delete or destroy them
  5. Gives you records you can rely on, both by helping you to find the appropriate version and, by giving records a high value as evidence if they are needed in a court of law.

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