The life of a record begins at the moment of its declaration The life of a record begins at the moment of its declaration

During the active life of a record, we need to consider version control, audit trail, master copy, and the protection of vital records.

  • Version control. Even after declared as a record, further changes are likely to be made. The original record should not be changed (which protects its fixity). Therefore changes are applied to a new version of the record. These versions need to be controlled to avoid situations where people work with the wrong version of a record. To help this: we need to have a file naming convention, keep one definitive copy of a record, add version information to the document, link to central record rather than send out copies (via email).
  • Audit trail. It is important to pin point what a record said at a particular point in time. This helps with checking decisions and with learning lessons. We need to decide whether earlier drafts should be kept once a final version is declared.
  • Master copy. It is inevitable that multiple copies of records will circulate around the organisation. But a master copy could have additional features of value, e.g. original official signature. To handle a master copy, we need to agree the source of the master copy, and staff need to be aware of whether they are the holders of master records or copies.
  • Vital record. Vital records are those required for the organisation to carry out its essential core functions in a legally compliant manner, e.g. estates records, insurance certificates, out of hours contact details. It is therefore important to protect them. We need to identify and locate these records, control them and have offsite storage of backups. Examples include: legal (charter, insurance certificate, deeds), financial (accounts, payroll, pensions), operational (timetables, exam papers, student records), commercial (contracts, memoranda of understanding), intellectual capital (research data), disaster recovery (out of hours staff contact details, estate plans, utility and emergency service contact details).

During the active use stage, the record is in regular use. It may still be draft or required to perform a function. We need to understand what the record is being used for and where it is located, so that those who need to access it can gain access. Records left in personal mailboxes can only be accessed by a single person.