Introduction 

A Records Management System (RMS) is a software solution that systematically manages records for an organization throughout the records life cycle. RMS activities include a structured and efficient control of the creation, maintenance, and destruction of official records along with the business transactions associated with them. A key component of operational effectiveness, record management improves the value of an organization’s information assets and institutional memory.

Records Management is part of an organization’s broader function of enterprise governance, risk management, and compliance that is primarily concerned with managing the evidence of an organization’s activities as well as the reduction or mitigation of associated risk.

Activities involved in a records management system include:

  • Create policies and practices for creation, maintenance, and, disposal of records.
  • Create a records storage plan.
  • Identify records as official records.
  • Classify and store official records.
  • Monitor and enforce access to the records; f data privacy and business and data confidentiality.

ISO Records Management Standard

The ISO 15489-1: 2001 standard describes Records Management as the field of management responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records, including the processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of documents.

Records Management System (RMS) Life Cycle

The phases of a Records Management System (RMS) Life Cycle are as follows:

PHASE 1 – BUSINESS MODELING, REQUIREMENTS GATHERING  & PLANNING

Step 1 encompasses, but not limited to:

  • Identify the scope of the organization’s business processing and supporting activities.
  • Identify records associated with business processing, modeling the supporting processes.
  • Determine business and technical requirements,.
  • Decide whether to buy or build, to develop and to acquire RMS technology,
  • Obtain executive and stakeholder acceptance and buy-in,
  • Document ‘As-Is’ and ‘To-Be’ business process, gathering technical requirements and organizing into a formal project.

Key questions to answer during this phase include:

  • Does planned RMS maintain data in an open or flexible format to facilitate retention, storage, and retrieval of the records/data it creates?
  • Has a records retention schedule been prepared and approved?
  • Are executives and stakeholders convinced of the value and need to invest time and resources to building out this area of functionality?
  • Has any employee been tasked with not only safeguarding the records produced by the project but also ensuring that the new RMS technology satisfies the requirements vis-a-vis the future management of its data?
  • If a vendor RMS purchase, does Request for Information or Proposal (RFI /RFP) address all business and technical requirements?

PHASE 2 – ANALYSIS AND DESIGN

Phase 2 includes training the RMS project team, performing fit-gap analysis, and identifying policy and process changes, designing RMS functional and logical models, and developing a migration plan.

Key questions to answer during this phase include:

  • Have records creation/retention requirements been identified as a ‘fit’ or ‘gap’?
  • Have records created during this phase (of the project) preserved?
  • Have potential needs for records retention modeled as a component of the life cycle of the records?
  • Are procedures/processes in place, or planned for creation, to prove the authenticity of the records?
  • Is a security plan in place to restrict access to private information and an accessibility plan to make public information readily accessible?
  • Can records be exported to another system without technical problems?
  • Can records be purged or removed automatically from the system in compliance with the retention schedule?
  • Has a records management program for data and business processes been designed and approved?
  • Does the system meet State and Federal regulations and records management policies?
  • Has a cost analysis been completed with consideration for staff resources required to implement and provide ongoing RMS support, and potential savings, costs containment, and improved service benefits?

PHASE 3 – IMPLEMENTATION

Phase 3 involves the implementation of detailed design documents, data conversion, creating detailed project implementation plans, completing RMS issues and risks register, developing RMS internally or acquiring and setting-up  RMS vendor software, and creating test and acceptance plans and scripts for supporting business processes.

Key questions to answer during this phase include:

  • Are data elements comprised of the records identified?
  • Has appropriate metadata been identified and approved?
  • What are the storage and retrieval options?
  • What are the long-term preservation strategies for all records?

PHASE 4 – TESTING

Phase 4 involves loading preliminary data to the RMS to test newly defined business processes in preparation for cut-over to a production model. This phase consists in testing new business practices, obtaining end-user acceptance, certifying that data mapping and conversion scripts are complete, checking the go-live conversion, and training end-users.

Key questions to answer during this phase include:

  • Does the project have documented training plans, user acceptance testing for functionality, and testing of strategic use cases?
  • Have conversion audits and mock conversions been planned before production cutover?
  • Is there version control, for rollback to a previous testing environment?

PHASE 5 – DEPLOYMENT

Phase 5 deploys the RMS into a live, production environment; training is complete (or ongoing), and risk factors assessed in the new or changed processing environment. Contingency and backup plans include the need to execute alternative methods.

Key questions to answer during this phase include:

  • What employee (or corporate role) is responsible for safeguarding the two categories of records: those associated with the system itself and those associated with the system data content?
  • Are business continuity (disaster recovery) systems documented and in place?
  • Have records management procedures been extended to other enterprise environments, as required?
  • Is end-user documentation ready, and is there a procedure for changes to RMS over time?

PHASE 6 – REVIEW

Phase 6 evaluates the new business processes and RMS for possible enrichment and performance tuning. Documentation produced during this phase includes recommendations to project sponsors and management, “lessons learned,” and planning considerations for future aspects of this project or similar future projects.

Key questions to answer during this phase include:

  • What system configuration and change management records are required? Who is responsible for maintaining these records?
  • Will there be arrangements for a periodic records management audit?
  • Are records useable and understandable?
  • Has sufficient contextual information been captured?
  • Have all records been migrated?

PHASE 7 – PRODUCTION

Phase 7 covers the useful life of records within the RMS. Typically, periodic upgrades to the RMS are needed and handled with an abbreviated plan based on Phases 1-6.

Key questions to answer during this phase include:

  • What factors will determine the need for changes to the RMS?
  • Does the updated software for RMS upgrades and changes adhere to the records management requirements of the initial RMS planning and development phases?
  • How will changes over time to authorization/authentication be documented?
“A manager is responsible for the application and performance of knowledge.”
Peter Drucker