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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Establishing A New Records Management Program

In many developing countries, Zimbabwe included records management systems are not followed or that they had crumbled. Records are in- accessible or that obsolete records had filled a large part of office space, necessitating the implementation of effective new records management systems in many organizations. In this paper the author is going to examine the principles involved in establishing the infrastructure or frame work for a new records management system in an organization.
According to the association of records managers and administrators (ARMA),"Records management is the systematic control of records from their creation or receipt through their processing, distribution, organization and retrieval, to their ultimate disposal." A system is defined by Arn (1991:6) as 'a group of components that function together to achieve certain objectives. The components or parts of a system are subsystems. Records management is subsystem of any information system.'

The need for introducing a new records management system arises after realizing that the current system which is in place is ineffective. Maybe records are not readily available when needed, or that records are not authentic, there is poor records classification systems or that staff are duplicating roles unnecessarily. Any problems faced when dealing with records management may necessitates the implementation of a new records management system.

The first step to take in the implementation of new records management in an organization like Zimpost Pvt Ltd is to get the top management support. The implementation facilitator must be able to explain to the top management problems faced with the current or old records management system. He /she must be able to explain the benefits of good record keeping systems which must include the following; records assist in achieving accountability in organizational, keeping a corporate memory for any business transaction, protecting the organization against any unnecessary legal claims, protecting the rights of both the employees and the organization and the efficient and effective running of all organizational business. The top management aught to be told that good and effective records management helps the organization to get a profit at the end of the year.

After getting a nod by the top management a team responsible for the implementation of the new records system is selected. The facilitator must be the line manager in which the records office falls. He is a respected person who can talk with the top management through out the implementation period. The facilitator is followed by the dream leader and team members. Terms of reference are made and signed, the budget and the time frame of the exercise is also set.

As soon as the team is set, terms of reference signed and the budget set, the team then embarks on the gathering of data. Gold (1995) say the company data can be obtained by studying the organizations mission statement, the mission statement explains "what are we here for." The team can go further and study the organizational charts, telephone lists, annual reports, news letters, house organs and catalogs. Gold[ 1995:18] had this to say, "In the newsletter and house organs you will begin to se certain names over. This will give you an idea of who is most active in promoting the company's welfare."

The gathering of background information goes deeper by conducting a records survey. The records survey helps locating where records are located, who uses these records, the volume of records, identifying the storage equipment, determining the retention periods of all records and locating record for destruction or for transfer to the records centre or for archiving.

During the records survey the team moves around the organizational offices conducting interviews, or making physical checks of all records including confidential records. Roper (1999:6) says "The team members physically examine the records and records office facilities and storage areas, including user's offices. The aim is to determine the physical condition of records, to verify the information gathered in the interviews and obtain further data. The examination should cover the form, quantity, rate of accumulation, frequency of use and physical nature of the records as well as where and how they are stored.

After conducting the records survey, the next step is decongesting the records offices. Usually the records survey is followed by a records appraisal which is according to Griffin (1999:5) "the process of determining the value of records for further use, for whatever purpose, and the length of time for which that value will continue. Also know as evaluation, review or selection."

After appraisal, four types of records emerge. Records that are obsolete and useless, these are recommended for destruction by burning, shredding or whatever method seen fit. The other group of records is active records or current records; these should be retained within the organization. Semi-current records are sent to the records centre while archival records are sent to the archives institution.

After decongesting the record offices the next step is that of interviewing staff, analyzing data and designing the new records system. Interviews are arranged by the team leader with senior personnel. The purpose of the interview according to (roper 1999:11) is to understand. "The functions of the department or division, the nature of the work carried out, the types of records created and used; the nature of the information shared with other division or departs the frequency of use of information, the staffing in the records office."

The interviews are followed by an analysis of information obtained. The team determines how many records offices should be there in an organization depending upon the volume of records found during the records survey. Whether some records offices need to be merged. How many records staff is wanted?

After the analysis of data the team determines the new classification system and the coding system. In addition to that Gold (1995: 18) says this the time to make a comprehensive retention schedule. "A proper records retention schedule describes a specific records series (a collection of documents relating to a single topic) and specifies how long the series should be kept, a well as the legal citation upon which the retention period is based."

After preparing the report the team leader and facilitation then embarks on implementing the new system. All employees are informed of the changes, offices cleared and training of records staff is conducted. The records offices are redesigned and a correct number of records of records staff determined. "The layout of desks and furniture should allow a continuous 'flow ? through' of papers as they are processed. Two way traffic should be avoided" Roper (1999)
It is advisable that the old files should be remain in the records office, stored separately from new files for about three years and then sent to the records centre. Usually the new records management systems is supported by a records management policy usually in form of a records management manual, a guide that informs each staff member of his or her duties. The manual also lists the correct procedures for performing those duties and assists management in standardizing the organization of the system. By using the guide, employees know exactly what to do and how to do it. Tasks are completed effectively and efficiently and costs are thereby reduced" Arn (1991; 129)

The new system should have the correct tools for the job. The organizational chart, job descriptions for records staff, a suitable records office building, storage, equipment, file diary, file transit books, file index, bring up diary, inward correspondence register, outward correspondence register, messenger's dispatch book, file census register, file movement slips etc.

At the end of the project a final report is prepared. This report, which provides an account of the entire exercise, is based on the previous reports. It will include management summary, introduction, body and recommendations.

The purpose of the final report is to give an account of how the exercise progressed, any problems, the outcomes whether the exercise has fulfilled its terms of reference and whether it was completed within budget and within agreed time.

Lastly, the system need to be monitored even after the preparation of the final report, to see if the records staff are adhering to the records management manual and if there are any improvements that maybe needed.

Gold (1995) states that sometimes it might be difficult for the team to advise top management that wrong people occupy records management positions because sometimes these people will be relatives of top management and that management will be aware of this. However the team must make sure that their recommendation makes the new record management system is enforced for the benefit of the organization.


References
1. Arn J.V. "Records Management for an Information age," USA, Delmar publishers Inc. 1991
2. Gold G. "How to set up and Implement a Records Management System," AMACOM, USA 1995
3. Powell S. "Building Records Appraisal system" IRMT, UK, 1999
4. Roper, 'Restructuring current records systems; a procedures manual' IRMT, UK, 1999.
Etiwel Mutero works for the National University of Science and Technology(NUST) he holds a  Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Records and Archives Management from the Zimbabwe Open University.You can contact him on 0773614293 or etiwelm02@gmail.com