Managing Your Records
Everyone who works with records has a responsibility towards their maintenance and security.
Use the tabs below to find out more on how to effectively manage your records
Managing Your Records Tabs
There are steps that everyone can take with their own files to reduce them in volume to make them more manageable. This tab contains specific details about what can be weeded from your files, both paper and electronic.
This guidance should be read in conjunction with the Retention schedule [pdf]
Always discard sensitive/personal material using confidential disposal.
For information on the onsite shredding schedule, contact: Graham Watson, Support Services, Estates Division email@example.com . ACRU and Support services work in conjunction to provide a cost effective system.
File Weeding Guidance:
- Discard covering letters, meeting announcements, catering arrangements, routine requests for general information, and similar documents.
- Retain those concerning policies and procedures. Discard those concerning routine matters, such as holidays, vacation schedules and similar.
Routine administrative records
- Discard Purchase Orders, travel vouchers, requests for building services and maintenance, time sheets, applications for leave, training files, and similar documents.
- Discard multiple copies - the committee secretary or section representative should only keep the official copy. Any kept by staff for personal reference should be discarded annually.
- Discard multiple copies of documents or photographs, supply and vendor catalogues, envelopes (unless usefully annotated), promotional materials, obsolete equipment manuals and warranties.
Retain only that which is essential to the business of your position/department/College.
At Imperial, records are increasingly being created in a digital format. Such records include emails, spreadsheets, scanned documents and Word documents. As with paper records, electronic records are a College resource and as such should be managed in a way that ensures their continued accessibility, readability and integrity for as long as they are required.
Imperial staff should follow the guidance set out on this tab to ensure that records created and maintained digitally are well organised, easily retrievable and verifyable. Effective management of electronic records should reduce costs, improve efficiency, aid legal compliance and support accountability.
Managing Digital Records:
Security and access
Where it is useful for other members of staff to have access to records, it is recommended that shared networks are set up within departments. Not only does this enable the department to continue to run smoothly in the instance of staff absence or change, it also avoids duplication of saved documents.
Where documents are confidential or contain information that requires restricted access, passwords should be used. This can be done for Microsoft Office documents by clicking tools/options/security.
Security for portable devices
Laptops should have encrypted access and passwords. Laptops supplied by ICT for College working should have this built in, but it is your responsibility to ensure that this is the case and they remain valid.
Laptops, portable hard drives and data sticks should be kept securely at all times, particularly when in transit, and removed from display devices after presentations. Passwording or encryption should be used on these devices.
Access and longevity
PDF/A is the format which allows for permanent access as an international standard ISO 19005. ACRU advise that Word documents, policy documents, committee minutes and any material requiring longevity of access should be saved in PDF/A. For advice on PDF longevity formats for other types of documents (e.g. technical), contact ACRU.
To ensure that records can be easily identified and retrieved, departments and individuals should develop a logical and simple file plan. The structure should be based on the activities and functions of the department with folders and sub-folders. Avoid too many layers of folders within folders if possible. Make sure that the file plan and structure is explained to new staff.
Naming documents and folders
When naming documents or folders the department should develop naming conventions and terminology and avoid acronyms. Document names should be simple but descriptive. If there are to be multiple versions indicate this by adding v1, v2 etc. A final version should be saved in pdf format (preferably PDF/A) to prevent it being modified at a later date.
Below are the 10 general rules for creating file names when saving a document. These should be followed with the addition of any specific needs of your department.
- File names should be brief but descriptive and meaningful.
- The file name should always include the SUBJECT, and one or more of these elements where appropriate: DATE; DOCUMENT TYPE; VERSION or STATUS
- Don’t use common words like ‘draft’ at the beginning of the file name.
- Order the elements in a file name in the most appropriate way to retrieve the record.
- When including a number in a file name always give it as a two-digit number, unless it is a year or a number with more than two digits.
- When including a date always write it back-to-front with no spaces, hyphens or slashes (YYYYMMDD).
- When including a personal name, always give the family name first followed by the first initial(s).
- The version should be indicated by the inclusion of ‘v’ followed by the version number and, where applicable, the word ‘draft’.
- File names of correspondence should include these elements: NAME OF CORRESPONDANT; SUBJECT; DATE; INCOMING or OUTGOING
- Commonly understood abbreviations, such as ‘UG’ for undergraduates, are acceptable. However uncommonly understood abbreviations, such as those only used by individual departments, should be avoided.
To ensure the authenticity and integrity of electronic records it is important to capture details concerning their context and content when they are created. Data such as details about the author, access restrictions and the required retention period of the records can be recorded by using the properties field in MS Office.
Although ICT backs up the network daily, staff are reminded to think about the preservation of their electronic documents. As with paper records, electronic records (including those stored on CDs, memory sticks, DVDs etc.) should be regularly reviewed and some records may have to be migrated onto new software to ensure they remain readable. It is suggested that snapshots of databases are undertaken periodically. In some instances (for records identified as vital for institutional continuity) it is recommended that copies are stored on another Imperial site. Other times it may be prudent to print a copy onto paper.
Staff should undertake regular reviews of the electronic records under their control. Records no longer needed, such as old drafts or unnecessary duplicates, can be deleted. Remember, it is a requirement of the Data Protection Act that personal data is only kept for as long as necessary. With records of a sensitive or confidential nature it is essential that the records are erased using a method that prevents them from being recovered. With CDs for example this could simply be by breaking or shredding them.
Additional Advice on Managing Your Records:
A records management training module is available to staff on the College's E-learning site: Records Management – e-Learning course
We have also created a printable leaflet to download: Freedom of Information, Data Protection, Records Management and You!
ACRU can provide training and guidance tailored to individual department or team needs. Please contact ACRU via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your requirements.