Records management is the practice of identifying, classifying, archiving, preserving and destroying records. The ISO 15489:2001 standard defines it as “the field of management responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, used and disposition of records, including the processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records”.

The ISO defines records as “information created, received, and   maintained   as   evidence   and   information   by   an organization or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business”.

The International Council of Archives (ICA) Committee on Electronic Records defines a record as “a recorded information produced or received in the initiation, conduct, or completion of an institutional or individual activity and that comprises content, context and structure sufficient to provide evidence of the activity”. While the definition o record is often identified strongly with a document, a record can be either a tangible object or digital information which has value to an organization.

Note that records are to be managed according to their value to the organization rather than their physical or logical characteristics. The other crucial aspect of the above definitions is their consistent reference to records as evidence. Indeed, records management can be seen as being primarily concerned with the identification and management of the evidence of an organization” business activities.

The purpose of records in an organization are as follows:

Helps in the efficient and effective running of the organization.
It aids in making necessary data readily available for processing and   analyzing   of   information   in   an organization.
It aids in future forecast of business trend in an organization.
It serves as an indispensable tool in management routine decision making in an organization.
It provides a systematic and complete picture of the daily transactions in the organization.

Records must be identified and authenticated. In a business environment, this is usually a matter of filing business documents and making them available for retrieval. However, in many environments, records must be identified and handled much more carefully.

Identifying Records

If an item is presented as a record, it must be first examined as to its relevance, and it must be authenticated.

Storing Records

Records must be stored in such a way that they are both sufficiently accessible and are safeguarded against environmental damage. A typical contract or agreement may be stored on ordinary paper in a file cabinet in an office. However, many records file rooms employ specialized environmental controls including temperature and humidity.

Circulating Records

Records are stored because they may need to be retrieved at some point. Retrieving, tracking the record while it is away from the file room, and then returning the record, is referred to as circulation. At its simplest, circulation is handled by manual methods such as simply writing down who has a particular record, and when they should return it.

Dispositioning of Records

Disposition does not mean destruction. Disposition can also include transfer of records to a historical archive, to a museum, or even to a private party. When physical records are destroyed, the records must be authorized for destruction by law, statute, regulation and operating procedure.


The following relates to the ways office records are codified and their level of essentiality.
Recommended retention time

vital records
Irreplaceable documents, such as property deeds, copyrights, leases, contracts, and other legal documents.
Kept permanently

Important records
Documents that contribute to the smooth operation of the business but can usuSlty be replaced, such as financial documents, inventory, and tax records.
Kept for a longer period of time but are eventually destroyed.

Useful records
Documents reflective of everyday business operations, such as correspondence and reports.
Kept based on state statutes of limitations.

nonessential records
Documents such as internal memos and correspondence
Can be destroyed when their purpose is met.

The principles guiding the design of office forms is as follows:

Simplicity:    Forms    are    made    for   consumption internally and externally. In view of this, the design of forms should be explicit enough so that the users do not need people or further clarification before they use the forms.
Relevance: Forms design should be relevant to the subject matter in question. For instance, when an advance   is taking for a course to be attended in an organization,   after  the   completion   of the   course, there is a form called “retirement form”, this form is to be filled and subject if balance in the advance collected   remains,   it   should   be   retired   and   if otherwise, it should also be retired.
Currency of information: Forms design should be able to reflect the current trend of things in an organization.
Sequential order: The design of forms should follow a specific natural sequence. In other words, it should follow a natural order of things from top to bottom and from left to right.
Forum for expression of thoughts and feeling: The process of form deign should identify the fact that consumers at times need to express their thoughts, feeling and/or opinions about some issues in the forms.

Every firm receives and dispatches a great deal of correspondence every now and then. These may be in form of letter’s circular, information bulletins reports, memos etc. preservation of office records take various form depending on the size of the organization. It involves the use of different equipment systems and methods.

All document received must be properly kept or stored. The art of keeping received documents or duplicate of the outgoing mail is called office record management.

Records can be stored manually or electronically, manually records keeping can be through filling, indexing etc. on the other hand, automatic or electronic method can be in form of computer. Records have life-cycle which run from their creation or receiving date, through retention, maintenance and preservation, with receiver as at when required, to disposed time when no longer needed.

Clerical officers or their administrators must not only know about the storage of document and different filling systems but the systems must also be able to make that filling is quickly and efficiently done. Efficient filing is not the responsibility of filling clerks alone, the manager or person whose document re being filed has a part to play.

However, the efficient running of an office depends largely on the existence of a good and effective filling system manned by a very efficient staff and assisted by a good indexing system.


Filling can be defined as an organized system of keeping records so that it can be retrieved as and when needed with ease. Therefore, a good filling system should be able to provide the following usefulness or benefit.

It must preserve record in such a way to satisfy the minimum administrative requirements.
Effective records management provides a protects management information system.
Record management   provide  efficient  information database      for     the      management,      staff     and governmental agencies who may need them.
Record   management   ensure   assess   to   accurate, efficient   and   timely   information   as   and   when required.
It  serves  as  a indispensable  too in management routine decision making in an organization.
It can be used for future reference in determining trend or history in organization.

An efficient filling system is one which have the following:

The record can be easily referred to at any time. This means   that   records   can   be   produced   or   found without     unreasonably     delay.     This     is     called findability.
Safety: The records are adequately protected during the period over which   they are retained for references.
Economy:   The cost of installation is reasonable having regard to the benefit of the system.
Simplicity: The system adopted is easy to operate and understand
Elasticity: Whatever system adopted must be elastic in   its   capacity,   as   to
Accessibility: The system is easy for the user to reach the file cabinet whenever he want to make reference to the records.
Compactness: The system is one that will not take up too much of the available office floor space.
There must be strict control on filling and removal of document so a to effect reduction in loss or damaged being done to the document.
The filling system should be up-dated and accurate always.
Suitability: The filling system must be suitable for the   needed   operation   and   requirement   of   the organization.

Types of Filling System

There are two types of filling system:

*         Centralized filling system

*         Departmental filling system

Centralized: This is creating space for and administration of filling system to serve the whole organization, firm or institution for the use of all units, departments or section that make up the organization e.g. central library to serve the whole of Yaba College of Technology.

However, it is not possible to prescribe a choice, for an organization. It depends largely on their peculiar need, time, resources etc. On the other hand, departmental is keeping records in the department, units, or sections to which it has relevance e.g. business department library, electrical engineering library.

Also See:  Business Social Responsibility and Ethics

Methods/Classification of Filling System

There are five classes or methods of filling:

1.       Alphabetical filing method

2.        Numerical filing method

3.       Subject filing method

4.       Geographical filing method

5.       Chronological filing method

Alphabetical Filing Method

This method of classifying files is also known as personal file index. It is most widely used and adopted method of filing. The files are arranged alphabetically e.g. A, B, C, D by names of the correspondents starting with surname in strict alphabetical order. It is the basis of all filing e.g. telephone directory, school register or roster.


i.         It is very simple to manage, arrange and handle.

ii.        It is direct filing and does not need any reference to any indexing

iii.       It is elastic because miscellaneous file folders can be created alphabetically

iv.       It is the basis of all filing systems.


The volume of files may outgrow the space allocated for category of alphabets while other alphabet may seldom being used
As the volume of each folder increases, it may be difficult to locate a particular life quickly,
It can be easily manipulated by different category of clerks.
Numerical Filing Method

This consists of consecutively numbered folders and creation of a card index to help in finding the location of the document. This method is used when the work of the office is handled on a case basis as in hospital, law office, accountant, architects offices. A number is allocated to each case or project and this number forms the basis for numerical filing. Numerical filing method is very useful especially where correspondences are numerous and may have similar names.

Advantages of Numerical

i.         Easy   to   find   relevant  document   because   of the number attached to the folder
Documents can be numbered as pages of document inside a file folder
Numerical are limitless,  therefore, many new files can be added when there is need for any.
It enhances effective identification of items and thus ensures accuracy if carefully operated.

i.         it consumes a lot of space

ii.        It is not a self sufficient method on its own.

iii.      Transposition of number may occur and this may be problematic e.g. 011 for 110 and this will lead to wrong filing.

Geographical Filing Method

This is a system in which files are grouped in geographical order in the use of and control of records. This method is much favoured by selling organization or those establishment that are spread over a geographical area. As most organization do business over a wide range of area, it may be global wise, continental wide, country wide or certain designated territory. Thus, if a country is divided into states, or as; each being covered by a sales representative or manager, files for all the customers in each zone or state may be classified alphabetically under the state concerned, or subject matter filing under states might be used.

Advantages of G.F.M.

1.        Easy to locate file under geographical heading.

2.       It is simple to understand

3.       It may allow for two or more people to use particular geographical location.


i.        There is need for indexing

ii.       There  is   need   for  understanding  of geographical location

iii.      Exact    location    must    be    known    for    accuracy especially   when   there   is   frequent   adjustment  of boundary.

Subject Filing System

This is classification of filing method according to’subject matter and it is commonly used by professional people, government agencies and libraries. In this method, filing is done according to main activities of the organization e.g. Yaba College of Technology many have subject matter such as: student affairs, academic staff, non academic, office equipment, admission etc. there my be sub-division of the major heading as a result of growth, while a publisher may have the followings: copyright, matters, authors, manuscripts, agent, supplier etc.


i.         It enjoys elasticity of usage

ii.       Easy to find little to any particular subject matter.


It calls for intimate knowledge of these businesses to ensure good headlines and topics,
Subject filing need cross-referencing,
It is time consuming plan and maintain.
Chronological Filing Method

Documents are filed in a time sequence and date order. The most recent documents are placed on top for easy reference.   It  may  be   divided   either   to   daily,   weekly, monthly or yearly etc. This can be of immense benefits to construction companies, courts tribunal, postal agencies etc.


i.        It is simple to understand and operate

ii.       It is useful for knowing time sequence of records.


i. It is good for big businesses only

ii. The official must be conversant with date and month always.

Essential hints on filing

1.       File daily to avoid accumulation of documents

2.       Sort all letters/documents  into group  or heading before filing.

3.       File in strict date order.

4.       Put every document/letter in correct file.

5.       Identify active, semi active and dead file.

6.       Make good use of cross-referencing.

7.       Avoid wrong classification

8.       Avoid over crowing of files as bulky denotes laziness.

9.       Do   not  trust  your   memory  with   records   of  file movement.

10.     Avoid using un-Otrained personnel.

11.     Avoid keeping dead file and active file together.


Active files are files that are referred to always or constantly, all documents are active on their receipt but they may grow into semi-active file. Semi-active file are files that are less constantly referred to, they end up become dead or inactive when they are not required or completed its task.


Whenever method of filing system an organization adopted, one must be mindful of the main objectives of filing document: safe keeping of document, easy access to document when needed. Towards this end, the following steps or procedure should be carefully maintained.

Inspecting the document to be filed to be sure that action  has  been  completed  on  it so  as  to file  in necessary file.
Check whether there is an existing file folder for that particular document.
If there is a file folder, find it and place the new document on top.
iv. Indexing  is   deciding   a   caption   under  which   the document is to be file (if no file in existence before) and  indexed  so  that  it could  be  easily retrieved whenever there is need for it.
When there is no file folder, file the document in the miscellaneous file in alphabetical before opening new file.
Consider whether any cross-referencing is essential. Cross referencing is being a document so that it could be found more quickly.
vii. Coding  is   marking   the   indexing  caption  on   the document usually in a pre-determined procedure. This code will aid easy finding. Coding speeds up filing and finding.
Sorting is bringing related documents together under their relevant subject, name and place. Sorting have the advantages that’it helps to save time and effort in filing documents.

Find   out   if   there   is   a   folder   for   a   particular document.
If there is one, locate and remove the file.                   ‘
If the whole file folder is be  sent to a particular1 person, records its destination by use of an outgoing.   ‘
If the request slip is for only a document from a file, mark it outgoing (the document) and send it through a temporary file t o the official in need of it.
Micro filing

Microfiling is reducing the size of a document through photographic processes in order to produce a micro-size of the original document. This method is most appropriate for storing records which must be kept many years. It is a bit costly method. It is particularly valuable for historical and museum records, for official government records and court records.


An index is a device for finding the position of records in a system quickly and easily. Indexes may be kept separately or together with records which they are related.

Types of indexing

a. Vertical card index: This is made up of loose cards which are arranged in an alphabetical order. Each card contains records and information about a specific subject of correspondent. These cards are self indexing and are arranged in boxes or cabinet drawer with extra space for easy and free movement of this card.

Visible card index: Under this cards are arranged one on top of the other with lower edge showing these cards are arranged in trays which are filled with devices that make the card stay in position. Transparent plastic card are used to cover the visible areas and to prevent and protect the visible area from tear and wear due to constant handling.

Rotary or wheel index: The vertical index used in this system are arranged on rotating wheel which are set in cabinet or on desk. It can hold thousands of cards which other can not hold with minimum movement.

Strip index: This is usually stored in a display stand which can be viewed with ease. Individual strips can be removed and updated or replace when necessary.


One thought on “Office Records Management”
  1. Good Evening,
    My name is Kelechi Onu. I work in a Marine Company. I want to rearrange my filing system. I normally keep records in box files. Can it be possible to keep all records relating to a particular project in one box file despite the different subjects of each records. Thank you

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