Want to work more efficiently? Record your “stuff” properly and regularly

Editor’s Note: This article was updated in October 2021

We sometimes think of recordkeeping as an administrative task that is an addition to the core functions of our roles. You probably never think of it as a way to increase your efficiency….

A recent performance audit Report from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) suggests otherwise. A lax approach to filing and failure to utilise the official records management system in one government department created a direct risk to core functions, impaired decision making and hampered the delivery of key objectives.

The Report linked poor recordkeeping practices to significant inefficiencies in the organisation including:

  • poor decision making and advice provided to key stakeholders
  • poor intelligence to support operational requirements
  • inability to accurately and comprehensively locate information on demand
  • ongoing resource and productivity impacts as staff are redirected from core duties to manually locate or manipulate records and information
  • rapidly escalating storage costs for both physical and digital material
  • rapidly increasing resource costs and demands to manage records and information
  • failure to comply with legislative requirements due to poor and inconsistent records and information management policies, systems, strategies and practices
  • failure to deliver on strategic objectives and priorities (increasing risks and the need for crisis management)
  • increasing costs to protect the department’s reputation
  • excess exposure to litigation, Freedom of Information (FOI), investigations, audits and public accountability.

Of the poor practices identified, ANAO found shared drives with files unhelpfully labelled “random useful stuff”, “old stuff” and “stuff”. Definitely not good practice!

The University expects its staff to exercise judgment and diligence as good recordkeepers, and has developed resources and put systems in place to make record keeping as easy as possible.

Here’s some tips to help you manage records well:

Create records routinely

As part of your daily routine, you should be creating complete, accurate and reliable records of all business transactions and activities. If an activity doesn’t generate a record, then make one (i.e. minutes of meetings). Learn time-saving tricks like how to link your Outlook email folders to the University’s official recordkeeping system, HPE Content Manager, with the Record Service’s how-to guides.

Use official systems

Arrange for all business records to be saved in HPE Content Manager. Unlike network drives, this system is designed to manage the confidentiality, availability, integrity and retention of University records in accordance with legislative and policy requirements.

Know your policy

Make sure everyone in your area is familiar with the Information Management Policy, Responsible Conduct of Research Policy,  IT Acceptable Use and Security Policy and the State Records Act. There are resources designed to assist you:

Prevent unauthorised access

Avoid data breaches by using authorised systems, storing hard copy files in secure locations and maintaining any personal information in accordance with the Privacy Policy and Management Plan. Refer to the IT Guidelines on data classification and protection to understand your obligations when it comes to different types of data, especially where it’s sensitive or confidential.

Approved destruction only

Contact Records Services if you have University of Adelaide records that require destruction or further retention offsite at the Waite repository. Records Services can provide advice and assistance to ensure the records are managed in compliance with University policy and State legislation. More information is available on the Record Services website.

Treat with care

Take care to store records in a safe place away from hazards. For hard copy records this means storing them in a secure location away from extreme environmental conditions. Electronic records should be stored in HPE Content Manager and not in personal or shared drives.

Don’t let your efforts toward important projects be hindered by poor recordkeeping.

Make sure you know where your stuff is!  Take action now to get your recordkeeping practices up to scratch, and to guard against trouble or embarrassment in the future.

The ANAO’s report sends a clear message that good recordkeeping practices are indispensable for any organisation’s efficiency, decision making, accountability and reputation – especially publicly accountable institutions like the University.

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