Why you need an Archiving Policy and where to start

By 20 September 2018Tips and Advice

While archiving is sometimes low on the priority list, we can all appreciate its role, particularly when you need to retrieve that critical document in a hurry.

Keeping a simple and effective Archiving Policy that staff adhere to is so important, sometimes essential, in running a smooth operation.

It’ll help you find material when you most need it, minimise accumulation of material you don’t need to keep and help ensure you meet your legislative requirements.

We’ve collated a few steps to help you on your way to creating an Archiving Policy that works:

Step 1. Identify who is responsible for archiving, and commit to documenting a procedure.

Step 2. Identify the document types that are generated and kept by your organisation, and for how long (retention schedule).

Step 3. Determine how records are to be physically stored. Boxes on shelving, compactus, offsite, or better still in an Archive Management Storage System! The efficiency of your system and ease of access to records are key considerations.

Step 4. Develop a form for submission of new archive material. This may be as simple as a one-page printed form to be attached to boxes, or something more elaborate like a Google form that then populates responses into an archive spreadsheet. Details this form should capture are things like:

  • Author or staff member adding material
  • Date of submission
  • Document type and date (or date range of documents within box)
  • Retention period
  • Destruction date
  • Contents of box

Remember, the quality of this data will heavily influence your ability to find records in the future, and destroy them when the time comes.

Step 5. Establish a system for managing the archive catalogue. It’s best to avoid the scenario of having a room full of labelled boxes and no idea of where anything is located.

The first step is to number/label your boxes that correspond with an external catalogue of the metadata captured in the form (explained in step 4 above). This catalogue may simply be a print out of the archive forms, arranged in order of box numbers.

Better still, an electronic catalogue of the contents of your archive material will make life much easier when it comes to finding records and making the decision to destroy them. This could simply be a spreadsheet, with the row headers corresponding to the form questions.

Step 6. Define access procedures. Access to archives should be restricted, and a note should be made of when records are removed and re-lodged.  

Step 7. Establish how to handle the destruction of records. Once retention schedules are set for particular document types, determine the process for destruction. Important questions to ask include:

  • Who is responsible internally?
  • Will destruction be outsourced to an accredited contractor?
  • How will destroyed records be documented?

Step 8. Review. Set a regular review date to assess how archiving is going.

  • Is the policy being followed?
  • Are we keeping the right documents, are we keeping too much?
  • Is our physical method of storage working well?
  • Are we keeping up with destruction schedules?

Follow these steps, and you’re on your way to having a best practice Archiving Policy that’ll help keep things in order. Contact us for more advice and to find out how we can help.