FileHold & Records: Part 2 – Record Lifecycle and Declaration

In the last blog, we reviewed some of the technical requirements for records as a term of art in records management, and how FileHold can help your organization to meet those standards. This blog will look at how FileHold can make that conversion from document to record, and which method would be best for the type of record.

The action of converting a document to a record is called declaring – when a document is found to be fit for the purpose of a record, it is reclassified in FileHold. An important note: this does not change the file in any way, only how FileHold handles it. It does not matter if the document being converted is a PDF, Word file, Excel spreadsheet, etc – the classification of “record” only prevents the user from further modifying the document, it does not change the file in any way. This is very good for records management, as it prevents needless steps of activity like converting a Word file to a PDF, or zipping multiple documents into a single bundle. Since any document can be reclassified as a record on declaration, it can be preserved in that state moving forward, ensuring the quality of “fixity” in the record.

Since we now have a better understanding of what a record is, we can ask at what stage would it make sense to declare a document as a record. We will not be able, in a simple blog post, to address the core issues of content, context, and structure for all use cases of all records – that’s a whole field of study! Each organization must review its own internal needs for a record from business use, regulatory obligation, and transactional evidentiary needs and determine what content should be records. To assist with this, we can use the record lifecycle model, which is ideal for document management software.

Fig 1 - The Record Lifecycle (source: US National Archives, Federal Records Management.,disposition.)

Figure 1 - The Record Lifecycle (source: US National Archives, Federal Records Management.

Creation is considered at the act of declaration, not when the document was first made. In FileHold, the document or record’s creation date is when it was added to the repository, not when it was made in the original application or scanned. This also means that a record could be declared more than once. One of the core aspects of a record is “context” – if the context changes, then a new record can be declared. So, a contract might exist as a record of an agreement and then be used again as part of the evidence for a lawsuit. The context of the record changes, and so the record lifecycle could begin anew.

Maintenance is the action of keeping the record available for use, ensuring it can be accessed. FileHold allows users to search for records as well as documents with text or metadata, so this is easily managed. Note that some records are treated as “current”, “semicurrent”, or “noncurrent” for active records in the maintenance phase. For instance, an invoice might be current until payment is made, semicurrent for that fiscal year, and noncurrent for the remaining retention period. In FileHold, the Library is used for current and semicurrent records and the archive for noncurrent. Don’t forget, records are fixed to prior transactions, they exist as a total picture of something in the past as opposed to active processes – so a draft of a contract is a document, but the signed copy is a record.

Disposition does not mean always destruction; it is the end stage of a record. With paper records, this would often mean moving them to another location from the office where they originated or were used, such as offsite storage facilities or dedicated filing rooms. These would preserve the records. Document management software, like FileHold, also preserves the record, and it can be moved to a section of the repository for better organization. Where the record is no longer needed for organization operation, its retention is not required by regulations or industry best practice, or it serves no functional evidential record, the record can be destroyed. FileHold’s two-stage deletion is ideal for this process.

Returning to creation, the act of declaring a record can be done in one of four ways in FileHold. Each of these fits a unique use case, so they all hold equal value as an action.

1. Declaration on addition

As part of the document schema, the default format can be selected as “document”, “record”, or “offline document”:

Graphical user interface, text, application, email

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2. Manual declaration

Administrators in FileHold can manually convert a document to a record, or a record to a document as needed. First, this needs to be configured in the Full Administration menu (System configuration>Settings>General):

Graphical user interface, text, application

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When looking at the document’s metadata and version panel, administrators can choose the format for the file:


3. Declaration through a formal process

FileHold’s Workflow module provides a simple tool for the conversion of a document to a record. In the Template settings, there is an option to covert the main document(s) to record(s) on completion of the workflow:

Graphical user interface, text, application, email

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This allows the process, as defined by the workflow template, to do the conversion instead of manual operation.

4. Event-based declaration

In case the conversion is based on time instead of creation, FileHold’s event manager can trigger the conversion based on system metadata, like the document creation date, or custom metadata values, such as the date of the invoice. These are constructed as templates allowing the same policy to be used in more than one document type:

Graphical user interface, application

Description automatically generated

The event can then be applied to the schema(s).

Here are some specific use cases as to when different processes can be used.

Remember, the declaration of the document as a record is the record creation, which is the first step in the lifecycle. The record may be brand new to FileHold or it may have been a document with years of audit trail and activity - once declared, the lifecycle (re)starts.

Your organization can consider what a record is, the best way to choose that declaration, and how records meet your operational goals. FileHold has all the tools to help you achieve these standards. Your sales consultant can review the best methods for your organization, and your FileHold implementation package will include best practice advice on how to meet your record management needs.

For more information, contact us at [email protected].