Managing records in electronic format is, in some important ways, different than managing paper records. Access to digital records is driven by electronic search tools and accomplished through virtual connections, not by having manually placed them within a physical structure designed to facilitate grouping and retrieving records using organizational standards like those developed by the New York State Archives and other organizations charged with records management.
Harnessing the power of a search engine, records managers can locate and retrieve electronic records wherever they have been placed, making the framework within which they have been stored less a tool for easy retrieval and more a tool for allowing controlled access by people other than the records management officer; securing sensitive or private information with additional safeguards; and delegating defined management tasks to those who generate the records or use them most often as well as controlling the disposal of records no longer needed.
A well-designed folder structure within an electronic records management system (ERMS) can simplify storage, disposal, access and security for these records - and set the framework for managing "born digital" records throughout their lifecycle more competently.
Through funding from a 2015 - 2017 Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund demonstration grant, Digital Towpath (DTP) and the Center for Technology in Government, University at Albany (CTG) developed a set of guides and videos that walk records managers through the process of identifying record sets that are well-suited for inclusion in an electronic records management system; classifying those records by access, retention and security critera; and adopting a folder structure to facilitate their storage and use.
There are three guides in the toolkit. Each has an accompanying video that gives a quick overview of the guide's contents. To use the ERMS Adoption Toolkit, start with the first video and guide - Guide to Maximizing Local Government Electronic Records Management Systems Using Business Process Analysis. This guide describes the process used to determine which record sets are most suited for inclusion in an ERMS and how to analyze the records to determine ownership and make-up of the set as a whole.
The second video and guide - Guide to Local Government Records Retention, Disposition and Information Security Classification - expands the concepts used for organizing paper records, adapting them to apply to the unique characteristics of electronic records.
The third video and guide - Guide to Structuring Local Government Records in an Electronic Records Management System (ERMS) - describes using the NYS Municipal Functions Thesaurus developed through the project to structure a folder system that makes it easier to store and find information; provides consistent groupings for records; streamlines the application of retention and disposal decisions; and assists in determining records' security requirements.
DTP's ERMS was also
enhanced by the inclusion of easily selected folder sets to guide
records managers in setting up the structure of their ERMS. These folder
sets are based on the NYS Municipal Functions Thesaurus, developed through the grant project. This thesaurus, based on the MU-1 guidelines,
provides a business classification system that supports efficient and
effective use of the ERMS.