Guidelines for Choosing Records Management Software
Archives Technical Information Series #63
Records management software is defined as any computer program designed to control records systematically within an organization. Evaluating, selecting, and purchasing the correct software is dependent on such factors as the size and complexity of the organization, knowing what the organization needs and how the software will be used, and the cost to acquire and maintain the software.
Identify records management needs by first conducting a records inventory. An inventory will determine the quantity of records, their physical and environmental condition, how often they are referenced, and where they are located. The inventory provides a survey of an existing records situation, determines storage needs, identifies vital and archival records, improves recordkeeping habits and provides a solid foundation for a solid records management plan.
After completing the inventory, determine records management software needs by investigating what records management functions the software will support, what general functions the software must possess, and what performance criteria the software must meet. Records management functions include destruction notification, destruction of electronic records, request processing, file and box tracking, files management, and document management. General functions include help features, menus and commands, speed and accuracy, generation of standard reports, ease of use, ability to manage records in all formats, and security classification and access privileges. Minimum performance criteria to look for include the ability to perform on a current computer system and the inclusion of vendor-supplied support, maintenance, and training.
After defining the requirements for the software, choosing the product is an easier process. There are many types of software products available to meet particular needs, such as indexing and searching products, document management software, and records management applications (RMAs). There are many commercial off-the-shelf software products that provide such benefits as immediate availability, proven reliability, lower cost, availability of user manuals and online tutorials. Many organizations develop applications using commercially available database management software packages such as Microsoft Access or Lotus Approach. Another option is to have a customized application written, which can be tailored to an organization's particular needs.
Careful evaluation and testing of available records management software packages, as well as the investigation of vendors before purchase and the knowledge of what is included in the price of the software, can create a more productive and efficient records management program for an organization.