Why we need to define records again (yes really, hear me out – it’s a coherent argument, I promise)

I’m going to say up front that it doesn’t matter what definition you use.

Just that you use one.


  1. “Records is just the paper.”
  2. “Email aren’t records.”
  3. “Post it notes aren’t records.”
  4. “That’s not a record, it’s a database.”

These are all idiotic blanket statements made by records illiterate people who can influence your executives.

They are also idiotic blanket statements made by records illiterate people who use them as rules to decide whether they will keep a record.

When we let other people decide what records is, we end up with whatever illiterate thing people decide to give us.

A definition of records in our organisation is something that we should all be fighting for.

It’s foundational.

It’s easy.

It lets us decide what records is.

It tells the organisation what records are.

It’s a standard that we can hold them to.

There’s also a heavy responsibility.

A simplistic definition creates ambiguity, an overly complicated one creates a barrier.

The underlying point remains though – as long as we let non-records people decide what records is about, we’ll keep getting stuffed into the basement to deal with whatever garbage they want us to deal with.

If we fight for the definition we need in our organisation, define its value and prove that it has an impact on performance, we might just get the records we want.

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