High-value records

Having trouble identifying your high-value records? Then today’s blog post is for you!

Policy Requirement 4 in the Records Governance Policy requires agencies to actively manage permanent, high-value and high-risk records and information as a priority.

Today, we’re talking about how to determine which of your records are high-value.

There are a number of different methods you can use. To identify all your high-value records, you’ll probably have to use a few of them in combination.

The following methods are a suggestion only – your agency is free to use a different method or any combination of methods that works for you.

Look at your business continuity plan

All vital records are high-value records. Vital records are the records that your agency could not continue to operate without.

Your agency’s business continuity plan will include a list of the records your agency needs to function at a minimum capacity (e.g. what databases you will need access to, essential contracts, list of staff contact details, etc) – these are high-value records.

Don’t have a business continuity plan? You can still use the steps involved in developing one to identify vital records.

Need help figuring out your vital records or making a business continuity plan? Check out our website.

While all vital records are high-value, not all high-value records are vital. This means you will need to use another method to identify all your high-value records.

Find your records with intrinsic value

Records with intrinsic value are high-value records.

Records with intrinsic value are records that have something special about them that would not be preserved by a copy. This something special could be something in the record (i.e. how information is recorded in it) or it could be something about the information itself.

Records may have intrinsic value if:

  • their physical form is a meaningful or significant example of that form of record (e.g. daguerreotype/tintype photographs, hand written ledger from previous centuries with examples of lost handwriting styles, handwritten comments by the Premier of the time etc)
  • they are a piece of art or have artistic elements
  • they have unique physical features (e.g. their paper, colour, bindings, materials are unique or remarkable in some way)
  • they are of personal significance to the subject of the record (e.g. handwritten letters within an adoption file)
  • their relative age makes them significant (e.g. records of the first email would have intrinsic value even though email is a relatively recent invention)
  • they have exhibitory value – that is, they meaningfully convey an event, significant issue or subject or originator of the record)
  • they are directly associated with a famous/historically significant person, place, issue or event
  • they are required to be produced, kept or accessible in its original format (rather than a digitised or converted version) for the full retention period.

You can find more information on finding and managing records with intrinsic value on our website.

While all records with intrinsic value are also high-value, not all high-value records have intrinsic value. This means you will need to use another method to identify all your high-value records.

Look at your Retention and Disposal schedules

High-value records are often long-term temporary records, so you can use Retention and Disposal Schedules to identify them.

Have a look at the schedules that apply to your work and find the records that have a retention period of 20 or more years. Not all of these will be high-value, but they provide a starting point.

You will still need to examine these long-term records to determine the value of these records to your business activities, imperatives or stakeholders (see below).

Think about your goals and obligations

Some records have a high-value because they are integral to your agency being able to meet its obligations or achieve its goals.

What records do you need to achieve each of your strategic goals? What records provide you with the insight to make strategic or key operational decisions? What records are needed to meet community expectations such as for transparency, safety or customer service?

These high-value records include records that:

  • are of special importance to the community (or a part of the community)
  • relate to long-term or ongoing rights, obligations and entitlements
  • may be used for data analysis or comparison
  • would be impossible or costly to recreate/regather
  • document events or activities where the impact of the event may be unknown for some time.

Examples include:

  • major project documentation
  • some records relating to children
  • disposal of hazardous waste materials
  • licensing/permits and accreditation records
  • enforcement records—records of non-compliance
  • building approvals for public infrastructure
  • employee health monitoring
  • incident management records
  • commissioned research data/reports.

The next steps

Once you have identified your high-value records, you can:

  • formally document their details
  • think about how you will define the criteria and processes for these records. This is particularly important for high-value records you’ve identified through looking at your goals and obligations – don’t let that work go to waste. Use it to develop the criteria for your agency’s high-value records so you can more easily identify them in the future.
  • think about what processes you need to maintain visibility of these records, no matter where they ordinarily live.

Don’t forget that the value of records can change over time.

Something that was high-value once won’t necessarily stay high-value forever. Any processes you develop for your high-value records should include some sort of review to make sure the records are still high-value and that your criteria and processes still meet your obligations and business needs.

Want to know more about Policy Requirement 4? Have a look at our blog post that unpacks it.

If you have suggestions for future blog posts or there’s something about the Records Governance Policy you’d still like answered, get in touch! Leave a comment below, contact us by email, telephone, blog, Twitter– we want to hear from you!

Government Recordkeeping



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