Industry Insights from Our Experts

What is Electronic Records Management?

Filed under Productivity, SharePoint, Usability

This is Part One of a multi-part series on Electronic Records Management, or ERM for short. Our next article will focus on electronic signatures and how they may be used with records.


erm01Records Management is the application of processes and policies on a record throughout its lifecycle. A record is an entity that contains evidence a transaction occurred. Examples of records in your organization are likely applications, authorizations, permit renewals, registrations, verifications and licenses.

The International Organization for Standards (ISO) sets international standards on everything from occupational health and safety to food safety to business practices. Records management is no exception: ISO regulation 15489-1:2016 is the widely recognized international standard for records management. According to the ISO itself, the standard applies to the creation, capture and maintenance of records regardless of structure or form, in all types of business and technological environments, over time.

Technological solutions to records management, or Electronic Records Management (ERM), streamline this creation, capture and maintenance and reduce the risk of lost or damaged records inherent in a paper filing system. As well, ERM systems occupy far less physical space than paper filing systems, saving office space and eliminating the challenges of an expanding member base.

The Lifecyle of a Record

Let’s take a look at the typical lifecycle for a record.


  1. Record is created or received
  2. The record is classified, uniquely identified based on category and content
  3. A record is maintained, preventing unauthorized access and keeping an audit trail of what was changed and by who
  4. After a planned period of time, a record is destroyed or transferred to an archive. An archive will include its own set of policies and procedures.


The Value of Electronic Records Management

A typical ERM system will provide a number of core features for automating the management of a record through its lifecycle. Commonly automated core features in an ERM system include record creation, location, authentication and approval, workflow tracking and scheduling, filing, distribution and retrieval, security, retention, and archiving.

I interviewed Shamin Malmas, Records Manager at the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA) about the benefits and challenges of electronic records management.


As a records specialist, who would be your clients at CARNA?

The Records Management department supports the staff of CARNA to ensure the proper management of records throughout their lifecycles from creation to final disposition.


What electronic systems do you have experience with? What did you and didn’t you like about them?

I have worked with a variety of records management systems built on File Maker Pro, Microsoft Access and SharePoint. Each system has its own pros and cons however in general I have learned that these systems are only limited by your understanding of the field of records management and the technical support you have available. 


What do you feel are the key benefits of an electronic records management system?

For me the key benefits of an electronic records management system are the same as any records management system, managing access to information to ensure the right people have access to information at the right time and ensuring information is retained for the length of period appropriate to its use and re-use.


What advice do you have for other regulatory authorities who are interested in moving to an electronic system?

My advice is to ensure you have a properly staffed records management team. These projects are ongoing and long-term. Organizations often under-estimate the amount of work and the time implementing an electronic records management program will take.  


Next in the Electronic Records Management series: using electronic signatures in Records Management.


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