Federal Records Management

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ATTENTION! This product is no longer current. For the most recent NARA guidance, see the Universal Electronic Records Management Requirements

The following checklist gives examples of more detailed system functions that an ERK or ERM might need to perform in order to satisfy each of the basic records management functions. There are a number of ways that each of these records management functions can be automated or implemented in an ERK or ERM, so this checklist is meant only to be a starting-point for agencies to develop system specifications.

Users should note that these specifications are more general than other, more detailed requirements statements like those in the DoD 5015.2-STD. This checklist would apply not only to Records Management Applications (RMAs), which is the scope of DoD 5015.2, but more broadly to any agency initiative to automate records management functions, establish records management control over electronic records, or otherwise improve existing records management systems.

Not all of these requirements will necessarily be implemented as automated "system functions" in an ERK, ERM, or other records management system. Some functional requirements may be implemented through non-automated organizational policies, practices, or records management procedures.

In all requirements that follow, the term "user" refers to authorized users only. Different functions are permitted to different groups of users -- administrative functions to records managers, retrieval functions to end-users, etc.


For all records systems (ERM or ERK) the system should:

  1. Allow users to print and view all system management and control information: file plans, security assignments, disposition instructions, etc.
  2. Allow users to print and view the records themselves.


For all records systems (ERM or ERK) the system should:

  1. Assign unique identifiers to records and their associated metadata.
  2. Capture as much metadata automatically as possible, and reliably link metadata to the records.
  3. Some metadata captured for records in ERKs or ERMs might include: creator, creating organization, author, recipients, subject matter, format, various dates (date created, date filed), a "vital records" indicator, and others.


For all records systems (ERM or ERK) the system should:

  1. Allow import of records from other sources. This may involve format conversion for records that are imported from external information systems. In this case records are physically captured and transported to a recordkeeping system. [And/or]
  2. Allow establishing a link from the ERK/ERM system to a record in an external information system in order to establish records management control. In this case physical transport of the records from one system to another isn't required.



For all records systems (ERM or ERK) the system should:

  1. Allow implementation of an agency-specific scheme for how records are organized.
  2. Allow users to create an organization-specific file plan and link the file plan to records retention schedules, including disposition instructions and specification of "cut offs".
  3. Allow users to select categories in which records are filed and assign records to these categories.
  4. Allow records to be linked to other records (e.g., a redacted record with its non-redacted counterpart, a final report with its earlier draft versions).
  5. Allow users to create file folders, and to add, edit and delete categories or file folders.
  6. Prevent deletion of non-empty folders from the file plan.
  7. Allow users to add, edit and delete records retention schedules, and to "freeze" or execute records retention schedules.
  8. Execute disposition instructions (e.g., move a group of records from active to inactive status).
  9. Allow users to assign a status to records that prevents their destruction.
  10. Allow users to specify to the system the organizational structure, organizational locations, and staff or unit to which records management responsibility may be assigned.
  11. Import information from other sources (e.g., pre-existing file plans, box indices).
  12. Allow users to specify identifiers for boxes, their contents, locations, and related accession information. (*)
    (*) For ERMs, which may also manage paper records.


For all records systems (ERM or ERK) the system should:

  1. Prevent over-writing of a record. (Usually, a record 'copy' is checked out of the system and a re-filed record is written as a new record or a new version of an existing record.)
  2. Prevent any modification of a record's unique identifier, once it is defined.
  3. Prevent deletion of indexes, categories, and other 'pointers' to records.
  4. Calculate and maintain a checksum for records and their metadata, or use some similar technological means of detecting any alteration of record or metadata.
  5. Provide audit trails of all add, update, deletion, and retrieval activity.
  6. Maintain appropriate backup copies of records and recordkeeping systems.
  7. Provide adequate recovery/rollback procedures and rebuild procedures, so that records may be recovered or restored following a system malfunction.


For all records systems (ERM or ERK) the system should:

  1. Control access so that only an authorized individual is able to retrieve, view, print, copy, or edit a record or other entities (e.g., metadata, file plan) in the record keeping system.
  2. Permit the identification of individual users and groups of users, and enable different access privileges to be assigned to individuals or groups. Access privileges may limit access to selected records or groups of records, and may limit access by selected individuals.
  3. Maintain the integrity of redacted records and assure that redacted material is not accessible.


For all records systems (ERM or ERK) the system should:

  1. Allow searching on metadata, record content, or assigned subject categories (using a controlled vocabulary).
  2. Ensure that all access privileges (permissions and restrictions) are enforced on all retrievals.
  3. Allow searching based on a combination of metadata, content, and subject categories within a single query. Query results that may be a list of records and their locations, or may be the records themselves.
  4. Allow retrieval of records and associated metadata, and allow retrieval of records based on defined links (e.g., between versions of the same record).
  5. Provide a sufficiently powerful range of search features and options, as needed to meet various agency requirements. These might include: wild-card or exact-match searching, proximity or adjacency searching, relevance ranking of search results, use of stop-words, limits on maximum size of results set from a search, query by image content, or others.


For all records systems (ERM or ERK) the system should:

  1. Ensure that all records can be read and accurately interpreted throughout their useful life in that system.
  2. Enable migration of records to new storage media or formats in order to avoid loss due to media decay or technology obsolescence.
  3. Ensure that all captured metadata remains linked to appropriate records and is unchanged throughout the useful life of the records, including after migration to new media or technology.
  4. Monitor storage capacity and utilization and alert system operators when action is needed (e.g., to increase capacity, back up system files, etc.).


For all records systems (ERM or ERK) the system should:

  1. Create and maintain an audit trail (also called use-history metadata) for all records activity and system functions.
  2. Provide access to audit trail information at the fully detailed level (e.g., each individual record access, including record identifier, time, date, and user).
  3. Provide summary reports of audit trail information (e.g., number of accesses).
  4. Track failed attempts of all records activity and system functions.
  5. Treat audit trail information (e.g., number of accesses, details of individual record retrievals, attempts to delete a record, etc.) so that it can be managed as a record.



For all records systems (ERM or ERK) the system should:

  1. Identify records eligible to be destroyed, based on records retention schedules and disposition instructions.
  2. Delete records in a manner that they cannot be physically reconstructed or otherwise retrieved.
  3. Enable a record to be kept of all record destructions, providing certifiable proof of destruction.


For all records systems (ERM or ERK) the system should:

  1. Identify records eligible to be transferred, based on records retention schedules and disposition instructions.
  2. Export records and metadata (i.e., copy and subsequently remove them from the system), in a format acceptable for transfer to NARA.
  3. Enable a record to be kept of all record transfers, providing certifiable proof of transfer.


Updated: April 25, 2019