1.3: Types of Records Systems
Documents are stored in a manner that ensures that they are undamaged, safe and accessible when required. The major types of records systems are alphabetical, sequential numbering and multiple numbering systems.
Alphabetical Records Systems
An alphabetic filing system organises files by the letters of the alphabetic. One file follows another in an alphabetic sequence. Related subjects are not grouped but are spread across the system for example the file titled “Disputed Assessment” would be stored under “D” and a file titled “Postgraduate Assessment” would be stored under “P” although both have to do with assessments, which would fall under “A”. Alphabetic systems work well where there is a small number of files such as in a two or three drawer filing cabinet, and where access and retrieval is limited to one or two people. Alphabetic filing systems are most effective for small personal records systems rather than a large department system. To retrieve from an alphabetic system there is no need to access a file listing or index as alphabetic systems enable browsing but the larger the system the less effective browsing. It is relatively quick to browse through two filing cabinet drawers but much slower to browse through ten filing cabinet drawers. Itis thus ideal for the small business.
- Accident Reports
- Accounts Annual
- Report AVCC
Alphabetic Filing System
There are several disadvantages to alphabetic systems:
- The need to keep making space to fit files into the alphabetic sequence;
- If there are more than one or two users they may have different retrieval needs or may use different words for the same topic;
- Misfiles increase with the size of the system; and
- Files on related topics are not grouped together.
Multiple Numbering Systems
These are put together under the same categories. The file number identifies the subject. For example in the example outlined above all files concerning employee selection has a file number beginning with 3.2 and are located together. Files can be colour coded with specificprimary categories being coded by specific colours e.g. blue for category 1.
There are several disadvantages to multiple numbering systems:
- Files have to be moved to create room when a new file is created;
- The hierarchical order of numbers may not always be understood by those creating files and placing files in storage and misfiling may result;
- Categories must be tightly controlled – adding too many primary or secondary categories (or a fourth digit) will mean the system becomes unbalanced;
- Inconsistencies, particularly in secondary categories, can develop if new categories is not monitored i.e. There may be several similar categories leading to difficulties in filing and possible duplication; and
- Careful classification is required to ensure that similar records are not filed in different categories.
Sequential Numbering Systems
In sequential numbering systems files are numbered consecutively and arranged in numerical order. There can be any number of variations on the sequential numbering system. e.g.
0001, 0002, 0003, 0004, 0005,….0015. …………….0200
2006/001, 2006/002, 2006/003, …2006/015…2006/200
B001, B002, B003, B004, ……B010………………….B200
The file number acts purely as a locater. The next available number is allocated when afile is created and the file number has no relationship to the subject of the file.
001 – Special Admission Scheme
002 – Strategic Planning Fund 2005
003 – Exchange Agreement Keio University
004 – Special Studies Leave 2005
005 – Departmental Budgets Committee Minutes and Agenda
Sequential Numbering System
One variation on the sequential numbering system is an annual single numbering system e.g. file number 96/045 is the 45th file to be created in 1996, file number 97/007 is the seventh file created in 1997.
The advantage of this system is that it is simple to use and manage and files are easily expanded and stored ensuring an efficient use of space. The filing system grows at one end as new files are given the next number in the sequence and files are filed at the end of the sequence rather than inter-sorting. The file number itself is meaningless except as a locater. A sequential numbering system is particularly effective where the records already have a unique numbering for example employee files, purchase orders.
The disadvantage is that there is no ability to physically browse in a specific subject as files on related subjects are physically separated across the system. To retrieve bysubject or keyword there needs to be some form of automated retrieval. This can be either a file listing sorted by keyword, a database application such as Access, or an automated records management system such as TRIM.
In chronological filing systems records are arranged into date order. This type of filing system is used frequently for ‘day files’ that contain duplicate copies of inwards and/or outwards correspondence in chronological order for quick retrieval. For example files called July 2006, August 2006.
Chronological filing systems have limited applications and should not be used as the main records system for correspondence. The method of retrieval is limited to the date on which an item was written and overtime dates are easily forgotten causing protracted searches when records need to be retrieved by name or subject.
Information is classified and cross-referenced accurately Classification uncertainties are referred to an appropriate authority. The above example demonstrates what information is.
Information is data that has been processed in such a way as to be meaningful to the person who receives it. Note the two words “processed” and “meaningful”. It is not enough for data simply to be processed. It has to be of use to someone – otherwise why bother!
Sources of Data and Information Business data and information comes from many sources. The challenge for a business is to capture and use information that is relevant and reliable. The main sources are: Internal and External Information.