Information and Documentation Records Management

BS ISO 15489

Information and Documentation Records Management

ISO 15489 establishes comprehensive core concepts and principles for the creation, capture and management of full and partial business records and management programs.


ISO 15489 was developed as an international standard (ISO) in response to a consensus in a number of countries and was based upon the Australian standard AS 4390, which was used as the starting point.

Managing records encompasses the following:

    1. Creating and capturing records to meet requirements for evidence of business activity, and
    2. Taking appropriate action to protect their authenticity, reliability, integrity and usability as their business context and requirements for their management change over time.

The aims of ISO 15489 are well summarised in the Introduction to the standard itself, as follows:

“The standardisation of records management policies and procedures ensures that appropriate attention and protection is given to all records, and that the evidence and information they contain can be retrieved more efficiently and effectively, using standard practices and procedures”.

The standard is intended to cover the management of records, either internally or for external clients and in either public or private organisations. However, it does not include the management of archival records within archival institutions.


The ISO 15489 standard was developed by persons with experience and understanding of the activity. Anyone with such knowledge will therefore find it easy to follow and there should not be any difficulty interpreting and implementing the requirements (which cannot always be said with more generic standards such as ISO 9001).

Unlike some other standards, BS ISO 15489 does not use the term “shall” to express its requirements. Instead, only the word “should” is used. However, this does not in any way detract from the need for full compliance and during audit by the certification company, any shortcoming against the stated requirements will result in a “nonconformity” which will have to be remedied before a certificate can be issued.


In brief, the standard covers the following areas:

  • Purpose and benefits of record management systems
  • Compliance with the regulatory environment
  • Policies, their communication and implementation
  • Personnel responsibilities and authorities
  • Records management programme – what records, their format, requisition, preservation, retention, safety and security
  • Business continuity and contingency planning
  • Record characteristics – contents, structure, authenticity, links, integrity, usability
  • Design and implementation of the system – its characteristics, reliability and integrity, comprehensive and systematic nature, documentation of transactions, physical storage medium, distribution, conversion and migration, access, retrieval and use, retention and disposal
  • Capture of records, registration, classification, vocabulary, indexing, numbering and coding
  • Storage and handling
  • Access control
  • Tracking of actions and locations
  • Documenting the records management process
  • Monitoring and auditing
  • Training of personnel

When an organisation engages QSS (Quality Service Standards Ltd) to carry out its assessment and certification processes, a full day’s “Initial Assessment” will be carried out by QSS to audit the company’s compliance against the entire standard. Following this (and subject to the clearance of any nonconformities) a certificate will be issued, usually valid for 12 months. Annual assessments are then carried out, each covering certain elements of the standard and taking a half-day and normally leading to renewal of certification for a further 12 months (subject to any nonconformities).


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