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Centralized vs. Decentralized Filing

There are several decisions that need to be made when you're setting up your records management program. One of the hardest decisions, and sometimes the most controversial, is whether or not your records should be "centralized" or "decentralized."

There are several issues to consider when making the decision on where your records should be located. One of the best ways to approach it is to review the advantages and disadvantages of each system and choose the one, or combination, that has the most advantages for your situation.


Centralized System

A centralized filing system is:

Advantages:

Disadvantages:


Decentralized System

A decentralized filing system is:

Advantages:

Disadvantages:


Combination System

There are also ways to structure your program using a combination, or centralized/decentralized system, of these two approaches. Centralized control is established through a "records liaison" or "records manager" who is the centralized point of contact for records management in the office and who has responsibility for maintaining the office file plan and ensuring established procedures are followed.

Here are some examples where specific types of records are maintained in a central location while the rest of the records are maintained at individual work stations:

Those records which are maintained at individual work stations are also part of the organization's filing system and included in the office file plan so that everyone in the office knows where the records are located and who is responsible for maintaining them.


The Bottom Line

The bottom line is, you need to understand the recordkeeping needs of your office and choose the system which best fits those needs.


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