The birth of a document is the same as a record, regardless of medium or content, because a potential record is only assigned its retention value after it is acknowledged to belong to a records series.
The first chapter of Robek Brown and Stephen’s Information and Records Management states clearly the top tenets of the profession (including the basic factors that delineate a document from a record). The most important tenet is the first: to control the creation and growth of records.
To control the growth, organizations must have two components: a creation-control component that attempts to limit the creation of drafts not required to operate the business in the event of a disaster and a records retention component under which useless records (records that have met their retention period) are destroyed at about the same rate at which new records are generated, thereby stabilizing growth.
Saffady explains the concept somewhat differently: it is still a matter of time and reference, but information-bearing objects that meet the requirement of containing information directly related to business are described as having “record status.” Therefore, those documents without relation to business are destroyed. That is the mechanism of control.
To understand the mechanism, we assign value to a document based on the content as if we already know the value; we use the maieutic approach (from the Greek maieutikos, meaning "giving birth")--that is, eliciting the truth by asking questions as we recognize already the potential benefit of the document to the organization. However, GARP One is only concerned with the creation stage (the first stage of the records lifecycle).
For example, an employee types a document on her company workstation. The document is a memo referencing an electronic document management product she reviewed during her visit to the vendor floor at ARMA Houston 2005 at the Stafford Centre.
Impressed with the potential benefits to the company, she emails a brief note to her Director of Records Administration and the Director of Technology Solutions, along with the committee members of the EDMS research committee. Until the content is identified and the email is deposited into the corresponding file, the email sits in the employee’s inbox. The content remains in limbo until a time and reference value is assigned (a metadata stamp is not yet a consideration in assigning value).
Originally published in the ARMAdilla, September 2005.