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What Is a Functional Record?

By Theresa Miles
Updated: May 17, 2024

A functional record, also called an operational record, is a written document that depicts a company's activities and surrounding events. It records particular information in a specific format but is not an administrative record. This type of document is most often created at or near the time the activity occurs and is typically considered the most reliable version of events because it is created close in time to the information it presents.

Businesses keep records so they can operate more efficiently, report on their activities to investors and government agencies, and evaluate performance against a historical backdrop. Many of the forms that a business creates to help it keep records are administrative, such as employee contact sheets. These forms document standard office operations and things that managers expect to happen regularly.

Frequently, businesses must capture information that is not administrative or standard. This information is often unique in time, although the way the information is recorded may be uniform. To document this information, the business uses a functional record, or a written record of what happened, that allows the business to file a simultaneous account and retrieve the information in the future if needed.

There are many different types of functional records. Perhaps the easiest way to understand the use of this sort of tool is to examine a few common examples. An incident report is a type of functional record. Businesses often require staff to fill out an incident report that details exactly what happened if an employee or a customer is injured on the premises or while engaged in company business. This functional record is only filled out when needed, but it is critical because it documents events in the words of the people involved, close in time to when the event happened.

Another type of functional record is a customer feedback form. Not every customer will fill out a feedback form, and a customer will usually only do so when he has something specific to say about the current day's service. The feedback form is a functional record because it documents a unique event that happened at a specific time in the words of the person involved.

A trip ticket is a functional record that is filled out more frequently. Often, a company will have its drivers fill out a report with the details of a trip every time a driver takes out a company vehicle. In this way, if a manager has to answer questions about the vehicle's operation that occurred in the past, he has a contemporaneous account of activity prepared by the driver to review.

Functional records can provide a business with protection from liability. Customers and employees often have years to file a lawsuit against a business for a number of civil infractions. Without a contemporaneous record of events, it would be difficult for a company to prove what exactly happened in the past.

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