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Comma 2002.

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Proceedings of the XXXVth International Conference of the Round Table on Archives Reykjavik, Iceland, 10-13 October 2001

Actes de la XXXVe Confrence internationale de la Table ronde des Archives Reykjavik, Islande, 10-13 octobre 2001

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Acquisition, Appraisal and International Standard ISO 15489


A new international standard
On 3 October 2001 a new international standard ISO 15489: Information and documentation Records management was launched at the ARMA Internationals 46th annual conference in Montreal, Canada, before an audience of 1,400 information management professionals. The Standard is in two parts. Part 1 is the general standard that describes the principles of records management. Guidelines about processes and implementation are given in part 2, the Technical Report. Although the words acquisition and appraisal are not defined or used in either part of the Standard, the concepts are threaded through the document and are central to its implementation. Perhaps the most important message in the Standard is that records are an important resource and asset for any organization and therefore they need to be consciously and systematically managed. The Standard outlines the elements that are required for good records management appropriate policy, assigned responsibility, understanding of the environment and records management principles, design and implementation of records systems, use of processes to support records systems, monitoring and training. At the core of the standard is a process for design and implementation of the records system. It is through this process that the activity of appraisal occurs. The total approach of ISO 154889 supports making decisions about how records are created, captured, controlled and kept at any stage, including in the design of records systems.

What ISO 15489 says about appraisal


Appraisal is embedded in the decisions made when designing or implementing a records system. Implementing a records system includes determining retention periods and making decisions about records which have continuing value, in keeping with the regulatory environment. (ISO 15489-1, 8.1). Operating a reliable records system entails protect[ing] the records from unauthorized alteration or disposition (ISO 15489-1, 8.2.2) The steps in designing and implementing a records system are: Preliminary investigation Through this step one gains an understanding of the organization, its environment and its records management state.

Analysis of business activity


The business functions and activities of an organization can be analyzed and described. This leads to an understanding of the business and behaviour of the organization at a conceptual level. Identification of requirements for records These can range from requirements to create or capture records to requirements to keep or maintain records.

Comma, 2002 - 1/2 - Kathryn Dan Assessment of existing systems

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Identification of strategies for satisfying records requirements A range of strategies may be used to attain better records management. They can include adopting policies or procedures or designing new system components.

Design of a records system


Implementation of a records system Post-implementation review Evaluation and monitoring is critical to ensure continued relevance and usefulness of systems and strategies Appraisal occurs as a logical result of the combination of a number of these steps. It is integral to the design or re-design of a records system. Although there will be a point when an appraisal decision is made and documented, the decision relies on an understanding of the business and requirements for records, and will need to be implemented through the whole records system. This is especially true in the electronic environment. Basis of the appraisal decision Decisions about how long particular records should be kept are based on an assessment of business requirements, the regulatory environment and the needs of stakeholders. Risk is an underlying element in any assessment and decision. To decide how long records should be kept one needs to examine: Current and future business needs Identifying the needs of business includes assessing how records contribute to actions of the organisation, what role they play in accountability, whether they contribute to corporate memory and ensuring that records are dealt with efficiently and destroyed expeditiously if not required Legal and regulatory requirements Specific minimum retention times may be set by law or regulation. An archival authority or audit agency may also have a role in setting this type of requirement. Current and future needs of internal and external stakeholders Identifying the needs of stakeholders is probably the most difficult area as these will be varied and may not be well known or articulated. Stakeholders can be many and varied. They may be clients, business partners, researchers or accountability bodies. Assessing the needs of stakeholders helps identify those records that will be needed for a longer time than the organization itself would require. The records may be required to document rights, obligations and accountabilities or they may serve the interests of research and society as a whole (ISO 15489-1, 9.2) Analyzing the many risks and consequences associated with keeping or not keeping the records is an important element of reaching a conclusion about the retention of the records. The Standard identifies records that are likely to be kept as those that: provide evidence and information about the organizations policies and actions; provide evidence and information about the organizations interaction with the client community it serves;

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document the rights and obligations of individuals and organizations; contribute to the building of an organizations memory for scientific, cultural or historical purposes; and contain evidence and information about activities of interest to internal and external stakeholders. (ISO 15489-1, 9.2)

Standards in practice one Australian experience


The predecessor of ISO 15489 in Australia was AS 4390 Australian Standard Records Management, issued in 1996. Australian government archives, at a federal and state level, endorsed the use of AS4390 in their jurisdictions and the standard has been used in other organisations. The archives of the State of New South Wales (State Records New South Wales) and the federal archives (National Archives of Australia) jointly developed a manual which takes the strategic steps of the standard and develops them into a practical guidance manual, the Designing and Implementing Recordkeeping Systems Manual (DIRKS Manual). In the last 18 months the National Archives of Australia has worked with a wide range of federal government agencies on implementation of various stages of designing and implementing a records system using the Manual as a guiding tool. Many agencies have concentrated on making appraisal decisions for their records. While we are still in the early stages of this implementation, already we have learned from this experience that: the analysis in various steps of designing a records system overlaps and is iterative; taking an integrated and holistic view of recordkeeping is a new way of thinking for many organisations; and having a Standard does not eliminate variations in interpretation. The process of undertaking appraisal and reaching a disposition decision is not strictly linear. While the Standard and the DIRKS Manual both recommend that stages in the methodology of designing and implementing records systems can be undertaken iteratively, partially or gradually (ISO 15489-1, 8.4) we have found that there is often a desire to undertake the methodology in a linear fashion. It is clear, though, that understanding the business of an organization and the requirements for records to support that business are inextricably linked. This understanding of business and requirements can also be of great benefit to the organization in implementing a holistic information management strategy. At present, many organizations have not capitalized on this aspect of the DIRKS methodology, and continue to manage records, information resources and information technology separately. Over time we hope that the Standard and the DIRKS Manual will be viewed as supporting tools for taking a more integrated approach. One of the strengths of the ISO 15489 approach is that the analysis of the organization, its strengths and weakness, and its records related needs is contingent on the environment in which the organization operates. The Standard also signals that understanding stakeholders within the environment is critical to implementation. Appraisal decisions and records systems design therefore can be strongly linked to the context whether that context is the business itself, the regulatory environment or social concerns.

Kathryn Dan

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Suggested reading
ISO 15489-1 Information and documentation Records management Part 1: General ISO TR 15489-2 Information and documentation Records management Part 2: Guidelines, International Organization for Standardization. 2001 AS4390 Australian Standard Records Management. Standards Association of Australia. 1996 Designing and Implementing Recordkeeping Systems Manual. Available at http://www naa.gov.au/recordkeeping/dirks/dirksman/contents.html and www.records.nsw.gov au/publicsector/DIRKS/exposure_draft/title.html