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ELECTRONIC RECORDS MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS OF DEFENCE ADMINISTRATION IN FINLAND

Jaana Kilkki Director of the Military Archives, Finland

Organizations constituting the Finnish defence administration are the Ministry for Defence, the Defence Forces and the Construction Establishment of Defence Administration. The electronic records management systems used by them are all based on Lotus Notes software, but all three are separate and individual programs. The Ministry and the Construction Establishment are in the process of introducing their systems, which are very similar and differ quite a lot from the eldest one used by the Defence Forces. The electronic records management system of the Defence Forces is the largest one, but one can quite fairly say that the two others are more advanced. This is true both by technical standards as well as by records management or archival principles.

The Defence Forces EJ Esikuntajrjestelm - EJ in short - is the integrated information management system of the Defence Forces. EJ is designed and built specially for the Defence Forces. The development work was started in 1990 and today EJ has been in production use for more than two years. There are approximately 17,000 users (although estimates vary) and the system is used everywhere in the Finnish Defence Forces across the country and on all organizational levels. Thus the Defence Forces has been in the vanguard of electronic information management in Finland. EJ includes several components, which are: E-mail you can send e-mail everywhere in the Defence Forces Records management the system makes it possible to create electronic records which are signed, handled, delivered and archived in electronic form the system is used to register both electronic and paper mail general information - laws, instructions, regulations and commands - governing work in the Defence Forces is available in the system there are newsgroups for discussion

Registry

Information banks

Bulletin Boards

E-mail is the key-component of the system. Every organization unit defined as a records creator has its own mailbox and archives in the system. Every person has their own personal mailbox. Electronic documents are sent from mailboxes to mailboxes just as it was done with 82

paper mail. Thus, EJ is not one database accessed by all, but a network of close to two hundred separate databases. Some data is accessible organization-wide everywhere in the Defence Forces, some only locally or for authorized personnel.

Records management in EJ Both personal e-mail messages and official documents are created in personal mailboxes. The system has ready made templates for drafts and official records. Drafts can be edited and deleted. When a draft is saved its change history log captures the date, time and name of the person processing it. Change history follows the document throughout its life-cycle and is also shown in a printed copy. Modifications made in a document are not captured. When a draft is electronically signed it becomes an official record that cannot be modified anymore. Records managers can delete official records that are filed in the electronic archives, but audit trail shows when and by whom it was done. Documents are automatically filed into electronic archives when registered. Vice versa, you cannot file a record if you dont register it. Records created in the organization can be registered either by creator or by the organizations records manager but incoming documents are registered only by records managers. Everyone in the organization unit has access to its electronic archives, but archives of other units in the Defence Forces are not usually accessible. Paper records are also registered in the system, so one can establish their existence but obviously cannot see their contents. Paper documents are still regularly used in the Defence Forces when information is of personal or sensitive nature. Documents received from outside are always on paper. Some organization units scan at least some of their incoming paper records into the system. Appraisal decision is made by the person who registers the record. Possible retention times are predefined and they are 1, 3 or 10 years and permanent preservation. Records retained temporarily are kept only in electronic form. They are purged annually from the system and a list of purged records is printed out for the archives. Records that are to be preserved permanently, are printed out immediately after registration. For legal reasons these printouts are also signed manually. As was said earlier, the printout shows the change history of the record and a list of persons and organizations to whom it was sent. The electronic record is preserved in the system for four years.

Evaluation of EJ The aim of introducing an electronic records management system in the Defence Forces was to provide a unified record keeping system which would reduce costs, make work processes more efficient and accelerate information delivery. These goals have been achieved very well. For instance, at the Defence Material Establishment Headquarters one person now handles daily mail in 2-3 hours when this was previously a full-time job for two people. Postal costs have also vastly diminished. The total cost of the system is less than 33 million EUR and the estimated total savings for the period 1994-2005 are 63 million EUR. Despite these practical benefits, EJ leaves many things to be wished for from an archival and records management point of view. When the system was designed at the beginning of the 83

1990s, a conservative approach was taken. The electronic record keeping procedure follows the old paper-based system used by the Defence Forces since the beginning of the 19th century. Now it is easy to conclude that a more radical approach should have been taken but there were reasons why this was not done. The main reason was that the transition of over 15,000 people from a manual system to an electronic system was an exercise in itself. It was thought best to leave the procedures as they were and introduce only new tools. Because the records management process itself was not developed when automated, very little has changed from the point of view of appraisal and disposal, either. To begin with, there is no electronic material for permanent preservation, only the printouts of and from the system. Each organization unit defined as a records creator creates a separate electronic archives of its own. Because EJ is an e-mail based program, when a document is sent from one agency to another, the sender files its own copy and the receiver gets a full copy of the document which it files, too. After records are printed out or purged from the system, everything is just as it used to be in the manual process. There is no built-in appraisal procedure in EJ, either. Appraisal decisions are made on an adhoc basis, document by document. This is even more true in the Defence Forces than in general, because unlike other Finnish government agencies, the Defence Forces dont have special records schedules. EJ has made appraisal and disposal more efficient, though, because retention times are now defined at the beginning of the documents life-cycle and records retained temporarily are never printed out. In the past, records werent often appraised at all until they were turned over to the Military Archives. Appraisal was done by a task force, now its done by the person who registers the document, most commonly the units records manager. Unfortunately, there are many records managers with too little training for this responsibility. This has led to inconsistent - and most probably even to wrong - appraisal decisions. The Military Archives is doing its best in educating records managers but the situation is improving only slowly.

Electronic Records Management in the Construction Establishment of Defence Administration Contrary to the Defence Forces the Construction Establishment of Defence Administration is developing the old record keeping process by introducing a new electronic system. The Construction Establishment consists of the headquarters in Helsinki and of 9 local offices, which have now been redefined as one records creator, each unit creating its own part of the fonds of the Construction Establishment. Consequently there is only one registry for the whole agency as opposed to 10 separate registries, as it used to be in the manual process. A business transaction is first registered in the unit which starts it or where its started. If other units take part in the transaction, they supplement the same registry entry. In this system there is only one registry-database and one archives-database which are accessed by all units. Each unit has its own database for creating and processing records as well as a database for short-time storage of records. All records relating to the same transaction have the same registry number and form a file, regardless of which organization unit has created them and which database they are stored in. An e-mail link is created between the registry entry and the records relating to it. This way there is only one electronic record in the system, as an opposite to 10 paper copies in the manual system. Records are kept in each 84

units own database for five years. After that the whole file is transferred to the archives database by the unit that started the transaction. The electronic records management system of the Construction Establishment of Defence Administration improves information delivery and work efficiency when all information is accessible organization wide. It has also many effects on appraisal and disposal. Where there used to be 10 separate fonds each including a registry and copies of same records, there is now only one fonds, one registry and one copy of each document. Of course, this latter should have been the case earlier, too, but unfortunately it often isnt. Records retained temporarily are only in electronic form and records retained permanently are printed out from the archives database. Disposition decisions are not done on an ad-hoc basis either, but retention times are pre-defined and connected with the registry classification scheme.

The future of electronic records management in the Defence Forces New legislation regulating the publicity of government work and information coming into force at the beginning of December, is heavily affecting the records management process in the Defence Forces. A task force under the leadership of the Military Archives has been appointed to develop new records management guidelines, record keeping procedures and to produce records schedules. The task force is going to go through all business processes and information flow connected with them in all levels of the organization. New records schedules should be ready by the year 2002. One of the greatest problems is that the registry system in EJ doesnt meet the standards set by new legislation and directions given by the National Archives Service. The Defence Forces record keeping system is based on the old Russian tradition where records are filed in subject files or in larger subject categories. If records are registered, each document, not a transaction, gets a registry number. Thus the registry system doesnt work as a means to control or follow the life-cycle of a business transaction, and records relating to one transaction are not filed together. As a record keeping system, this doesnt meet the information needs of modern government work, either. Before EJ, individuals collected copies of official documents to their personal archives and filed them in a way that supported their daily work. Now it is possible and fairly easy to find all documents relating to one transaction as long as records are in electronic form. When permanently preserved records are printed out of the system, situation is going to be just as it was in the manual system. Top management and ICT-people believe that failures in a manual record keeping system can be solved just by automating the system. And it is true that introducing an electronic records management system always does improve something while information is in electronic form and accessed by computers. Records managers and archivists know that if the design of the system hasnt considered the whole life-cycle of information created, handled and stored, things are always worse than before when information is printed out and saved permanently on paper. Information technology develops rapidly and gives wonderful new tools and possibilities to apply immutable records management and archival principles. Records managers and archivists who are familiar with technology are the best experts in developing electronic records management systems that serve needs of both today and tomorrow. Simple 85

innovations in adapting archival principles and theories, like defining a large organization, for example the Defence Forces or a municipality, as one record creator, have opened totally new horizons for developing the record keeping concept and consequently the whole way of doing business. Even though the Defence Forces has adopted an electronic records management system, there are still about 150 records creators each with its own registry and own archives inaccessible for others. In the worst case this means that a record is registered 150 times and 150 copies filed. Records relating to a transaction carried out jointly in different organization units are scattered to different archives. Adapting the record keeping concept used now in the Construction Establishment of Defence Administration, would not only enhance information retrieval and appraisal but also increase work efficiency in the Defence Forces. It has also begun to seem that the ancient records management method of registry offers a solution to many problems that have arisen with electronic records and electronic records management. Registry system is a simple way to link related records together and preserve context information needed. As it has been noted, it is a metadata-system in itself. To be able to utilize this feature the Defence Forces has to renew its present record keeping system. Its clear that after so much work and so much money it isnt possible to reduce or abandon EJ and it remains to be seen what can be done, when the design of a new EJ2-version begins next spring. #

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