Goodbye IS31 and IS40… Hello Records Governance Policy

Back in early 2017 we made a pretty big decision here at QSA – we decided we were going to review IS40 and IS31. We also decided that we weren’t going to just review them, we were going to REVIEW them. We weren’t interested in tinkering and we didn’t want to come up with a like-for-like. We weren’t happy with the current state, the levels of maturity and the records management culture in Queensland. At that point, we didn’t know what the replacement would look like but we knew we had to do something.

Over the next few months we took the time to look back over a decade of evidence – recordkeeping survey results, customer satisfaction results, comments and feedback we’d received anecdotally and how IS40 and IS31 had originally come about. We considered current work coming out of our counterparts in other states and countries and within the broader records management industry.

It didn’t take long for a few themes to emerge:

  1. Our digital landscape is changing so quickly, we’re finding it challenging to truly keep up. Our theoretical knowledge and experience in records management is becoming more and more difficult to apply.
  2. We generally struggle to get buy-in across the entire organisation. Whether its top-down or bottom-up there are blockers in place that prevent us from having the resources knowledge, (time, budget, people) to make the changes we need and foster the culture we want.
  3. We want to be more strategic, but we’re drowning in the operational.

It was important to us that we addressed these things during our review. We knew this was ambitious but we also recognised that we couldn’t wave a magic wand and fix this. These were big, systemic, multi-faceted problems that were going to take time to solve.

The first step was to work out what our high-level principles were:

  1. Supporting records management at all levels of the business
  2. Transforming records management from operational to strategic
  3. Making and keeping records
  4. Prioritising the records that you dedicate resources to managing
  5. RecordUSING; not just recordkeeping
  6. Prioritising disposal based on risk and return

We realised we had a nice mix of strategic (transforming records management, pushing the records agenda) and operational (the theoretical aspects of records management that are necessary and non-negotiable).

We then had to decide how we were going to package these principles. While we had a few options to consider, we knew the policy instrument we chose had to be authoritative and it had to have weight BUT it had to be flexible and scalable enough to be relevant and applicable to the 500 or so public authorities in Queensland. For those reasons we chose to develop a policy – it’s a mandatory document for all public authorities as they’re defined in the Public Records Act 2002, it holds the same weight as the previous Information Standards and the policy format (static policy + dynamic implementation guideline) means that we can scale up/down the implementation expectations for agencies based on their agency profile (size, composition, location, level of maturity).

The Records Governance Policy remains within the Queensland Government Enterprise Architecture (QGEA) as the previous Information Standards did. Records management is a legislatively enforced subdomain of the Information Management (IM) Framework so it makes sense that our most powerful policy instrument is closely aligned with the broader IM space.

You’ll notice we reference many QGEA resources in the Records Governance Policy Implementation Guideline – we recognise that while they’re primarily applicable to Queensland Government departments, they’re also really useful to non-departments to achieve best practice.

Speaking of resources, we acknowledge that there may be gaps in our current advice on the website, particularly around some of the newer aspects of the policy like records governance, identifying high-value and high-risk records and supporting agencies in transforming their information culture. We’re taking the time to develop the appropriate level of advice for agencies – to strike a balance between providing relevant and useful advice and to empower agencies to apply records management activities in a way that suits them.

As always, we want to know your thoughts so leave a comment and tell us what you think of the Records Governance Policy, the Implementation Guideline or anything else we’ve mentioned in this post.

P.S. Make sure you subscribe to this blog as we’ll be unpacking every element of this policy over the next few weeks.

Government Recordkeeping


Featured image: Gilltraps Auto Museum, Appel Street, Kirra, 1964 – Digital Image ID 710

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