We believe that we don’t keep records just to keep them; we keep them so we can use them. We like to think of it as ‘recordusing’ rather than recordkeeping. We know we use records for the routine, day-to-day, known activities like making decisions, providing evidence and informing our work but we want to be able to re-use our records in new and innovative ways – like using record-driven analytics and insights to predict government trends. This is the space that we need to be playing in more, but we need to be able to discover and access our records to make this happen.
So, how can we better discover and access our records? Let’s talk about three things that agencies can do.
Keep records in business systems and applications approved for use by your agency
We acknowledge that some agencies are going to use business systems and applications that aren’t recordkeeping compliant to make and keep records – this is the reality of the current digital environment. With this in mind, we’re suggesting that agencies take steps to ensure that records are made and kept in business systems and applications that are approved for use by your agency. This simply means using the systems and applications that aren’t blacklisted. The way we look at this, is that if a system or application is approved for use by the agency, then it’s a known location, so the records that are made and kept inside it are theoretically able to be discovered and accessed. It’s the responsibility of each agency to work out the processes that allow this to happen.
Be able to discover and appropriately access records, with confidence in sufficiency of search
This element is all about confidence. Agencies need to feel confident that what they’re discovering and accessing is complete and reliable, the full story. Being able to fulfil the previous policy element will help with this – when you have the full picture of where your records are, confidence around searching will be much higher. Once you’ve worked out where the records are, you need to be able to search across them accurately and quickly – this is where a technical solution might help. If you’re a small agency with a handful of business systems and applications, a simple combination of regular searches might be enough to enable you to search confidently. For larger agencies, or those with a complicated technical environment, you might find value in implementing a more comprehensive search solution (like a discovery tool, enterprise search tool, etc).
Actively monitor the health of records
When we say actively monitoring, we mean maintaining visibility over your records, with the ability to be alerted when you need to take action. So why might you need to take action? When you need to apply, update or check the record controls of certain records. Record controls are related to the characteristics of records that need to be managed like classification, preservation, security and retention and disposal. We expect agencies to be able to monitor the overall health and status of all records, however you should spend more time actively monitoring permanent, high-value and high-risk records – you’ll want to be alerted when the health or status of these types of records is compromised.
We tend to get so caught up in the detail of recordkeeping (classifying, titling and sorting records) that we lose sight of why we actually keep records in the first place – to find them again! That’s why we’re such advocates of recordusing, and why discoverability and accessibility is so critical.
Let us know what you think of this policy requirement, leave us a comment below!
P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog as we unpack every element of this policy over the next few weeks.