Building a recordkeeping house

Recordkeeping in your agency is kind of like your house – you can do lots of things in your house to make it yours and suit your needs, like hang pictures, change curtains, and paint walls. And then of course there are some things you need to do to make sure your house stays nice, and maintained, and still standing.

Your records governance is like the frame of your house –the walls go around and the roof goes on, then you get the rooms, and floors and windows… ok enough houses, and let’s talk about how all the bits of your house (sorry)… framework fit together.

The framework

Your recordkeeping house isn’t just the recordkeeping application you use or whether you organise your physical records alphabetically or chronologically.

That’s just the foundation. The house still needs to be supported by:

  • people who use it
  • a formal policy that identifies that this bit of technology manages those records
  • procedures that explain how employees should use that technology to manage these records (e.g. how to identify and capture records)
  • tools that help control records (e.g. naming conventions that explain how to title folders and documents).

A foundation on its own isn’t a house, it only becomes a house once all the other parts come together.

Smooth corners and seamless finishes

One of the most important aspects of a house is how all the different parts fit together.

How the wood joins to the concrete. How the windows suit the space. How the furniture suits the inhabitants needs. You can get by with a house that doesn’t fit together very well but you’ll probably be spending a lot of time and money fixing leaks, tripping over floorboards and being annoyed the shower head points at your chest and not your head.

Your records governance is the same. You can get by when it doesn’t join up with your agency’s broader frameworks but things are so much better when they do.

Recordkeeping should be considered as part of all your other functions and be part of every strategic and operational plan. You wouldn’t build something, renovate or even do a touch up without turning your mind to how it fits with the whole and it should be the same with your records governance. It should all fit together with your other agency frameworks. More than just keeping out of each other way, they should support one another, helping each other achieve their goals.

How can you make your seams seamless? Here’s some examples:

Example 1:

The Lamingtown Health Service has just released their strategic plan for the next five years. Amongst other things, part of their plan involves introducing new services, particularly ones focused on preventative health.

Bill, the Manager of the Health Information Services unit, thinks about how the unit can support his agency’s broader strategic goal to expand their services. He decides to approach the IT team about what they can do to make it easier to extract stats about service demand from their EDRMs.

After talking to the IT team, they decide to work together on a way to make it easier to extract stats about service demand using records that the Health Service already creates as part of their work.

By including one additional metadata field, the Health Service can now easily get numbers on what services are currently most in demand and use this information to determine where resources should be shifted.

Bill runs some brief training on the new metadata field along with a refresher on basic recordkeeping.

Example 2:

The corporate area of the Lamingtown Administration Agency is currently being realigned. A few business units will shift and some are combining.

As part of the realignment work, Oliver, the Principal information officer, is involved in a working group. He’s included because the offices are shifting and they want to move some older records into storage. While in the working group, Oliver argues for digitising some of their finance processes,

Oliver suggests incorporating some records management improvements into the changes – particularly around what applications are used to store records. Though he’s not successful in convincing the rest of the working group to develop a whitelist of applications, they do agree that monitoring processes will be introduced so that they can get a better idea of what is being saved where to revisit whitelisting in the future.

Fixtures and fittings

When building your house, you’ll have some requirements you need to meet. Some will be external (building regulations, council approvals, the physical location), some will be internal (things you want or need in your house), and some will come from others (the people you are going to live with).

Your records governance also has requirements it needs to meet– legislative, business, community requirements. How do you figure out what they are? Stay tuned, more on that next time…

In the meantime, you can contact us via email, telephone, blog, Twitter.

Also, just like in the movies, all names, characters, places, and incidents portrayed in this blog post are fictitious and are not based on real people or incidents in any way (as far as we know).

And if you’re interested in the story of Lamingtown so far, check out the other blogs in the series. There are also many other  blog posts on the Records Governance Policy and the different policy requirements that you can read.


Featured image: Steel structure of State Government Building, Anzac Square, 11 September 1931, Digital Image ID 25993

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