The International Standards Organization (ISO) has just published a new standard entitled ‘Information and Documentation - Records Management’, ISO 15489. The standard comes in two parts - an Overview and the Technical Report and Guidelines. The new ISO standard is derived from the Australian AS 4390 Records Management standard. This ‘standard’ is not a standard in the sense of laying down technical details of data formats. There is no information which would underpin information exchange.
Instead, the standard is drafted along the lines of the ISO 9000 ‘quality’ management standards and sets out to provide vocabulary and best practices to help the enterprise design its own strategy for information, document and records management. Our first overview of the two documents gave a false impression of a dry, verbose set of documentation whose implementation would be unachievable in a real-world situation. But on drilling down - especially in the second volume - the technical guidelines - the information gets interesting - although not exactly inspiring!
The Guidelines cover the development of records management policies and strategies before discussing the processes of capture, storage, monitoring and training. Many excellent questions are asked - who should be able to access your documents? How do you know they haven’t been altered? How long should you keep them? What metadata should be captured along with the document (important for digital storage where the archiving process may strip a document of valuable metadata)? But to answer such questions, you will have to look long at your own organization’s requirements and business process. The ‘Standard’ is essentially a detailed checklist of what issues should be considered when implementing a document management system. Technology is absent from the debate - although the curiously anachronistic WORM optical storage does get a mention!
The report makes episodic reference to electronic document
management, but its heart is in hard copy. There is an entreaty to ensure that
‘shelving ... be strong enough to bear potential loads.’ But while brief coverage
of digital storage is offered, one feels that this was not the authors’ core
business. For instance the recommendation that ‘records may have to be copied
to new media to avoid data erosion’ begs the question of potential ‘data erosion’
during the copying process - a problem which has plagued many transcription
projects! But all in all these standards must be considered recommended reading
to those engaged in records and document management. Today, many companies are
in denial when it comes to document access, retention and preservation strategies.
The ISO recommendation will help such organizations evaluate the size of the
task in hand. This is likely to be quite a scary process.
ISO 15489 is available from ISO on www.iso.ch .
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