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Reflections from an Information Management Standards Seminar, 29th July 2016

The other Friday, on a typically frosty Canberran winter’s morning, I attended a one-day seminar on Information Management Standards which was organised by the Standards Australia IT-021 Committee, with assistance from the National Archives of Australia and hosted by the Department of Defence.

There were seven key areas up for discussion, covering a number of standards and series:Standards Seminar IT21

  • Records Management Foundations
  • Management Systems
  • Metadata
  • Risk and Classification
  • Information Management Functionality in Systems
  • Digital Continuity
  • Family of Standards on PDF Format

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Automatic Digital Records Management – Are we there yet?

We recently had the opportunity to look broadly at what the industry has to offer in Automatic Digital Records Management. We were interested in exploring products that specifically automated key records processes or controls.  Why? Because organisations want records management processes to be seamless so staff can focus on core objectives.  But as records managers we need to ensure that any automation is not at the expense of the integrity of the record.

Roadmap to automatic digital records management

What did we find? We found automation was mainly in the use of add on tools for traditional records management systems which improved some recordkeeping functionality. We also found some really interesting work in the areas of data analytics and auto classification.

Automation Tools

There are a lot of offerings in the market place that provide limited automation capability. For example, APIs connecting to business systems which allows organisations to manage information in the systems they were created.   There are also some clever workflows that provide user friendly interfaces and automatic capture of metadata and records.  There were lots of other useful tools, too many to mention here.  The fundamental problem with many of these tools is that they are only usable with one specific platform and in reality we keep records across multiple platforms.

Data Analytics & Auto Classification

While auto classification might sound really exciting it has limitations. Auto classification is based on predictive coding for data analytics and machine learning.  Accuracy increases as the machine continues to analyse and learn, but it is not 100% accurate.  Without 100% accuracy the consequences could be significant.  Organisations need to establish an appropriate risk appetite before implementation.  Data analytics is still a new area so it will be interesting to see how vendors take advantage of it, and with opportunities for  improved identification of records of little business value, or those that contain personal information, or those ready to be de-classified. Creative thinking on ways to use these technologies open up many possible additional areas of exploration.  Read the UK National Archive Research Report on The application of technology-assisted review to born-digital records transfer, Inquires and beyond for more details on these type of technologies.

Automatic digital records management in 2050

Did we find any outstanding evidence of really innovative and creative thinking? Is anyone defining the way forward to 2050 when it comes to automation in digital records management? We are not there yet, but there are signs that vendors are rethinking the way recordkeeping should work. Vendors are starting to think more about interoperability, modular designs, and changing models of licencing and alternative means of offering records services.  These will be vital in order to move forward and manage complex frameworks where organisations are coping with numerous systems and regular machinery of government changes.

Our survey was not exhaustive and this blog would have been impossible without the input of vendors. We appreciate the time they took and look forward to seeing what they do next.

3 easy things you can do to get ready for automatic digital records management

  1. Get your business processes documented.
  2. Determine your metadata requirements.
  3. Identify which systems capture your records.

When Automatic Digital Records Management arrives in your organisation you want to be ready, so get started!