Technology and applications for managing records

What technology or applications you choose to use for your records governance is a key decision during development or when making changes.

There are different types of recordkeeping systems and applications, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

These systems are usually based around a core mechanism or application used to manage records, for example, an eDRMS or paper-based system.

When choosing what technology to adopt, you should consider:

  • the systems and technology that is currently in place, including:
    • how it is currently used
    • what records it is used to create, manage or dispose of
    • who uses the system or technology
  • your security, preservation, discoverability and accessibility needs
  • the needs and views of the staff who will be using the system
  • the needs and view of your IT team
  • the financial or staffing limitations that exist
  • whether the issue you wish to address is best addressed through:
    • changing how you use an existing piece of technology or application
    • introducing new off-the-shelf technology or applications
    • designing new made-to-order technology or applications.

Electronic document and records management system (eDRMS)

An eDRMS is designed to manage digital records. It combines document management and recordkeeping.

Advantages

  • Easy information retrieval.
  • Complete records are made and kept.
  • Records are managed throughout their lifetime.
  • Less chance of information being lost, destroyed or being accessed inappropriately.
  • Able to configure and specify the capture of optional and mandatory metadata.

Disadvantages

  • Can be expensive to implement and support.
  • Implementation is a significant change for the business.
  • Integration with existing business applications may be needed for the eDRMS to work more efficiently.

Suitable for agencies with developed IT infrastructure or that want a comprehensive digital recordkeeping environment.

Collaborative applications

Collaborative applications (e.g. SharePoint, Yammer, Lync) may be integrated with other tools or applications to increase functionality. They can enable both workplace collaboration and recordkeeping practice.

Advantages

  • Integration with other applications can be a relatively simple process and can act as a pathway to something more comprehensive, like an eDRMS.
  • Integrate existing digital work processes with digital recordkeeping through a collaborative environment.

Disadvantages

  • Significant configuration may be required to ensure collaborative applications have some recordkeeping functionality.
  • Application controls, business rules, work processes and user training needed to foster good recordkeeping practices.

Suitable for agencies that would like to use collaborative applications to improve business efficiency and who may not have the resources available to implement a dedicated recordkeeping application (e.g. eDRMS).

Business applications

Ideally, your core business applications will have recordkeeping functionality. In reality this may not be the case.

Building functionality into your applications allows information and records to be made and kept in the same application.

The best time to think about building recordkeeping functionality into an application is when it is being designed or implemented.

Advantages

  • Employees do not have to duplicate information across applications.
  • Eliminates the uncertainty around 2 ‘points of truth’ for business information.

Disadvantages

  • Integrating recordkeeping functionality can be difficult and expensive.
  • Recordkeeping functionality may not be seen as high priority in the design and implementation of new business applications.
  • Requires collaboration between IT and recordkeeping areas.

Suitable for agencies that want to manage digital records in the business applications that they are first created in.

Shared network drives

If used properly, shared network drives can provide an easy and inexpensive option for storing and locating digital information.

Long term, network drives are not the best strategy for maintaining memory and evidence of business operations.

Advantages

  • An inexpensive way to manage records using existing technology.
  • User familiarity with this type of technology and the folder structure.

Disadvantages

  • A lack of recordkeeping functionality means records can be changed or deleted.
  • Unless naming standards are implemented, informal and inconsistent names may lead to issues finding and retrieving information and records being duplicated.
  • Limitations on the amount of metadata (e.g. title, dates) that can be captured, so records may lack context.
  • Requires a high level of quality control.

Suitable for agencies that are able to develop and enforce manual processes to supplement the lack of recordkeeping functionalities.

Paper

Paper systems involve printing all records to paper and managing a paper-based environment.

Advantages

  • Keeping records in just one format may be less confusing.

Disadvantages

  • Printing large volumes of paper records isn’t efficient.
  • When digital records are printed to paper, they may lose context.
  • Storage space for paper may be expensive.
  • Paper records may not be accessible to all employees.

Suitable for agencies with lower levels of technical infrastructure in place (usually very small agencies).

Hybrid

Hybrid systems involve the management of both paper and digital records.

Paper records must be captured and managed digitally, usually through the use of a record or file profile that points to the records’ physical location.

Advantages

  • May act as a pathway to a more comprehensive recordkeeping application (e.g. eDRMS).
  • Records that must be kept in paper format (e.g. for legal reasons) can be managed.

Disadvantages

  • Different record formats have different requirements for creation, capture, management, retention and disposal.
  • Additional policies, procedures and business rules will need to be put in place to ensure employees know how to create and manage records in each format.

Suitable for agencies where recordkeeping maturity and technology differs between business areas.