Future Proof update Feb 09 – Managing digital records guidelines February 23, 2009

A belated ‘Happy New Year’ from all the staff at State Records. We hope you all had a safe and relaxing festive season.

What is Future Proof update?

Welcome to the very first edition of Future Proof update. We envisage that Future Proof update will be a monthly blog focusing on digital recordkeeping issues and developments. We can tell you what State Records’ staff have been doing regarding digital recordkeeping, but can also discuss interesting initiatives or projects being undertaken by specific public offices. So subscribe or visit our blog at the start of each month to read the latest news, and post your own comments in relation to anything we cover.

New guidelines

Our exciting news for the New Year is that we have released our new guidelines Managing digital records. These guidelines are designed to assist records managers and information technology specialists to deal with the unique challenges of the digital world.

Managing digital records is available from our Future Proof site under ‘Resources’ and also forms part of the Government recordkeeping manual.

Need for guidelines

As we all know, digital records provide a huge amount of opportunities but also a variety of unique challenges. One of the most important concerns from our perspective is that digital records will simply not survive intact if particular strategies are not in place to protect their authenticity and accessibility. Without trustworthy business records that survive for as long as they are required, public offices will find it increasingly difficult to perform their core functions, and litigation is a constantly looming threat. Valuable information of the State’s activities and history may also be lost forever.

Therefore, our aim was to update and revise our old Future proof guidelines to ensure they support the new Standard on digital recordkeeping and continue to assist public offices in future-proofing their digital records.

Preparing the new guidelines

As this was our initial goal, we started with a firm focus on digital preservation issues. We researched the latest developments in addressing technological obsolescence and technologies and methods to try to ensure that digital records survive in the long term. We discussed issues of planning, metadata, migration and the need for capturing records in recordkeeping systems, including using EDRMS or IAMS technologies.

In August 2008, we sent an exposure draft of the new guidelines to our Digital Records Advisory Group. We also sent them to a number of records and information technology specialists to see if their needs were addressed.

Feedback on the draft made us significantly reconsider our approach. The information technology specialists, in particular, indicated that the guidelines were too long and dense. They were too focused on long term preservation issues, failing to address some of the immediate and pressing problems in the management of digital records.

After considering this feedback we decided that what we really need was to provide broader guidelines on managing digital records – advice to help public offices deal with the immediate challenges they face, but also strategies to ensure that digital records can remain authentic and accessible well into the future.

To address the comments received about the guidelines being overly long and dense, we changed the presentation of the document. Now there is a summary document which introduces you to the guidelines. It contains a number of sections, and each section hyperlinks to further information. As a result, you can ‘dip’ into the guidelines and extract guidance about particular topics that are relevant to you, rather than having to read them from start to finish.

We also added a new section called ‘Target specific formats that are causing you problems’ where we addressed some of the major issues facing information technology and records specialists today. Currently, this discusses managing email, digital photographs, CAD files and web records. If you require advice on other formats please let us know as this section can be expanded over time.

Useful resources

While researching the guidelines we came across a number of useful articles regarding digital recordkeeping, many available online. If you are interested in further reading we suggest you use our annotated bibliography as a starting point. We will add to this as we discover new resources. Feel free to let us know about other resources you discover.


The reality of the digital world is that it is ever-changing so advice provided today may not address the challenges of tomorrow. So to remain relevant and helpful, Managing digital records will need to evolve as technologies, challenges and solutions evolve. We encourage you to provide feedback or suggestions now or in the future via this blog.

Until next month,

The Future Proof team

One Comments
Michael February 24th, 2009


Congratulations on the guidelines for Managing Digital Records. I’m sure I will find it of great benefit as I struggle to comes to terms with all the challengers that digital records brings.

One topic I noticed missing from the guidelines was on Web 2.0 technologies.

Where do blogs, wikis, podcasts, rss feeds and other Web 2.0 tools fit in with digital recordkeeping?

Are the comments that are posted on this site a record? Is the podcast? If I’m notified via RSS of new content on this site is it a record? Is this message I’ m writing a record?

How do those of us who have yet to implement an EDRMS capture records created from Web 2.0 tools?

We have just started implementing podcasts on our website and will soon be offering RSS feeds. Staff are planning the creation of a number of blogs and wikis for internal use as well as external with others in the profession and with the general public. I’m supposed to come up with the answers on how to manage this and I don’t have a clue where to start.

So, although I’m glad to see the Guidelines for Managing Digital Records has been released I’d really love to see some guidelines for managing records in the Web 2.0 environment.



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