Information management by design – introducing the new digital content on the State Records website May 14, 2014

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At State Records NSW we have redeveloped our Recordkeeping in the NSW public sector pages on our main State Records website.

We really hope this redevelopment helps to make our extensive resources about records and information management much more accessible, and accessible to a very broad audience.

So what changes have we made?

To improve its accessibility, we did a lot of consolidation of our online information. This brought together content relating to specific topics that had previously been located in different sections of the website.

We also simplified the basic structure of our site, grouping all our content under three key headings Rules, Advice, and Resources.

We hope you do find our redeveloped site cleaner and simpler to navigate but we would love any feedback on what you do and don’t like about it.

Importantly, however, while redeveloping the website, we also took the opportunity to quite significantly redevelop some of our content about digital information management.

This post introduces our new digital content.


Information management by design

A key message that emerges through all our new content and its revised presentation is the pressing need in the digital environment for information management to take place ‘by design’.

State Records has always promoted the need for good records and information management to be ‘by design’. This simply means that records and information management need to be proactive, strategic, considered, ‘baked in’ or designed as a core component of systems, services and processes and not addressed as some legacy or retrospective consideration.

This was a core message in our Records Management Policy Number 1: Policy on Electronic Recordkeeping issued way back in April 1998. It was also the foundation for the Manual for Designing and Implementing Recordkeeping Systems (the DIRKS Manual) which State Records first started to develop in 1996.

Naturally, the ‘by design’ message continues to be a key focus of our advice and guidance today.

In our revised website structure, our advice relating to digital records and information management is now primarily accessed via two main pages under the Advice section of the website:



Transitioning to digital business

As government business transitions to digital environments, effective digital information management strategies must be developed and implemented to support core information assets.

This new page on the State Records website outlines strategies to support organisations through this transition.

Here are some of the new resources available via the Transitioning to digital business page:


Establishing effective information management

This advice gives an overview of what information management is and states that it needs to be:

  • by design
  • focussed on strategic business objectives
  • integrated with relevant systems, and
  • focussed on short and long term business needs

It also highlights that specific responsibilities of information managers include:

  • system and process design
  • information sharing and risk, and
  • managing information for accountability and value


Identifying information risks that might be impacting on high risk business

This advice tries to encourage organisations to focus on and prioritise the management of their core and most vulnerable business information. It looks at:

  • defining information risks
  • identifying high risk areas of business
  • identifying the information needed to support high risk areas of business
  • knowing the technology needed to support high risk areas of business
  • determining whether necessary business information is affected by business risk, and
  • developing appropriate mitigation strategies if it is.

The advice also includes three case studies. These are:

  • Assessing the information management needs of a high risk business area
  • Developing an information risk register, and
  •  Information management impacts of BYOD (bring your own device) policies


Mitigating common information management challenges

This advice states that government information needs to be:

  • trustworthy and accountable
  • accessible, understandable and useable, and
  • maintained for business, community and legislative purposes.

It then identifies common risks across government that are threatening these capacities and identifies specific ideas and strategies for mitigating these risks.


Developing systems – information management considerations

This advice outlines some by design approaches necessary to support core business information management in digital business environments.

It includes guidance on:

  • knowing your business and business information needs
  • planning for the stability and longevity of core business information
  • planning for and managing change
  • deploying strategic metadata requirements
  • documenting systems


Transitioning away from paper process and management

This advice discusses the fact that government business today is primarily performed in digital systems, which means that the information generated by and in support of that business is also digital. Despite this, however, many organisations continue to build processes or authorisation requirements that necessitate the production of paper records.

It examines:

  • why are paper records still created?
  • reality: there is an enabling legislative framework
  • reality: there are options for an organisation’s capabilities for managing digital information
  • addressing where the true risks lie in digital information transition.

This final section emphasises the need for ‘information management by design’ approaches and broad strategic support for information management as key enablers of digital transition.


Designing, implementing and managing systems

The new Designing, implementing and managing systems page is now the primary location of all of State Records’ existing and now consolidated advice about email, cloud computing, EDRMS, SharePoint, system migration and other specific system-related content.

In addition to all this existing content, there are also some new resources available via the Designing, implementing and managing systems page:


Strategies for managing social media information

This extensive guideline examines:

  • why social media information needs managing
  • management strategies for social media information
  • what information management strategy should we use?
  • tools for capturing social media information, and
  • frequently asked questions about social media information management.

The effective management of social media information can only take place by design. Management of social media information needs to be a consciously foregrounded and designed approach that is based on specific business needs for information about social media operations.


Making decisions about how long to keep digital information

This advice states that both the ad hoc and unregulated deletion of information and the unwarranted over-retention of information can affect business performance. The advice is intended to give an overview to a non-records audience of how to make and apply decision about digital information retention. It addresses:

  • information retention and disposal rules must be deployed by design
  • the business risks that occur if digital information retention and disposal are not addressed
  • where to find the rules governing the retention and disposal of government business information, and
  • recommended strategies to effectively deploy the rules governing the retention and disposal of government business information.


Why backup systems aren’t a long term information management strategy

This advice identifies that long term information access is one of the purposes for organisational recordkeeping and information management strategies. This makes generally backups unsuitable for long term information management because they do not provide an easy means to go back and analyse past data. Organisations need both information management strategies and backup processes to comprehensively protect their business information.

The advice identifies that:

  • specific software and devices are required to extract information from backup environments
  • backup processes copy data only as it was maintained in corporate systems and networks at a particular point in time, and
  • records and IT staff must work together to develop coordinated information management and backup strategies  – neither can supplant the other.


These then are the changes we have made so far…

We do hope you find our new content on digital information management and specifically, digital information management by design, useful. Do tell us though if there are things we have missed, issues you want more advice on or changes we have made that you don’t agree with.

We want to continue to work with all NSW public offices to meet the challenge of strategic and effective information management in digital business environments, so do let us know how we can best help you to achieve this.


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