Recordkeeping fundamentals are critical to the successful implementation of an EDRMS – teaching the technology is not enough July 2, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilianohorcada/5707515437

http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilianohorcada/5707515437

Last week the EDRMS Implementers Discussion Group met again to talk further about the challenges and opportunities presented by the move to digital recordkeeping. The lively discussion ranged across the impacts of administrative change, the difficulty of influencing and changing user behaviours and dealing with legacy shared drives.

One of the most interesting points raised by members concerned the importance of re-enforcing recordkeeping fundamentals as part of an EDRMS implementation. Members explained that it is not enough to train users on how to use the particular EDRMS being implemented (i.e. the buttons to click). Rather, this system-specific training needs to be accompanied by more general awareness raising and training on the importance of creating and keeping records and how this will assist users to do their jobs more effectively.

Back to basics – what is a record, and when should I capture it?

Members reported that many employees still struggle to understand what is a record, what records they need to keep and when they should capture records to a corporate recordkeeping system. One outcome of this lack of understanding is a tendency to ‘hoard’ information and to keep everything ‘just in case’ – this has resulted in shared drives and email inboxes groaning under the weight of thousands and thousands of items.

Some of the members reported that they are incorporating ‘Recordkeeping 101’-type training into the training given to employees as part of the implementation. These members argued that it is insufficient to train users on how to use the system; users also need to have ‘refresher’ training in some recordkeeping fundamentals so that they understand what they should be using the system for. Tying the two types of training together means that users have a clear understanding of what they should be capturing into the EDRMS, when and how.

Members had an interesting discussion on the relative pros and cons of encouraging employees to capture everything to the EDRMS:

  • On the one hand it can encourage user acceptance and use of the system, as it is easy for users to decide what should be captured (i.e. everything). As previously reported, some members have taken the approach of encouraging users to capture all documents, email messages etc. that relate to their work into the EDRMS.
  • On the other hand it can result in an EDRMS that is full of ‘rubbish’. Some members cautioned against this approach as it will result in a bulging EDRMS, making effective search and retrieval difficult. If this approach is adopted, a regular disposal program should be implemented to ensure that records that have met their minimum retention periods and are no longer required are deleted from the system. However in practice digital disposal is hard to do.

Changing the location of recordkeeping

Members discussed the interesting phenomena that users are often accomplished recordkeepers but are unwilling to do their recordkeeping in formal recordkeeping systems. Members talked about business units with highly structured shared drives and email inboxes – employees in these business units are creating and keeping records in these systems, and are able to quickly and easily locate and refer to records when needed, but are unwilling to move their recordkeeping activities to an EDRMS.

High level support is key to driving changes

Many organisations that have implemented an EDRMS have identified high level support as key to the success (or otherwise) of the project. State Records’ advice on EDRMS identifies ongoing management commitment and support as critical to a successful implementation.

The truth of this was reiterated by members: one member reported that the project to implement an EDRMS in his organisation was viewed as a very low priority, and so it was difficult to persuade employees to take time out from their day-to-day work to complete training on how to use the system. This experience contrasted with those of other members who reported that senior managers in their organisations were active supporters of the EDRMS implementation: this support meant that there was a push ‘from the top’ for employees to use the system, which translated into widespread acceptance of the system by users.

Developing business rules – a bit like the chicken and the egg

Following on from the discussion last time around business rules, members agreed that developing business rules is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. While it is vital to have business rules in place before a system ‘goes live’, it is only once users begin using the system that any issues with the business rules will become apparent. User testing can assist in identifying any issues prior to a more general roll out of the system. In addition, the development of business rules can be an iterative process, with the rules being refined over time as users become more confident in using the system.

Remember, the EDRMS Implementers Discussion Group is open to anyone involved with an EDRMS implementation in a NSW public office. If you would like to join the Group, please email govrec@records.nsw.gov.au. Alternatively if you have any tips to share with other implementers, please leave a comment below.

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