New digital standards on record keeping and IT governance

By Stephen Easton

Wednesday February 3, 2016

The National Archives of Australia has made two additions to its suite of standard processes and guidelines that aim to help federal agencies meet their obligations under the Digital Continuity 2020 policy, while Standards Australia has released a new specification for IT governance.

The Archives explains its two new publications “will specifically help agencies to ensure their information, systems and processes are interoperable, and enable information to be found, managed, shared and re-used easily and efficiently”.

Like many of the NAA’s administrative tools, guidelines and standardised approaches to records management, the new offerings could also be helpful to organisations outside the Commonwealth sphere.

A new framework for assessing the level of information management functionality in business systems, which is based on an international standard and designed to help agencies with:

  • Assessing information risks and values;
  • Identifying the systems functionality required to manage information appropriately;
  • Providing solutions to address gaps in a system’s ability to manage information; and
  • Ensuring greater accountability, transparency and enhanced service delivery.

The Archives says:

“It recognises that not all information is of equal value and has been developed so that business systems managing high-risk and high-value information undergo a more extensive assessment than systems managing low-risk information.

The framework can be applied to both new and existing systems and can be used by information and records management (IRM) practitioners, ICT staff and business owners.”

Also published online today is the “Minimum Metadata Set” which aims to make “tagging and identifying essential information” for digital records management simple and easy.

As the name implies, it is a standard set of nine essential points of metadata — information about a computer file, as opposed to the primary content of the file — that agencies should attach for their own records management and eventual archiving. The Archives explains:

“Agencies using an Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) to manage their information should already meet the minimum metadata standard as EDRMS’ can capture the required metadata.

The set is cumulative, with the Core properties applying to all systems, the Additional properties added for systems which hold high value and long-term information assets, and the Transfer properties added to complete the set for systems holding records of archival value that may be transferred to the Archives.”

Another new standard, for governance of big IT projects

Meanwhile, Standards Australia has released a new technical specification called “Governance of benefits realisation for IT enabled investments” that is supposed to help guide governance of big IT projects to effectively manage risks and maximise benefits.

It’s well known that big IT investments in both the private and public sectors do not always deliver the value they are supposed to; Stadards Australia relies on “a recent survey by the Project Management Institute” to back up this point.

Standards Australia CEO Bronwyn Evans said in a statement:

“The executive leadership in today’s digital age must focus on the benefits being delivered, not just on the delivery of new capabilities.

“Having effective governance will enable realisation of intended business outcomes, benefits and value throughout the business life cycle of the investment.”

The new standard is supposed to help governance bodies “ask the right questions” and promote “a culture of accountability” about the extent to which IT projects achieve their aims, and reduce wasted resources, according to Standards Australia technical expert Sandeep Mathur. Mathur also explained the difference between the new specification — SA/SNZ 8019 — and a wider Australia and New Zealand standard around IT governance that existed previously:

“While the standard AS/NZS 8016:2013, Governance of IT enabled projects, sets out wider governance for IT projects, this specification primarily focusses on outcomes and proposes a framework for governance incorporating definitions, principles and a model.”

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