The Australian government’s digital transition policy intends to move all Australian government agencies to digital recordkeeping over the next few years.
It’s not hard to see why. Commonwealth agencies are currently spending $200 million plus a year storing paper records. Most of these records are born digital before being converted into paper for recordkeeping purposes. Most business processes are now totally digital – with originals maintained in a variety of electronic systems, and used as primary documentary sources for business. Wireless devices, smart phones and tablets are making it easy to work digitally almost anywhere in the ‘workplace’.
Most industries are experiencing digital transition in some form or another. Digitisation brings process improvement, increased productivity, profitability. Think banking, photo processing, video stores, car repairs, health care, and mining. Jobs are affected, in many cases eliminated. For records management it will mean the end of paper files, boxes, file movements, compactuses and file registries. The digital transition policy means sooner rather than later and the extent to which individuals are affected, depends on their flexibility and adaptability. In any given situation, when change happens, those with the ability to change are the ones who will succeed.
What skills are needed for digital transition?
National Archives of Australia identify the following skills as necessary for information and records managers working for an Australian Government agency:
- understand the business requirements of their agency, including relevant legislation and standards
- be able to analyze their agency’s business or businesses
- be very familiar with modern information and records management principles and practice, including creation, capture and storage of information and records
- identify the needs of their agency to develop information and records capability
- communicate effectively with staff at various levels within their agency
- project manage the provision of resources for information and records management
- understand and influence the digital capabilities of business systems used across their agency
Or put another way – create classification schemes and metadata sets, build information architectures, integrate recordkeeping into business process based systems, integrate business processing into recordkeeping systems, provide consultation services, deliver training etc. To maintain a role within the industry, records managers need to be taxonomists, metadata managers, business analysts, system designers, systems integrators, trainers.
Will records managers be the next technology refugees?
Unfortunately there is little intensive training in these disciplines tailored for records management, even within the degree courses. And so this type of work is usually outsourced to consultants and contractors. The result is a serious skill shortage across the industry and the emerging roles are now being filled by professionals from other disciplines (IT, library etc) many without recordkeeping knowledge.
National Archives of Australia is the first regulator to mandate a digital transition policy in Australia. The other regulators will surely follow. The challenge that many records managers face is that the time left to acquire the requisite skill set before digital transition affects their jobs is very short indeed.
First posted July 2, 2012 on Synerconblog.co (now merged with this site.)