Doc management not just about regulation, conference told

Information managers from public organisations are anticipating the requirements of the Public Records Act, due to come into force in mid-2010, and particularly the threat of audits to check they are handling and preserving public records correctly.

However, delegates to the seventh annual Information Management Summit, held in Wellington on March 3, have been advised against portraying improvement of record management techniques solely as a matter of compliance. There are plenty of positives in having more efficiently organised records and these should be emphasised, speakers told delegates.

South Taranaki District Council (STDC) has implemented an improved records management function using Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS) 2007 as a base.

The main purpose of the development was to rationalise the many "different ways of storing documents and different ways of deciding what was kept and what was not kept", environment manager Graham Young told delegates.

The development, and the choice of platform, was eased by a Microsoft funding scheme aimed specifically at local government projects.

In practical terms the most painstaking part of the project was establishing a taxonomy of document types and topics, Young says. As well, it was necessary to avoid, or carefully define, terms like "taxonomy" when working with the user population.

To increase user understanding, the council held iLab training sessions, provided by Information Leadership.

The cost of professional fees for consultants and training organisations accounted for more than three-quarters of the cost of the project. "We don't have that kind of information management skills," Young says.

The taxonomy construction stage took 18 months, he says, but it is an essential part of an EDRMS. "People will use it, if they can see it as a straightforward set of pigeonholes."

An important aim is to have as much of the metadata as possible filled in automatically from the context in which the user is working with the document, Young says. Document type and file name are the only two "required" entries on the metadata form.

Documents classified as essential for Public Records Act purposes are protected from deletion, with an appropriate warning notice citing the PRA, when deletion is attempted.

While MOSS is a good basis for an EDRMS, it's not a complete solution, particularly in regards to compliance says Young.

STDC has implemented the Colligo collaboration environment and Corasworks application builder, both already closely integrated with Sharepoint.

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