The purpose of this publication is to provide guidance on effective management of electronic records to North Dakota state agencies and county, city, and park district offices.
In March 1997, Information Services Division formed an ad hoc committee to address the issues related to the management of electronic records. The goal of the Electronic Records Committee was to draft guidelines for state agencies and county, city, and park district offices to use in the management of electronic records. The Electronic Records Committee consists of representatives from thirty-four state agencies. These guidelines are the collective outcome from many other organizations’ products, including National Archives and Records Administration, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Delaware Public Archives, Florida Department of State, Utah State Archives, and the Archives Office of Tasmania.
The extensive use of automation to conduct government business has resulted in the proliferation of electronic state records. Electronic records create many new concerns regarding the management of such records.
Why should state agencies and county, city, and park district offices be concerned about the management of electronic information?
Prior to the large-scale networking of personal computers, automated equipment, such as electronic typewriters, word processors, and stand-alone computers were mainly used by support personnel to produce correspondence, reports, forms, and other records which were printed, distributed, and filed. Currently, government agencies continue to maintain “official” files in paper form because their automated systems lack the functionality for the management of electronic records. However, as more personnel, including professional and technical staff, use networked computers, the production of more and more records is left to individual staff members, and the records are less likely to be placed in office files.
Each individual on a computer network who exercises control over electronic information, such as electronic mail messages, must assess whether the record was made or received pursuant to law or in connection with the transaction of official business and take appropriate action to ensure that the electronic information that are official records are properly maintained.
Not all electronic information is considered a record that is required by law to be included on a record retention schedule. The technology or medium in which a document is created, stored, used, or presented is not what decides whether it is a record or not. What makes a document a record is the fact that it documents a business transaction or is made or received pursuant to law.
The advent of personal computers has transferred the responsibility for records management from central records management sections to individual employees. Increasingly, employees are responsible for the creation and management of their own records. They may often be working without a clear understanding of the value of the information resource under their control nor their legal obligations and duties. Without guidelines in this area, the potential exists for significant losses in terms of history and accountability.
These guidelines are designed to assist agency management to develop appropriate and consistent procedures for the management of electronic records. The records management principles outlined are widely understood in the context of paper records but should now be applied in the electronic context.
The manual assumes a basic understanding of records management practices and some familiarity with technology. Following are some definitions:
Electronic records are part of complicated recordkeeping systems which must be analyzed in total. Electronically-produced records deserve special attention because they are relatively new, easily altered and erased, and their status as valuable parts of the public record is still unclear to many people.
Data become records when the content, context, and structure are tied together to provide both meaning and functionality.
A further distinction is that the particular medium (magnetic tape, optical disk, paper) in which information may be carried or embodied is NOT the record. The information carried on that medium is the record.
Electronic records management is the efficient management of records stored on computerized systems. The key to electronic records management is to be able to support such documents through their entire life cycle.
The life cycle of records is a management concept that all records and information pass through three stages: creation, maintenance and use, and disposition. Within the framework of an information system, these stages are not always distinct. Agencies should track all user information needs and determine records retention requirements throughout the life of the system to as great an extent as possible.
Whenever agency staff create purge criteria for data in information systems, they are setting retention and disposition policy for the record or parts of it. Agencies need to be aware that established purge criteria should reflect retention and disposition schedules approved by ITD Records Management and the Records Management Task Force. The Records Management Task Force includes the State Records Management Administrator, State Archivist, and representatives from the Attorney General’s Office and the State Auditor’s Office.
Application of the life cycle concept to an information system may follow these stages:
Electronic recordkeeping systems must have accurately documented policies, assigned responsibilities, and formal methodologies for their management.
Electronic recordkeeping systems must meet the following criteria:
For electronic records systems that produce, use, or store data files, disposition instructions for the data shall be incorporated into the system's design.
State agencies and county, city, and park district offices shall maintain adequate technical documentation for each electronic records system, including documentation of system design, implementation, use, and migration. The following documentation is required:
Since computer systems are used to create and store records, agencies should write procedures to control the use, access, and productivity on the personal computer. Personal computers require a great deal of financial resources for up-front costs, maintenance, and training time and expenses. If the “automated” information on the personal computer cannot be located or costs more, but offers little improvement in access, accuracy, quality, or productivity, the consequence is a wasted investment of time and money.
All employees with access to computers should receive guidance on the following issues:
State agencies and county, city, and park district offices should use directories and subdirectories to organize and control information on computers. An electronic directory acts like a folder or drawer in a filing cabinet. You use a directory to group electronic applications, documents, files, and subdirectories into a logical association, just as you would in a paper file folder or file cabinet. This is the primary means to control information placed on a computer.
The directories and files on the computer’s main or root directory are the operating system and were created when it was installed. The operating system needs these directories and files to function. The application programs installed on the computer will also create directories, subdirectories, and files needed to run the program. You will have no control over the directories and files automatically created by operating systems or application programs. Your chief concern is the directories you create to manage your files.
Directories allow you to specify the content and location of information on your computer. Within each directory you can create one or more other directories called subdirectories. The structure created by placing directories within directories is usually called the directory tree or nesting. Subdirectories help users organize electronic documents by subject, document type, originator, or some other grouping. Although subdirectories are an excellent control method, creating more than three or four directory levels is not recommended. The deeper you place a file in a series of subdirectories, the more difficult it becomes to remember all the subdirectory names.
There are many advantages to standardizing the terminology used to name computer directories and electronic documents. Standardized directory and file names provide the ability to:
Each state agency should develop a standard naming convention for electronic documents based on their specific program needs and the types of documents created.
ITD Records Management recommends using the North Dakota Subject Classification System when creating directories and subdirectories.
The following directories/subdirectories should be created as needed for the types of files maintained on your computer. New files should be named and stored under the appropriate category subdirectory.
|01||(ACT)||ACCOUNTING||All functions involved in a financial transaction.|
|02||(ACD)||ACADEMIC||Information related to academic functions.|
|05||(AF)||AGENCY FEDERAL||Information related to a federal agency (reports, data, correspondence, etc.) which are not directly related to programs administered by your office.|
|10||(AS)||AGENCY STATE||Information relating to any state agency (reports, data, correspondence, etc.) which are not directly related to programs administered by your office.|
|14||(AOC)||ASSOCIATIONS||Information concerning organizations outside of the department (Corporate data, membership rosters, institutes, trade groups).|
|15||(AUD)||AUDITS||All information related to audit projects (reports, data, correspondence, etc.). Generally, audit information will be placed under 01 - Accounting. Upon request, ITD Records Management will evaluate the need to place audit information under this category.|
|17||(BUD)||BUDGETS||All information related to budgeting (reports, data, correspondence, etc.). Generally, budget information will be placed under 01 - Accounting. Upon request, ITD Records Management will evaluate the need to place budget information under this category.|
|18||(CR)||CIVIL RIGHTS||Material relating to affirmative action, EEO, equal employment, minority businesses, and Title IV, VI, and VIII, and Americans with Disabilities Act.|
|19||(CF)||CASE FILES||Includes all records retained as case files, except legal cases.|
|22||(C/M)||COMMITTEE/MEETINGS||Committees, councils, boards, objectives, agendas, schedules, minutes, reports of and on meetings for the department/agency.|
|26||(COM)||COMMUNICATIONS||Material dealing with any form of communication the agency has with the media or public.|
|28||(CON)||CONSULTANTS||Companies, engineers, or individuals that are or have the potential of being contracted by the department.|
|30||(C/L/A)||CONTRACTS/LEASES/AGREEMENTS||Information or documents regarding office agreements, leases, and contracts.|
|35||(ED/T)||EDUCATION/TRAINING||Any information regarding education, training, seminars, etc. that an employee attends or that is sponsored by the office.|
|43||(EQ)||EQUIPMENT||Any information related to equipment actually owned or leased by the office (cameras, computers, software, copiers, typewriters).|
|44||(FOR)||FORMS MANAGEMENT||All original forms used by your agency.|
|45||(GC)||GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE||A miscellaneous category used only if records don't fall under any other category. These should have a short life span.|
|47||(INS)||INSURANCE||Any insurance related information which pertains to the office.|
|50||(LG)||LEGAL||Any communication with the legal division or law firms.|
|55||(LEG)||LEGISLATION||Reference material on what is proposed or enacted into law (federal, state, county, township, municipal).|
|60||(PER)||PERSONNEL||Any information relating to personnel of the agency.|
|65||(P/P)||POLICIES/PROCEDURES||Guidelines on established principles and methods of operation for the office.|
|70||(PS)||POLITICAL SUBDIVISIONS||Any city, county, or township information not relating to a project file.|
|72||(REF)||REFERENCE MATERIALS||Material used for reference purposes only.|
|75||(SA)||SAFETY/SECURITY||Records relating to operating safety requirements, precautions, protection from damages, risk, injury, and reports pertaining to safety.|
|80||(SPS)||PROGRAMS, PROJECTS AND SERVICES||Programs and services not related to other categories. Includes programs and services provided by your agency.|
|81||(SPR)||SPECIAL PROJECTS||Special projects provided by your department. These projects are generally one-time and are of shorter duration than programs or services.|
|85||(S/D)||STAFF/DIVISION/UNIT||Statistical data, memos within your own staff or with other divisions within your own agency/department. These will have a short life span.|
|90||(S/S/R)||SURVEY/STUDY/REPORT||Statistical data, comprehensive or comparative studies, and recurring reports that don't pertain to any other category.|
|95||(TS)||TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM||Material relating to airways, railways, roadways, and waterways.|
|97||(VI)||VENDOR INFORMATION||All information received from vendors for equipment not owned, leased, or used by your department.|
Directory C:\Employee\60 (PER)\
Agencies shall implement the following procedures to enhance the legal admissibility of electronic records:
Electronic documents are legally admissible as evidence with proper documentation according to NDCC 54-46.1-02.1, NDCC 54-46.1-03, and NDCC 31-08-01.1.
According to North Dakota Century Code 44-04-18 and the North Dakota Constitution, all records of public entity are public records, open and accessible for inspection during reasonable office hours, except as otherwise specifically provided by law.
In response to North Dakota Century Code chapter 9-16, the state records administrator created Electronic Signature Guidelines, effective October 2004, for the use and acceptance of signatures in the state of North Dakota. These guidelines should be used as a best practice tool and provide basic information regarding electronic signatures.
The metadata, or information about the information, defining the ‘context’ of the record is important in maximizing its evidentiary value and ensuring future access. The metadata must document when and how the record was created and used, ensure the inviolability of the record, and capture a history of subsequent transactions in which it is involved. Key attributes, such as author, title, and time and date created, should be reflected in the metadata in electronic systems. They should be an intrinsic part of the document and remain as the contextual information of that document throughout its life cycle.
Documentation for electronic records systems shall meet the following standards:
It must be possible to export records to other systems without the loss of information.
State agencies and county, city, and park district offices should require vendor certification of compliance with ANSI/AIIM TR31-1994, “Performance Guideline for the Legal Acceptance of Records Produced by Information Technology Systems.”
For storing public records throughout their life cycle, agencies shall select appropriate electronic records storage media and systems which meet the following requirements:
There is often the presumption that because information is stored in the computer or on tape, it is somehow automatically preserved for all time. This brief section is included to provide some basic preservation concerns. No electronic media is considered to be archival in terms of long-term storage.
Electronic records may be destroyed only in accordance to records retention schedules approved by the Records Management Task Force. Each agency shall ensure that:
The State Archives is responsible for the care, maintenance, and reference use of state records with enduring value, regardless of media. The fragile nature of electronic media makes it imperative that archival considerations be incorporated into the design of the information system during its development stage. The State Archivist will work with agencies in the identification of historical information.
The State Archives will accept electronic records identified as having historical value or will cooperate with agencies in preserving and accessing electronic records maintained in agency custody. Because of the variety of formats of electronic records, issues of proprietary software and specialized hardware, decisions need to be made, in consultation with State Archives staff, as to whether to transfer records or maintain them in the agency of origin. If a transfer decision is made, the method, frequency, and format of the transfer must be determined cooperatively by the agency and State Archives staff.
The timing of the actual physical transfer of electronic records should be determined through the records scheduling process. State Archives personnel need to be involved early in the process to ensure that archival requirements are met. Special preservation measures are often required to preserve electronic records.
Electronic records may require conversion to a medium and format suitable to ensure long-term access and readability. All appropriate system documentation must accompany the transfer of electronic records. A computer database without minimum documentation is useless because the contents cannot be read or interpreted.
Electronic records containing confidential information will, like other records containing confidential information, be under the same restrictions in the State Archives as they are in the agency of origin. Transfer to the State Archives does not affect statutory restrictions on access to confidential information.
Electronic information is included in the statutory definition of “records.” Therefore, the records must be included on an approved record retention schedule prior to the disposal of the information. Apart from fulfilling statutory records retention requirements, there are other benefits to the state agency. Approved retention schedules offer a mechanism for:
The purpose of a records inventory is to gather information about the characteristics of an organization’s electronic records. Electronic records are inventoried by identifying and analyzing the automated information systems with which they are associated.
The systems approach addresses records issues in relationship to each other and tracks information flow within an agency. A systems approach to scheduling electronic records ensures that all component parts of an information system are considered during the analysis and appraisal process.
ITD Records Management personnel will meet with each state agency to develop an inventory of information systems for retention scheduling purposes.
The appraisal of the value of the record is developed through a partnership with the state agency and the Records Management Task Force. It involves the appraisal of the function that the records document from the agency perspective, and the potential legal, fiscal, and historical value.
The appraisal should be completed at an early stage when systems are being developed. For records identified as having continuing or long-term value it must be possible to ensure that their content, structure, and context will be preserved and be retrievable over time. It is also necessary to identify the retention periods of more temporary records in the system design specifications to enable record to be automatically deleted when no longer required.
Agencies shall establish policies and procedures to ensure that electronic records and their documentation are retained as long as needed for administrative, legal, fiscal, and historical purposes. These retention procedures shall include provisions for:
Electronic records must be protected from accidental or intentional damage or destruction and from any modification.
System administrators must set access privileges to protect records from unauthorized users.
Validation involves ensuring the data is accurate, authentic, and captured as part of the normal course of business activity.
Electronic records must be:
ITD Records Management appreciates the time and assistance of all members of the Electronic Records Committee. ITD Records Management can be contacted by calling 701-328-3585.