The purpose of this publication is to provide guidance on effective management of electronic records to North Dakota state and local government agencies.
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.
The purpose of this manual is to provide guidance on effective management of electronic records to North Dakota state and local government agencies.
Every employee using a computer must assess whether their records are made or received pursuant to law or in connection with the transaction of official business and take appropriate action to ensure official records are properly created and maintained.
Not all electronic information is considered a record that is required by law to be included on a records 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 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.
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 information systems that produce, use, or store data files, disposition instructions for the data shall be incorporated into the system's design.
State and local government agencies shall maintain adequate technical documentation for each electronic information 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 policies and 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 who use computers should receive guidance on the following issues:
State and local government agencies should use directories and subdirectories to organize and control information stored 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.
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 files. 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 records created. File names should reflect the purpose and content of the file.
ITD Records Management recommends using the North Dakota Subject Classification System when creating directories and subdirectories.
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.
Electronic Content Management (ECM) is the act of managing content to be used to achieve business goals. ECM is essential to provide compliance, collaboration, continuity, and cost savings to an agency. Each agency is faced with some form of compliance, be it regulations or records retention, and managing records in a centralized solution makes it easier to meet those requirements. Collaboration is the ability for staff to work together on a project with access to the same information, wherever and whenever, they need access to it. Cost savings is something that is hard to measure and yet it can be seen daily. Implementing an ECM solution can reduce the time to respond to requests, decrease staff time needed to find records to do their job, and reduce legal costs. Continuity is the ability to keep a business running no matter the situation or event. Storing electronic records in a centralized repository ensures that if an event occurs, there will be access to the documents needed to run the agency and meet the needs of the customers.
There are two levels of ECM provided by the State of North Dakota: Basic Content Services and Electronic Document Management System.
Basic content services is an integrated suite of server capabilities that can improve team productivity by giving people access to the information they need, when they need it. Microsoft SharePoint is a family of software products developed by Microsoft for collaboration, file sharing, and web publishing. Using SharePoint, people can set up web sites to share information with others, manage documents from start to finish, and publish information to help everyone make better decisions
For organizations that need to extend beyond the functionality of basic content services, the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) offers a comprehensive solution for managing the creation, capture, indexing, storage, retrieval, and disposition of records and information. The IBM FileNet P8 platform offers enterprise-level scalability and flexibility to handle the most demanding content challenges, the most complex business processes, and integration to your existing systems.
Each solution has its’ strengths and based on the agency’s needs, ITD can assist agencies in using the correct solution to meet their business requirements. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that the agency is managing its electronic records properly.
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 information systems shall meet the following standards:
It must be possible to export records to other systems without the loss of information.
State and local government agencies should require vendor certification of compliance with AIIM TR31, “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, 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 with 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 historical 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 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 parts of an information system are considered during the analysis and appraisal process.
ITD Records Management personnel will work with each 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 records 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:
State and local government agencies should follow these guidelines in the management of their electronic records.
ITD Records Management
ITD Records Management can be contacted by calling 701-328-3585.
Records Management is the professional practice of identifying, classifying, preserving, and disposing the records of an organization, while capturing and maintaining the evidence of an organization’s business activities as well as the reducing the risks associated with it.