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Commencing a DIRKS project

This section examines the different issues you need to consider when embarking on a project to improve recordkeeping in your organisation.

It identifies:

  • methods by which you can scope your project and determine what is attainable
  • the importance of senior management support and means of attaining this
  • the need for project planning
  • the people you may need in a DIRKS project team, and
  • the importance of change management.

In this section

Measure risk

Measuring the risks faced by your organisation as a result of poor recordkeeping is a useful way to commence your DIRKS project.

Risk management is a theme that runs through this manual.

DefinitionRisk management is 'the culture, processes and structures that are directed towards the effective management of potential opportunities and adverse effects'. [4]

DIRKS projects can be targeted and employed in your organisation based on the results of a risk assessment. For example, undertaking risk assessments may help your organisation to realise that recordkeeping is crucial to areas of your business that are subject to high degrees of risk and litigation. Other areas may have minimal amounts of risk associated with recordkeeping. You could therefore commence your DIRKS work in the areas that are subject to high degrees of risk and build good recordkeeping systems that will help you to manage and minimise this risk.

InformationTip: All organisational systems do not have to be DIRKSed
Remember that not all business systems or processes in your organisation may need to be subject to the DIRKS methodology. Choosing which business areas to target with your DIRKS analysis should be a risk based decision.
If you are measuring risk to help you determine where the DIRKS methodology can best be applied in your organisation, use the results of your assessment for a variety of purposes. For example, if you believe your organisation faces significant risks as a result of its current recordkeeping practices, your risks assessment results may make persuasive arguments for senior management and other staff and convince them to give support to your project.

Determine the scope of your project

Determine what it is that your DIRKS project needs to achieve. This objective will determine the scope of your project and the extent of the research you will need to undertake.

Are you seeking to build recordkeeping into an existing business information system? Are you wanting to build recordkeeping into a new business information system? Do you want to obtain disposal coverage for your organisation? Knowing what you want to achieve will help you to decide whether you have to do research into:

  • all areas of your organisation's operations
  • a range of specific business activities, or
  • one discrete area of business.

QuestionsExample: Proceed according to your scope
If you want to improve or develop a specific system, you will need to analyse the business performed by this system and the requirements that come from this business. Your research is likely to be focussed on one specific area.
If you want to develop an organisation-wide tool such as a retention and disposal authority, your assessment may need to cover your whole organisation to ensure that records generated by all areas of your operations are covered.

Obtain senior management support

A key component of successfully undertaking a DIRKS project is having senior management support for your initiative. This support will help to provide you with the staffing and financial resources you will need for your project and will also help you to obtain broader interest in and support for your project across the organisation.

It can, however, be difficult to convince senior management to allocate time to the consideration of records management issues, let alone fund the development of a new recordkeeping system.

If you are having difficulty communicating the importance of your recordkeeping project to your organisation, you may choose to compile documentation which:

  • demonstrates the interrelationship between recordkeeping and other strategic or politically important projects your organisation is undertaking.

InformationTip: Highlight interrelationships with other initiatives
Many IT, e-commerce, digitisation and knowledge or privacy management initiatives need to consider recordkeeping within their scope in order to be effective. Highlighting this, and the risks that may be faced if recordkeeping issues are not addressed may be useful for obtaining high level support for your project.

  • promotes the organisational efficiencies, in terms of staff time and financial benefits, that can be achieved through the implementation of a coordinated and effective recordkeeping system. Such efficiencies could include improved information retrieval, better availability of information to support business operations, and appropriate and timely record destruction.
  • shows how good recordkeeping can directly contribute to business by facilitating customer management, improving customer service, facilitating competition etc.
  • highlights the importance of good recordkeeping to corporate governance requirements.
  • Step A: Preliminary investigation discusses the development of business cases as a means of obtaining appropriate funding for your project. Developing a business case to promote your project even before it begins may be a useful means of ensuring you have adequate financial and organisational support.

Information Tip: Use persuasive statistics
Martyn Christian, in a presentation called 'Using Content Management to realise a Competitive Advantage' at the KM World conference in May 2001 said that '75% of an organisation's information is contained in unstructured formats - documents, reports and images.'
If you are able to quantify the work you are doing and demonstrate the significant proportion of organisational knowledge that is contained in records, it can help management understand why they need to support your records management initiatives.

InformationTip: Develop a business case
Step A: Preliminary investigation discusses the development of business cases as a means of obtaining appropriate funding for your project. Developing a business case to promote your project even before it begins may be a useful means of ensuring you have adequate financial and organisational support.

InformationTip: Use persuasive statistics

Martyn Christian, in a presentation called 'Using Content Management to realise a Competitive Advantage' at the KM World conference in May 2001 said that '75% of an organisation's information is contained in unstructured formats - documents, reports and images.'
If you are able to quantify the work you are doing and demonstrate the significant proportion of organisational knowledge that is contained in records, it can help management understand why they need to support your records management initiatives.

Plan for what you want to achieve

Determine the specific objectives of your DIRKS project. Planning what you want to achieve will give you a model to follow during the course of your DIRKS project. Your planning documentation will change throughout your project, but it is important to establish and refine as you progress through.

Planning documentation can also be a means of selling your project to staff and management. Planning documentation can be in any form, depending on the requirements of your organisation or the nature of your project.

QuestionsExample: Management plan
The Australian Broadcasting Authority, before it started its DIRKS project drafted planning documentation to identify exactly what it wanted to achieve. This was done as a means of gaining organisational support for the project. The officer coordinating this project said:

I found that I wanted to impress upon the organisation at the start what they could realistically expect from me in 6 months. I also wanted to start winning a support base of my own within the organisation and have a guide for prioritising my work. So I decided to do both a Management Plan and a Project Plan right at the start.

The Management Plan fulfilled the role of a business case in some ways. It gave the background of the project, described the methodology and detailed the aims, resources and milestones of the project as I envisaged them at that stage. I circulated it to senior management as a bit of a sales pitch and made a presentation to them based on its contents. I reported against the project plan on a weekly basis, and against the management plan at the end of each DIRKS step.

I did not stick to my plans entirely – in light of experience a number of things had to be revised and renegotiated. For example, I got involved in a number of other records-related issues the organisation was facing. However, it did give me a really good guide to ensure that I stayed on track and met deadlines. It did fulfil my other aim too, of exactly defining my role so people couldn't expect unrealistic things of me.

The Management Plan from the Australian Broadcasting Authority is available as part of the Case studies provided to support DIRKS. If you use any part of this plan, please acknowledge the Australian Broadcasting Authority as the source.

Establish a project team

The nature of your DIRKS project, and the organisational resources that can be committed to it, will determine the number of people who will be involved in the project team.

Ideally DIRKS projects should be undertaken by recordkeeping and information management professionals with significant input from a range of other staff, whose make-up will depend on the size and nature of your organisation.

Information Tip: Consider attending a State Records' training course
If you are coordinating a DIRKS team, you may want to consider some formal training.
Twice a year, State Records runs a three day training course that is designed to help people implement the DIRKS methodology. The course, which is structured around the eight steps in the methodology, can be done as a block, or participants can choose to only do specific modules that relate directly to the project they are undertaking. It may be useful for staff members who are leading organisational DIRKS projects to undertake this training, before they commence their DIRKS initiative.
For more information about this course, see the State Records Training Calendar.

Use of internal staff or consultants

It should be decided before you begin your DIRKS project whether your project team will be comprised of:

  • internal staff
  • consultants to the organisation, or
  • a combination of the above.

Anyone who undertakes DIRKS projects will require a good knowledge of how the organisation functions and the business it undertakes. Staff of the organisation may already have much of this information or know where to access it. If consultants are undertaking a DIRKS project on your behalf, you will need to provide them with adequate background material to ensure they are able to quickly obtain an understanding of how your organisation operates and the requirements it is subject to.

Use of IT staff

If your project will require the development of technological solutions for recordkeeping, it is important at the outset to include IT staff, system and network analysts and/or data administrators in your project team. You may have these staff internally or your organisation may choose to employ IT consultants to build the technical component of your recordkeeping system.

It is important that there is good communication between you and the IT staff working on your DIRKS project. The better the understanding between you, the better the systems that you will develop.

Information Tip: Be realistic with people
Let people who are part of your project team know what they are in for. Be honest about the situation and the work you will require them to do. Make sure they're aware too of the benefits your project will bring to them directly in their specific role and the benefits it will bring to the organisation as a whole.

IT staff may be able to help you to better understand the technical issues or concerns you come across in the course of your system assessments. IT staff may also be able to suggest useful technical solutions to problems you identify.

In return, you will be able to provide some valuable advice to IT staff during the course of your work together. Records and IT areas are working to resolve many similar issues and joint work is therefore of significant benefit to both parties.

Information Tip: Develop initial training for the people you have chosen as part of your DIRKS team
Provide members of your team, be they internal or contract staff, with a good understanding of your project and its desired outcomes.
Try to tailor the training you develop to the concerns and understandings of the people you will be working with on this project. For example, if you believe that your DIRKS project will involve detailed technical redesign of systems, tailor your consultation specifically to your IT staff, to try to ensure that you all share an understanding of the project and its desired outcomes from the start.

Use of legal and auditing staff

Internal legal and audit staff have a significant understanding of the legal and best practice requirements that affect your organisation. Establishing liaisons with these staff and including them on your project team could facilitate your analysis of legal and best practice requirements. It will also help to ensure that legal and best practice requirements are built into any recordkeeping systems you develop as part of your DIRKS project.

Legal and audit staff may also be able to promote your project and its benefits to other staff of the organisation. As part of their brief to help ensure the appropriate transaction of organisational business, audit staff are frequently concerned with system specific issues, such as policy, procedures, back-up processes and data security. You may find that legal and audit staff share many of your concerns and may be key staff who can help you achieve the goals you have set. Legal and audit staff may also be interested in any reports you generate and recommendations you make.

If you have no internal legal or audit staff, you can seek the advice of qualified legal or audit consultants, or view advice that your organisation has previously received from lawyers or auditors, to help you get a broader perspective on your project.

Information Tip: Remember the importance of communication
Try to include a number of people on your project team who have good communication skills and are able to sell your project.

Use business experts

The participation of business area experts and system users is vital to the design process, to ensure you develop a system that is useful and useable. Be sure to include relevant business area experts in your project team.

Information Tip: Follow guidance on establishing business partnerships
One of the products of an IndianaUniversity project to evaluate the recordkeeping capacities of its business information systems is a paper by Philip Bantin, 'Strategies for developing partnerships in the management of electronic records'. It discusses how partnerships can and should be made with a range of stakeholders, including audit and IT staff. [5]

Implement change management strategies

You need to consider change management before your DIRKS project begins. If you are planning a large and complex project, you will need to encourage staff involvement. This involvement will provide you with the information you need to undertake your work and will also make users more accepting of the outcomes and products you deliver.

InformationTip: Use existing guidance to plan your change management strategies
The Office of Information Technology has published a Change Management Guideline which provides useful guidance about planning for change management.

Remember to encourage change management throughout your DIRKS project, not just at its beginning and end. There are a number of ways you can encourage change management in your organisation.

Using 'champions' can help you to help promote your DIRKS project and its objectives in the workplace. A champion is a person who can explain and promote your project to colleagues and who can assist you by providing advice and other forms of guidance.

Champions could include:

  • senior managers with broad responsibilities for the areas in which your work is taking place
  • IT managers, or
  • other staff with influence in the areas in which you are operating.

Establishing a committee within your organisation to help guide your DIRKS project and provide ongoing feedback and promotion can be useful.

There may also be existing committee structures that you can leverage for this purpose. If you have hired consultants to undertake your DIRKS project, you could arrange regular committee meetings at which the consultants can report upon their progress and obtain feedback from a range of staff.

Another option is to form an information management committee.

Information Management Committee:

Objectives a forum for:
  • progressing and gaining consensus for your DIRKS project
  • promoting an understanding of the technical and other detailed issues associated with the project
  • maintaining an awareness of related developments in your organisation
  • obtaining knowledge of organisational requirements and practices
  • comprised of key representatives from your organisation who have an interest in improving information resources
  • business unit managers in areas affected by your DIRKS project
  • senior managers, if possible, to assist with decision making and resource allocation
  • should meet regularly (say every four to six weeks) to provide you with the advice and guidance you need.

User involvement in your DIRKS project increases the likelihood that the system you develop will be successfully implemented. Users should therefore be consulted throughout about their requirements and asked to test solutions developed as an ongoing part of your system development work.

QuestionsExample: Ways of communicating with users

One organisation needed to develop a new recordkeeping system to support the needs of a broad business area. They did the following as means to inform staff of the changes they wished to make and to encourage feedback:

  • established a user group comprised of representatives from each business unit to feed ideas from other staff into the development and implementation process for their new system
  • created an information management steering committee which included senior management and staff with a vested interest in the project such as IT staff
  • held briefing sessions for general staff at the commencement of the project
  • held monthly updates for general staff and more detailed talks for particular groups
  • provided continuously updated information material on the corporate intranet, and
  • issued monthly e-mail bulletins.

Build your work on prior experiences

Talk to people both within your organisation and beyond it who have undertaken similar projects. See what knowledge and experiences you can use or draw from. Ask people to summarise some of the lessons they have learned in the course of project development and implementation. Even very simple comments or reflections may provide you with useful guidance for your project. For example, in summarising a recent major system implementation at the Australian War Memorial the following points were noted:

Questions Example: Build on experiences
'Lessons learnt along the way include the desirability of securing support from all technical staff, a willingness to experiment, knowing that perfection may not be achieved immediately, and a leap of faith in the future of…technology.' [6]

Building on prior knowledge will save you from 'reinventing the wheel' and may help foster relationships that will be of mutual benefit throughout your DIRKS project. Talking to people about previous experiences may also guide you towards a range of documentation or other resources that will be of benefit to your project. It will also help you to avoid mistakes that others may have made before you.

To facilitate discussion and share experiences, State Records has developed a DIRKS discussion page on its website, where people from a range of jurisdictions can post details about their DIRKS project. By posting issues or requests for information, it is hoped that this site will facilitate knowledge sharing about the actual implementation of a range of DIRKS projects.

In addition, if you have examples of completed information or innovative approaches these can be made available through the Tools and tips to improve recordkeeping practices page.

Irrespective of whether your DIRKS project is led by internal staff or consultants, it will require the involvement and commitment of a large number of people. It is important at the outset to explain the objectives of your DIRKS project to these people, as a means of outlining what the project means and what it will require of them.

Explaining your project and its goals clearly and early will help people to understand its objectives and will encourage them to be more willing to commit their time and expertise to it when you:

  • ask to interview them
  • require them to review some documentation
  • ask them to be part of a focus group, or
  • present them with a brand new system.

Early involvement of a range of staff will help to initiate the process of change management in your organisation.

InformationTip: Communicate widely

Try to talk to as many staff as you can about your project. The more people who are aware of it at the outset, the better. More information will be available to you and people will be more willing to participate if they already know about your project and its benefits. You will also save a lot of time and effort during the course of your project if you do not have to constantly repeat your project brief and a statement of its benefits each time you want to seek the advice of someone new.

You can tell people about your project:

  • in newsletters
  • at staff meetings
  • via an email circular or
  • in special meetings you convene to tell people about your project and the types of contributions you would like them to make.

Be aware that you may upset some people

Depending on the scale and type of your DIRKS project, be aware that when you are developing your project team and consulting people about your project, you may be seen as 'treading on toes' or as interfering in another manager's business domain. You may also be seen as pushing the boundaries of records management, and invading another staff member's turf. You may find that you need to convince managers why you can or should examine and redesign 'their' work processes or 'their' systems.

Records management cuts across your organisation and so proposed changes to it, particularly radical ones, can inspire this reaction.

To try and avoid such confrontations:

  • talk openly and work collaboratively with people
  • obtain senior management support for your project, as this will help to convince others of its value
  • repeat your message and your goals and work with people, rather than against them in order to initiate the types of changes you desire
  • use a range of other change management techniques to encourage support for your project and to enable the best organisational outcome

Be aware that not all your DIRKS initiatives may encounter such resistance, but it is important to deal appropriately with such confrontations should they occur.

QuestionsExample: Tips on managing change
Denis Comber has provided some tips on managing change in records management projects, based on his experiences as Records Manager at NSW Police.
These tips provide some useful insights into how records management projects should be managed to enable the most organisationally efficient and appropriate outcomes.


[4] Australian Standard, AS/NZS 4360-1999, Risk Management.

[5] Philip Bantin, Indiana University Electronic Records Project, Phase II, 2000-2002, Strategies for the Development of Partnerships in the Management of Electronic Records. Accessed via the IndianaUniversity website on 14 February 2003 at:

[6] Carmel McInerny, 'Implementation of Encoded Archival Description at the Australian War Memorial: A Case Study', Archives and Manuscripts, Volume 30 Number 2, November 2002, 72.