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The DIRKS methodology and manual

This section introduces the DIRKS methodology and manual. It outlines the specific steps involved in the DIRKS methodology and explains where the methodology has come from. It also discusses the methodology's flexibility and how it can be implemented in a variety of ways.

It describes the range of projects you can undertake using the DIRKS methodology and explains means by which you can implement DIRKS in your organisation. It also discusses how DIRKS can be used to help your organisation comply with specific requirements issued under the State Records Act 1998.

What is the DIRKS methodology?

The DIRKS methodology is a structured process for designing and implementing recordkeeping systems.

DIRKS is not new. It is based on traditional system design methodologies, but has been adapted to meet recordkeeping objectives. DIRKS provides a structure for many of the traditional operations you and your organisation have always conducted. It is not a new and daunting approach - it is a methodology based on traditional principles that is designed to help you achieve meaningful and applicable outcomes.

DefinitionThe DIRKS methodology:
provides a comprehensive approach to system design that will help you to develop systems with adequate recordkeeping functionality that are specific to and that meet your particular business needs.

The DIRKS methodology is outlined in Australian Standard, AS ISO 15489-2002, Records Management. It was originally detailed in the precursor to this standard, Australian Standard, AS 4390-1996, Records Management.

Steps in the DIRKS methodology

DIRKS is comprised of eight steps:

  • Step A - Preliminary investigation
  • Step B - Analysis of business activity
  • Step C - Identification of recordkeeping requirements
  • Step D - Assessment of existing systems
  • Step E - Identification of strategies for recordkeeping
  • Step F - Design of a recordkeeping system
  • Step G - Implementation of a recordkeeping system
  • Step H - Post implementation review

InformationTip: DIRKS does not have to be implemented in a linear way
Although the steps are called A, B, C etc, you may choose to start with Step B: Analysis of business activity move on to Step C: Identification of recordkeeping requirements and then jump to Step F: Design of recordkeeping systems. Or you may have a very specific need that you are seeking advice on and therefore only use one section of the manual. Remember that DIRKS is meant to be a very flexible process.
For further guidance on its flexibility, see Tools and Tips to assist you with the DIRKS methodology to identify a range of different ways in which the manual can be used to help improve recordkeeping in your organisation.

InformationTip: Work through DIRKS steps concurrently
Depending on the nature of your project, it can also make sense to work through some of the steps concurrently, rather than thinking of them as self contained, fixed points in a process. For example, you may complete a lot of your Step C: Identification of recordkeeping requirements research during the course of your work on Step A: Preliminary investigation and Step B: Analysis of business activity.

Summary of the steps in the DIRKS methodology

The following table provides a summary of the activities involved in each step of the DIRKS methodology.

In... You...
Step A: Preliminary investigation
  • collect information in order to identify the legal and structural characteristics of your organisation
  • obtain an understanding of the factors that influence your organisation's need to create and maintain records
  • establish an awareness of your organisation's business activities, technological infrastructure, major stakeholders and recordkeeping risks
Step B: Analysis of business activity
  • identify and document your organisation's
  • business functions
  • activities and
  • transactions
  • determine how, when and where these are performed
Step C: Identification of recordkeeping requirements
  • examine legal, business and other sources to identify the requirements for evidence and information (called'recordkeeping requirements') for your business
Step D: Assessment of existing systems
  • assess the systems currently used to perform business operations in your organisation
  • identify where these systems are not meeting your recordkeeping requirements
Step E: Identification of strategies for recordkeeping
  • determine strategies to enable your systems to meet recordkeeping requirements
  • choose strategies that fit with the culture and environment of your organisation
Step F: Design of a recordkeeping system
  • design recordkeeping systems that incorporate your chosen strategies
Step G: Implementation of a recordkeeping system
  • ensure that all components of the new / redesigned systems function according to your requirements
  • educate staff about new systems
  • roll out technology
  • convert legacy data
  • manage change
Step H: Post implementation review
  • gather information on the effectiveness of the recordkeeping system
  • survey or interview staff about the system
  • rectify any problems identified

The DIRKS Manual

The DIRKS methodology is a clear and simple statement contained in the Australian Standard on Records Management, AS ISO 15489.

The DIRKS Manual is a product developed by State Records to explain in a significant amount of detail how public offices can implement the methodology, in order to improve their recordkeeping practices.

In the DIRKS Manual, each of the eight steps outlined in the DIRKS methodology is explained in detail, and ways in which they can be employed to improve recordkeeping are explored.

Evolution of the DIRKS Manual

Development of the DIRKS Manual was first initiated by the then Archives Authority of New South Wales as part of its Electronic Recordkeeping Project, shortly after the release of Australian Standard AS 4390-1996, Records Management.

Development of the manual became a joint partnership in 1998, when State Records and the National Archives of Australia worked together to produce a draft Manual for Designing and Implementing Recordkeeping Systems, which was published in February 2000.

In 2001, the National Archives reviewed the manual to create a Commonwealth specific version called DIRKS: A strategic approach to managing business information.

State Records has now also reviewed the manual to produce this version which is broadly applicable across a range of public and private sector organisations, but which has been specifically tailored to meet the needs of the NSW public sector. It draws on all earlier versions, as well as a range of other sources, to create a useful product to assist in the design and implementation of recordkeeping systems.

Audience for this manual

The primary audiences for this manual are chief information officers, information technology managers, records managers, business managers and any other organisational staff who wish to ensure that the government business they are responsible for is adequately documented and maintained for as long as required to meet business needs.

What can you do with the DIRKS methodology?

The primary purpose of DIRKS is to design and implement recordkeeping systems. Because of this broad focus, the manual can support a range of different outcomes.

Build better recordkeeping

This might include:

  • ensuring the creation and capture of records
  • managing your vital records appropriately
  • managing records access and security
  • improving business processes and systems
  • developing new systems with adequate recordkeeping functionality
  • facilitating the purchase and implementation of off-the-shelf records management software
  • ensuring records are kept of outsourced functions

Develop recordkeeping tools

This might include:

  • creating and implementing a keyword thesaurus
  • creating and implementing a retention and disposal authority
  • specifying and applying recordkeeping metadata

Obtain general support and guidance

You may find that DIRKS can be used to support a range of other business outcomes in your organisation, in addition to the projects outlined above.

In its implementation, DIRKS can be whatever you want it to be. You can use the guidance in this manual to support a multi-million dollar exercise or a quiet afternoon's worth of reflection.

InformationTip: DIRKS should not be a 'one-off' event

This manual is not designed as a 'special event' tool for public offices. It has been designed as a means of everyday support, as a reference tool you can dip into for a range of different purposes. It can certainly be used for large scale projects designed to restructure technology and processes in your organisation, but the likelihood is that you will not have the resources or organisational commitment for these types of projects regularly.

Instead it is more likely that you'll be confronted by a range of different scenarios, that DIRKS will be able to offer you assistance with. For example, you may have to:

  • develop a retention and disposal authority
  • develop a records management policy
  • comment on the recordkeeping requirements that apply to a new business system that is to be designed in-house
  • develop a training program to encourage people to better manage their email, or
  • contribute to your organisation's implementation of ISO 9000-2000, Quality Management.

Throughout this manual there is guidance on achieving these objectives and more. See Tools and tips to improve recordkeeping practices for other outcomes this manual can help you to achieve.

Achieve compliance with the State Records Act

The DIRKS process is not a mandatory requirement under the State Records Act 1998. It is rather a tool that can help you improve recordkeeping in your organisation. This is an outcome that can contribute significantly to business efficiency and accountability.

Implementing aspects of this manual can however help you to achieve compliance with many of State Records' mandatory requirements. See Relationship of DIRKS to the State Records Act for more guidance on this issue.

Build skills and knowledge

DIRKS can be a challenging process, but its results can be incredibly rewarding, organisationally and personally.

Depending on the nature of your DIRKS project, people working through DIRKS will gain an excellent understanding of organisational business, both in terms of its requirements and how it is conducted. They will gain experience in broad stakeholder consultation, become adept at listening to and responding to user requirements and will have concrete experience of change management. They will also have an excellent understanding of records management requirements and how these should be implemented to best meet organisational needs.