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Recordkeeping systems

This section examines: what the DIRKS methodology is; what recordkeeping is and how it should be achieved, and; what recordkeeping systems are and why you need them in your organisation.

What is DIRKS?

DIRKS is an acronym that stands for 'designing and implementing recordkeeping systems'. DIRKS is about building more efficient and accountable business practices through the design and encouragement of good recordkeeping across an organisation.

DefinitionThe DIRKS methodology:
is a means of building good recordkeeping into your organisation, through the design and implementation of recordkeeping systems.

What is recordkeeping?

Recordkeeping is the making and maintaining of complete, accurate, reliable evidence of business transactions.

Why is recordkeeping important?

Good business requires good recordkeeping. In competitive business environments and strict accountability structures, it is vital that organisations have the evidence and information they need to drive and support their business operations.

What are recordkeeping systems

Recordkeeping systems are business information systems capable of:

  • capturing
  • maintaining and
  • providing access

to records over time.

Recordkeeping systems are knowledgeable systems.

Recordkeeping systems do not just have to manage records - they can perform other business functions as well. Having the capacity to capture, maintain and provide access to records is however crucial.

Components of recordkeeping systems

Recordkeeping systems are not simply software applications designed to manage records. They are an organised collections of:

  • people
  • policies
  • procedures
  • tools
  • technology
  • ongoing supporting education, and
  • maintenance.

In combination, these combinations enable organisational business to be adequately documented.

InformationTip: Definition of 'tools'
Tools in a recordkeeping system are recordkeeping instruments - disposal schedules, thesauri, access and security classification schemes etc - designed to help you manage and control your records through time.
This manual contains guidance on creating and implementing these tools - see Doing your DIRKS Project for advice.

Benefits of recordkeeping systems

Recordkeeping systems that are based on a sound understanding of an organisation's business environment, legal needs and organisational requirements provide substantial benefits.

Recordkeeping systems:

  • support better performance of business activities and better decision making throughout organisations
  • enable organisations to comply with legislative and regulatory requirements
  • protect the interests of organisations and the rights of their employees, clients and citizens
  • provide protection and support in litigation, including the better management of risks associated with the existence or lack of evidence of organisational activity
  • support consistency, continuity, efficiency and productivity in service delivery, program management and administration
  • produce dynamic, valuable information that can be fed back into business processes to continually improve, automate and facilitate these processes
  • avoid the retention and clutter of ephemeral records, or the loss or inadvertent destruction of significant records, and
  • enable management of records as an asset and information resource, rather than a liability. [1]

InformationTip: Demonstrate tangible business benefits
Using arguments that demonstrate tangible business benefits that can be obtained through better recordkeeping, may help to convince management and other staff about the importance of ensuring your organisation has the recordkeeping systems it needs to sustain its business activity.
See the section of DIRKS that discusses obtaining senior management support for further guidance on demonstrating the business benefits that can come through recordkeeping.

Many business information systems need to be recordkeeping systems

You will have many business information systems across your organisation. Many of these systems will be used for information purposes only and these types of systems should not be the focus of your DIRKS initiatives.

Other business information systems, however, will be used to transact organisational business. They will conduct significant transactions and your organisation will need a definitive record of these transactions. If your organisation needs to keep a record of its activities, it needs to ensure that the business systems that support these activities are capable of creating and keeping records.

InformationTip: Business systems can function as recordkeeping systems
It is important to ensure that relevant business information systems are able to perform a dual role in your organisation. They have to meet your specific business requirements, but must also be able to function as recordkeeping systems - systems that are capable of producing and maintaining the information your organisation requires to sustain its business activities.

In many organisations, business information systems that conduct significant business are not able to perform as recordkeeping systems. They have been introduced on an ad hoc basis, or without consideration of recordkeeping issues, and as a consequence do not manage, preserve and make accessible evidence of business operations.

Through not having recordkeeping systems, organisations can:

  • place themselves at significant risk
  • incur unnecessary expenditure, and
  • deny themselves access to significant organisational information.

QuestionsExample: Systems often do not include recordkeeping
Organisations are increasingly doing business online, in accordance with government-wide initiatives. Many of the systems that are being developed include interfaces that allow clients to conduct business with government electronically. Often recordkeeping is a neglected component of these systems. Systems are designed to allow easy access to government services and to meet client needs, but frequently the recordkeeping requirements that should be incorporated into the systems are not accommodated.
As a result the systems may transact business, but they do not document or keep adequate records of this business.

The DIRKS methodology is a means of ensuring that business information systems are recordkeeping systems where appropriate or necessary.

Footnotes

[1] This list is derived in part from Standards Australia, Australian Standard AS 4390-1996, Records Management, Part 2: Responsibilities, Foreword, 3