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Executive Summary of 'The view from the top'

In 2002 the State Records Authority NSW (State Records) commissioned TAVERNER Research Company to conduct a study among Chief Executive Officers and/or General Managers (chief executives) of public offices covered by the State Records Act 1998.

The objective of this research was to obtain a thorough understanding of the prevailing views and mindsets of chief executives regarding recordkeeping and records management, the State Records Act 1998 and State Records.

The research was conducted with the aim of uncovering all relevant issues and parameters that are pertinent in assisting State Records develop an effective communications strategy to inform, educate and engage chief executives.

A total of fifty-three chief executives from the NSW public sector participated in this study including chief executives and General Managers of:

  • 31 Agencies and/or Boards
  • 4 State-Owned Corporations
  • 4 Area Health Services
  • 3 Universities, and
  • 11 Local Government Councils

Public relations value of the research

"It seems to me that the very fact that State Records is doing this exercise is very positive in itself"

This study demonstrated that State Records cares about what chief executives think and is prepared to listen. They appreciated the opportunity to give feedback and were very cooperative and generous with their time.

The study also put recordkeeping firmly 'on the radar' for the fifty-three chief executives who participated in this study. Anecdotal feedback suggests that chief executive participation in this exercise is likely to trigger reviews of existing policies and programs in several of the participating public offices.

The feedback received was constructive and practical and it included both suggested opportunities for State Records to develop and explore further, as well as suggestions for ways in which perceived shortcomings might be addressed.

Attitudes to recordkeeping and records management

The value of proper recordkeeping, and the contribution it can make to sound business management is easily understood and appreciated by some, but not all, chief executives. Recordkeeping is approached and conducted with a compliance mindset by many.

A challenge facing State Records is to influence chief executives to see recordkeeping and records management as 'another tool for doing business'.

This research suggests that chief executives need to be made aware that the State Records Act 1998 exists because it recognises that good and proper recordkeeping is an essential part of good management of an organisation.

A key motivating message for chief executives is that whilst there is an obvious compliance requirement to recordkeeping (the Act), the principal reason that organisations should implement good recordkeeping policies and practices is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their organisation.

The role of State Records

Currently, chief executives see State Records as fulfilling two main roles or functions, namely:

  • A 'regulatory' or 'policing' role, to ensure public offices implement the provisions of, and comply with the Act, and
  • An archiving, storage and repository role protecting the records of the State

For the majority of those interviewed, State Records is a remote government agency, of little relevance to chief executives, with whom they have no relationship, and plays no obvious on-going role in assisting chief executives to discharge their duties and/or obligations under the Act.

It is generally perceived or acknowledged by chief executives, that State Records currently does not play a significant support and/or guidance role in assisting public offices implement and comply with the provisions of the Act.

Despite this perception, the role of supporting and guiding public offices in implementing the provisions of the Act is considered by chief executives to be equally, if not more important than regulating or policing compliance.

Chief executives acknowledge that there may be a resourcing issue for State Records when it comes to fulfilling this much needed role, however, there is a strong desire that State Records focus some of its resources on assisting organisations to implement recordkeeping policies, programs and systems rather than just dealing with regulation and compliance.

The current perception is clearly that State Records is more focused on the compliance side rather than the implementation side.

All 53 public sector chief executives and General Managers who participated in this study were asked the question "What could State Records do to ensure that recordkeeping is considered important and receives enough chief executive attention?"

The combined opinions and suggestions for the future direction of State Records were remarkably consistent and can be summarised as follows:

  • Market State Records, promote its services to public offices and increase its profile
  • Sell the State Records Act because it is competing with many other pieces of legislation for chief executives' attention and resources
  • Engage more with chief executives to encourage their support and commitment to recordkeeping
  • Communicate more with chief executives to keep them up-to-date with what is expected of them in this area
  • Enable chief executives to fulfill their obligations to assist chief executives with recordkeeping implementation
  • Educate chief executives on the value and benefits of good recordkeeping, and
  • Facilitate knowledge sharing between public offices throughout the public sector, especially within 'segments', for example Area Health Services or Local Councils

The following quote succinctly sums up the thoughts and feelings of many chief executives on how they would like to see State Records move forward.

"State Records could regularly update chief executives on where records management is heading. As a result of the performance audit and this research, they could produce some tips for agencies, make themselves more visible, and give some practical advice on how to respond to certain challenges. An educative, communicative approach in a more visible fashion."