Toolkits from across the Pond: The United Kingdom Has Developed Standards and Guidelines That Are Persuading Organizations to Take Records Management More Seriously. (Records Management)

Article excerpt

At the Core

This article

* examines U.K. records management standards and guidance developments

* discusses PRO and National Archives e-government initiatives in the United Kingdom

* examines electronic records management tools

The United States has long taken a leading role in the development of records management methodologies and techniques. In recent years, however, other countries have been active in developing new approaches to managing records. Australia's Victorian Electronic Records Strategy (VERS) and the National Archives of Australia's Designing and Implementing Recordkeeping Systems (DIRKS) strategy are two well-known examples.

VERS is a framework of standards, guidance, and implementation projects centered around the goal of reliably and authentically archiving electronic records created or managed by the Victorian government. The DIRKS methodology is an eight-step process agencies can use to improve recordkeeping and information management practices, including the design and implementation of new recordkeeping systems. DIRKS is compliant with, and expands on, the methodological framework of the Australian records management standard, AS ISO 15489-2002.

To be effective, records managers must take into account the legislative, policy, and business environment in which they operate. Thus, an approach that may be effective in one country or industry may not be wholly appropriate in another.

Nonetheless, records management does have a core methodology--one that can be applied in any circumstance. For these reasons, records management standards and guidance developments in the United Kingdom (U.K.) are examples of work generated outside the United States that should be of wider interest to all records managers.

In April 2003, the U.K. Public Record Office (PRO) and Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC) merged to become the National Archives. The U.K. National Archives acts as a repository for historical records. In addition, it advises government departments on best practices in records management. In the last few years, the National Archives has been active in developing best-practice guidance to meet two main objectives:

* Implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000

* Achievement of the U.K. government's e-government policy initiative (also known as the known as the "Modernising Government" agenda).

This context is important for understanding what the National Archives' best-practice guidance is designed to achieve.

Freedom of Information Legislation

The FOI Act 2000, which comes into full effect January 1, 2005, mandates a fundamental change in the culture and business practices of public bodies in England and Wales, ranging from central government to parish council levels. The objective is a more transparent and accountable government, and the principal government players are the Information Commissioner, the Lord Chancellor's Department (LCD), and the National Archives.

The Information Commissioner is an independent supervisory authority reporting directly to the U.K. Parliament. This office is responsible for enforcing the FOI Act and the Data Protection Act. The LCD is the equivalent of the U.S. Department of Justice; its main role is to secure the efficient administration of justice in England and Wales. It has a FOI and Data Protection Division that is responsible for policy in this area and for overseeing the implementation of the FOI Act. The LCD has issued the Lord Chancellor's Code of Practice on the Management of Records (Code of Practice), although the technical expertise came from the National Archives, which is both an executive agency of the LCD and a government department in its own right, reporting to the LCD.

The Modernising Government Agenda

The Modernising Government agenda aims to transform completely the U. …