Key Trends in Electronic Records Management

Public Management, March 2006 | Go to article overview

Key Trends in Electronic Records Management


Plans for managing electronic records must address trends that are redefining--even revolutionizing--records and information management in local governments. For the foreseeable future, key trends will include several shifts.

Data processing becomes document management. During the first 20 to 30 years of their use in government, the primary function of computers was for such number-crunching applications as financial reports and books of account, payroll data, revenue and tax records, and other transaction-based applications. More recently, however, the use of computers has gradually shifted from data processing to document processing. In fact, some estimate that up to 80 percent of government electronic information is now in the form of text files, or documents, as opposed to the structured number-crunching applications that formerly dominated government computing.

As a result, the IT departments of local jurisdictions are no longer in the data-processing business; they are actually in the document- and records-management business. The problem is that most of the information specialists who work in these departments are attempting to manage huge quantities of electronic records without records management knowledge or expertise.

Therefore, initiatives in local governments must forge close relationships between the IT department and other departments not only to improve management of electronic records within and across departments but also to place data processing in a document-centered (and records-management-savvy) context.

Static documents become dynamic virtual documents. In the traditional record-keeping environments of local government, records and documents were static entities, fixed in time and frozen in format. Electronic versions of documents were often viewed as nonofficial, that is, merely an analog to the jurisdiction's paper files that were considered to contain the official records.

This traditional document paradigm still persists among some local governments, but it is rapidly shifting. In the advanced computing environments of today and tomorrow, electronic records will be viewed and managed as dynamic, modular, multimedia entities. These "intelligent" documents will carry with them their metadata--information about their origin and identity as well as executable code that enables them to be rendered and manipulated as required for any number of business needs.

The new electronic documents of government computing will also be multi-dimensional, in that their component parts can be linked back to other documents and updated with new information in ways not possible with physical records. New software will enable documents with built-in intelligence to be routed around a network and presented to users in a variety of forms and formats across multiple platforms in various computing environments. …

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