Oct 23, 2008

Records Management - where does it fit & where is it heading ?

There has been a lot of comment about increasing records management requirements eg retention schedules etc. Internationally these are covered under ISO 15489 Parts 1 &2 - these have been adopted into Australia. .

Many would argue that these have place imposts on businesses and stifled innovation. However increased strictures on Records Management processes are here to stay, and have been driven in the USA by the Sarbanes Oxley legislation, following the Enron furores. In Australia, Records Management requirements have been accelerated, following the Rolah McCabe vs BAT case in Victoria... According to Lawyers Weekly, "As at common law, there is a shift at the legislative level. The Crimes (Document Destruction) Act 2005 (Vic) amends the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and creates a new criminal offence in relation to the destruction of documents likely to be required in legal proceedings. An employee or officer attempting to delete a ‘smoking gun’ email, who therefore knows of the reasonable likelihood of litigation and intends to prevent the document from being used, could be prosecuted for document destruction. Both individuals and companies can be prosecuted, potentially facing large fines and imprisonment. .. A company may be vicariously liable for an officer who breaches the document destruction provisions of the Crimes Act. "

So it is really a case of "get over it and get on with it". Many legal firms are providing advice that could be quite challenging for some organisations, eg Freehills & Blake Dawson Waldron.

In fact, as part of their ISO 9001 quality management document control systems, organisations will have Records Management covered in their Quality Management Manual, or Department Handbook. This is the peak document in their quality system. Records may be either hard copy or electronic - and both should be covered in more detail in individual operating department quality management manuals.

Similar records management requirements exist for ISO 14001 Environment Management Systems. They also exist for also OHSMS systems - and as required for Workers Compensation Self Insurer's status under WorkCover NSW.

Some companies have also establised an Information Management standard. This may provide guidance on records management, eg including Records Disposal standards, as informed by the Australian Records Retention Manual.

This standard may be complemented by an Information Security Policy Statement, eg Victorian context. And there may also be an Information Management Governance Policy/Strategy, which will also address information security issues, eg such as information rights management.

Arising from Victorian State Government legislation, many organisations have developed very comprehensive records classification systems. These include records retention/disposal requirements, in accordance with Victorian and Australian federal legislative, relevant to businesses operating in Victoria. Ideally these would be developed with the involvement, and approval, from an organisation's legal counsel.

It can be very expensive to fall foul of the legislature on these issues : Failing to Keep Records is Expensive - Federal and New York regulators ordered the U.S. Trust Corporation to pay $10 million in fines to settle accusations that it violated bank secrecy laws and failed to keep complete records in a special trading unit.

It is interesting that e-technology is not always seen as providing positive improvements -
"Contrary to the conventional wisdom that technology is an aid to efficiency, the electronic age has made discovery of relevant documents an even lengthier and more expensive process than hitherto,'' Federal Court Justice Ronald Sackville's speech to the NSW Supreme Court conference, after hearing the Channel 7's C7 case, with a database compiled for the case consisting of some 86,000 documents, comprising nearly 590,000 pages.

Oct 18, 2008

Social Capital, Community Activism - Web 1.0

Recently I had a chat with a young Web 2.0 enthusiast who had bemoaned the failure of WCC & community groups in the Illawarra to utilise Web 2.0 e-technology tools. He and fellow UOW Informatics students had prepared assessment tasks, where they drew conclusions on the failure to use such e-tools in community engagement. It struck me that in fact many E-tools had been used over the previous 25 years, however this may have largely passed under some people's radar.

Personally, I felt as a WCC Councillor in the late 1990's, that WCC's Web started out as corporate spin - "pretty graphics"web pages, that really lacked substance. It seemed to be in marked contrast to its self styled "City of Innovation" tag. I used to describe this as Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome. The local business community remained sceptical in 1998, when I suggested that local tourism could be marketed on the Web. Although by the 2008 ICAC Inquiry into WCC, business's e-reticence had clearly evaporated.

Wollongong has been described as "a big country town", with nearly everyone connected to each other through family, education, workplace, sports and/or social activities. Often they were in more than one network, so it was not hard to achieve a tightly networked system across the region, in Social Network Analysis speak. Many community groups embraced early Apple computers' word processing capability by 1984 & subsequently bulletin boards, Usenet-Listservs, fax machines etc. From late 1996 in the very early days of the Internet, activist groups began the Great Leap Forward to Web 1.0, way ahead of WCC. Sydney escapees, such as Les Robinson, who had done a seachange to the south coast, provided inspiration. (Les also operates in the SME corporate sector, promoting the concepts of social capital & social entrepreneurs. Interestingly ONA thought leaders, such as Laurie Lock Lee, extended this concept later to the larger corporate sector.)

By Y2K, individual groups were getting "joined-up" more formally to create a broader social movement, instead of the earlier isolated/fragmented groups. These groups were able to share knowledge and experience at an explosive rate - email traffic was heated at times, both within groups and with WCC. I had seen the Net's potential for the community from 1997, although for many local government councillors it would have been daunting to set up their own web page then - needing to learn HTML. But thanks to past uni assignments in Fortran, Pascal & C languages, I was able to pick up some basic HTML & set up my own web pages. They enabled communication with more in my community, sharing knowledge, disseminating information much faster.

But WCC didn't seem to "get" this new coalition antagonist. This social movement's members quite capably created their own communication media, when they felt locked out by the mainstream channels. In doing so, this social movement was creating significant precursors for its use of Web 2.0 when WCC found itself sacked in March 2008 eg

Despite WCC axing its official community engagement committees, aka Neighbourhood Committees, many continue to function highly effectively, but now outside WCC's umbrella. Today, post WCC ICAC 2008, new groups are emerging, eg WAG (Graham Larcombe) & Reform WCC (Arthur Rorris). They have developed a new charter of Governance for Wollongong, and are currently running a John Hatton Essay Award competition , with the theme - How would I best create democracy in Wollongong? They are building a new civic space, which respects governance and community democracy priniciples, utilising Web 1.0/Web 2.0 tools. Even the Illawarra Business Chamber has got into the act with a code of conduct for its members - to be honest I am amazed that they didn't have one already - but good to see they have now.