Understanding Data and Information Systems for Recordkeeping

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 13 June 2008




McLeod, J. (2008), "Understanding Data and Information Systems for Recordkeeping", Records Management Journal, Vol. 18 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/rmj.2008.28118bae.003



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Understanding Data and Information Systems for Recordkeeping

Article Type: Publications From: Records Management Journal, Volume 18, Issue 2.

Philip C. BantinFacet PublishingLondon2008ISBN 978-1-85604-627-5£44.95

Keywords: Information systems, Records management, Archiving

Philip Bantin, currently Director of the Indiana University Office of University Archives and Records Management, says in the preface to this book that records management professionals need to be able to firstly, understand the design features and existing functionality of information systems commonly used in their organisations and secondly, define the recordkeeping functional requirements for systems they want to build. Whilst existing literature covers the second very well, the author believes the first is not well covered. The aim of his book then is to bridge that gap, primarily for the archives and records profession in all sectors, but of potential use to others in the recordkeeping systems design process. Overall, he does this admirably well.

The first two chapters provide the context. Chapter 1 looks at the impact of change on the management of electronic records providing a succinct overview of the five generations of technology changes since 1937 and a summary of changes in organisational structures and workflow from hierarchical pyramids to local and global networked, collaborative groups. A discussion of the impact of these changes on records management (including appraisal, custody, description and storage) and models for managing e-records follows. Chapter 2 provides a review of recordkeeping systems, useful for those new to the field, with a particular focus, not surprisingly, on the University of Pittsburgh’s functional requirements. There is a useful table and text summary of key recordkeeping metadata that is more digestible than many of the necessarily detailed metadata specifications.

Chapters 3-5 examine transaction processing systems, enterprise document management and content management systems, and decision support and data warehouse systems, respectively. Each one explains their design, functionality and operation (including a very useful succinct primer on relational database design in Chapter 3), before evaluating them as recordkeeping systems and detailing what it would take to make them so. The detail of the latter varies depending on the system but is generally clearly articulated. The content should be valuable for discussion with other professionals as well as for comprehension.

Chapter 6 is devoted to email management. It is a major information and communication management system for probably all but the smallest organisations and therefore is probably needed in the book. However, its treatment is slightly different from the other systems. The author considers the key lessons learned from legal cases involving email a good range is chosen but they are all from the United States. Strategies for making email retention decisions and managing email are offered and Bantin concludes that, at this point in time, “the systems that offer the best potential for managing e-mail are the enterprise-wide content management systems” with the recordkeeping functionality he described earlier.

Chapter 7, one of the two largest, focuses on laws, regulations and best practice for e-records management. It seems a little incongruous given the book’s aims and the earlier chapters but the author justifies its inclusion by saying one cannot discuss electronic records management without such a review. This chapter will be of most use to readers in the United States as the emphasis is on US legislation though some UK and Canadian laws are covered.

The final short chapter is a neat conclusion. Bantin look at progress made in managing electronic records (the good news) and the challenges that remain (the bad news). Amongst the good news is the integration of recordkeeping functionality into electronic information systems, the emergence of enterprise-wide architectures offering cost-effective strategies for managing records, standards and the capture of more metadata. Amongst the challenges are inadequate resources for e-records management, the need for further partnership development with IT, audit and legal and preservation strategies.

Overall, the deliberate use of non-technical language makes this book accessible to a wide audience. A few minor concerns are the note (p. 10) that records management and recordkeeping are used interchangeably (such an important decision given their distinctly different interpretations internationally would have been better in the preface); slightly quaint references to some very well known professionals outside North America (e.g. Cunningham p. 18 and Harris p. 29); and the age of many of the references, the majority being in the 1990s, though to exclude them would naturally reduce the book’s usefulness as a reference source. And the reference lists at the end of each chapter are very extensive. Though it has a strong US focus it is a welcome addition to the literature which condenses a huge amount of information and evaluation between its covers and which I will recommend to our students.

Julie McLeod Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

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