Factors to consider when venturing into electronic records management

ASSER LN NAKALE

AFTER YEARS OF SLEEPING over one of today’s most important organizational functions, it seems that many institutions in Namibia are finally realizing the importance of records and information management.

Institutions are reviewing their organizational structures and hiring qualified staff for positions related to records management.

This can only be a good sign for the future of records management in Namibia.

Equally important, I have observed with enthusiasm an increase in the number of institutions venturing into electronic records management and digital preservation.

In the world of ever-changing technology and offices running out of paper storage space, this should come as no surprise.

On the contrary, it indicates how serious institutions are about information retention.

However, some institutions may have ventured prematurely into electronic records management.

There are a number of factors to consider before embarking on electronic document management.

INFRASTRUCTURE

For something that requires advanced technology, it is important for institutions to assess the readiness and capacity of their infrastructure.

This may involve upgrading the IT infrastructure.

However, in the management of electronic documents, the infrastructure is not limited to having tools and IT equipment.

It involves crucial elements for ensuring institutional commitment, including adequate and sustainable resources, and for the long-term preservation of electronic records.

This includes policies and governance frameworks, and this is where many organizations go wrong.

It is disheartening to learn that some institutions operate electronic records management systems without appropriate policies and legal and governance frameworks.

This not only undermines records management best practices, but also jeopardizes the merits of long-term preservation of electronic records.

SKILL

It goes without saying that advanced programs such as electronic document management require a certain level of expertise.

Therefore, it is important to have people with the necessary skills.

Equally important, every step of the implementation process must be facilitated by qualified and knowledgeable staff.

This helps institutions make informed decisions, from planning to selecting the right system and, ultimately, implementation.

Hiring experts on a permanent basis can be costly.

Therefore, institutions should consider training existing staff and equipping them with the relevant skills or providing operational access to specialized professional technical expertise, either internally or externally.

COSTS

Maintaining electronic records can be expensive. From upgrading existing infrastructure to acquiring relevant technology and equipment, hiring qualified personnel, purchasing and maintaining the system, institutions need to budget for electronic records management .

It is also important for institutions to understand their needs to ensure that they acquire an affordable yet effective system for their needs.

Whether you plan to have a simple system or need a more complex system, electronic records management and digital preservation requires careful planning.

If it is wide, it could turn out to be expensive. In this regard, collaboration can be helpful.

Therefore, it is important to put in place a framework that allows an institution to collaborate with permanent partners and that supports communication with all stakeholders to identify and meet their digital preservation needs.

* Asser Nakale is Assistant Archivist at the Ministry of Education, Oshikoto Region; Twitter: @AsserNakale; Facebook: Asser LN Nakale