Competency E

Understand the system of standards and structures endorsed and utilized by the recordkeeping professions, particularly in the areas of electronic records and digital asset management

Interpretation

Every class that I have taken in the MARA program has discussed the grounding principles for the particular subject concerned, whether that is codified through a de jure standard such as ISO 15489-1: 2016, or exists as a set of professional best practices i.e. Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles®. In MARA 200 I first developed a true appreciation of standards as the collective product of a professional community that creates consensus on the optimal characteristics of a field, discipline or activity, in this case records management.

Whether discussing electronic records in an office environment (ISO 16175), records metadata (ISO 23081), records conversion or migration (ISO 13008) or an overarching information governance framework (ISO 30300), these and other standards provide exhaustive documentation and guidance. Standards are invaluable resources that have undergone rigorous debate and analysis and that are grounded in practical experience and informed by theoretical principles.

The world of standards, like the world of technology and business, is constantly evolving. The beauty of standards, technical reports and foundational principles is that they generally strive to be universal so that they can apply as broadly as possible and are resistant to becoming outdated with the rapid pace of technology.

Standards tend to focus on requirements and performance outcomes. These are critical aspects of a records management or information governance program toward which a records manager must always be oriented. For a RIM or IG program to be fully successful it is crucial that standards be applied throughout the program design and implementation. Standards must also be referenced on a routine basis to ensure that the program satisfies defined measureable goals and makes continual progress toward improved performance.

The existence of standards often stimulates further development and contributions from various professional communities. These can take the form of models and frameworks that offer additional and more specific guidance on how and where to apply the standard, from benchmarking a current state, to defining use cases, to life cycle management and everything in between.

Standards help ensure that our records systems and surrounding policies and technologies support an increasing need for decision-making in business and government and compliance with local, regional and international laws. The adherence to standards enables and protects access to information and the public record. Standards also generally facilitate interoperability among systems and drives consistency within industries, which ultimately benefits government, academia, business and consumers.

Supporting Evidence 1

My final paper in MARA 249, A Digital Preservation Strategy for Creative Services, describes a standards-based approach to the assessment and management of digital assets in a creative services department. The challenges described in the initial asset summary include an assortment of asset locations, numerous different file types, the presence of composite and linked content, assets that were created in software versions that are no longer supported, and various other risks to the “significant properties” of graphics files, especially color space and typography.

In this analysis I used the Digital Preservation Capability Maturity Model to consider the collection in terms of policy, metadata, infrastructure and services. The DPCMM is consistent with The Open Archives Information System (OAIS) Reference Model (ISO14721) that describes characteristics of a trustworthy repository and with ISO16363 that specifies auditing criteria for trustworthy repositories. The application of this maturity model to a real collection allowed me to follow a logical structured process, conduct a realistic assessment and set tangible goals for the program.

Supporting Evidence 2

The second piece of evidence that supports my mastery of this competency is my midterm essay for MARA 284, Key Standards Relating to Digital Signatures. This paper examines electronic vs. digital signatures and examines their technological and conceptual differences in terms of trust and security to current standards and legislation. This area of records management and archival preservation is relevant to electronic transactions in every business sector and across national and jurisdictional boundaries. The essay also explores a few applications of new technology such as digital signatures on paper documents, annotated, blind and conditional signatures, and the use of cryptographic algorithms in wireless networks.

Conclusion

My MARA work has brought me in contact with a wide spectrum of standards, frameworks and principles that specify best practice at all levels and facets within records management. The application of this knowledge requires the ability to work between abstract goals and ideals on one hand, and the complexity and messiness of reality on the other. One must be able to use the standards information as a lens for analysis and also as a way of articulating goals to others (peers, stakeholders, users, the C-suite).

I feel confident that I will be able to avail myself of this collective wisdom for my own organization on a continuing basis as the industry and technology evolves.