ISO 15489 overhaul to boost compliance for information and records management

Many organisations today are finding it difficult to comply with the ever-growing number of complex rules and regulations governing the sound management of information and records. The reason for this is two-fold, says Louisa Venter, senior enterprise information management (EIM) consultant at South Africa’s Datacentrix, who explains that firstly, legislation is not sufficiently backed up by the necessary government infrastructure to support successful execution by organisations.

Secondly, internal organisational design is often not properly equipped to deal with the specific requirements built into legislation and good practice frameworks.

"Unfortunately, these challenges do not relieve organisations of the responsibility to manage information assets properly," Venter explains. "Organisations need a sound knowledge base that allows them to be adaptive to the changing political, socio-economical and societal environment, as well as to cope with increasing stakeholder demands."

These needs underline the importance of the revised ISO 15489 standard for records management, currently being rewritten to ensure organisations have access not only to a framework for best practice, but also to critical implementation guidelines.

Venter, who chairs the local mirror committee, SABS TC46D, and, as such, is involved in ISO SC11 Workgroup 13 which is responsible for the ISO 15489 revision, explains that the revised standard will be split into multiple parts, which will assist organisations to achieve comprehensive and compliant records and information management.

"The current planning is that part one of the new standard should be a self-contained, high level statement of the principles and requirements for managing records. Subsequent parts should then provide implementation guidance for different scenarios, including paper-based records systems, hybrid records systems (consisting of a combination of paper-based and digital records), digital records environments, cross-boundary digital solutions (cloud and other distributed platforms), and other business systems and transactional systems involved in the creation and storage of records."

According to Venter, the previous version of ISO 15489 fell short as it did not address changes within the technology environment, such as digitisation and cloud technology, or recognise the fact that records are dynamic entities. "It was for these reasons the decision was taken to completely rewrite the standard, as opposed to updating it," she explains.

"Interestingly, 43 active countries are providing input into the new standard, with the South African TC46D being involved in the workgroup tasked with compiling the section on the management of hybrid records systems."