Records Managers

Benchmarking Report on
Business Process Analysis and Systems Design
for Electronic Recordkeeping - Section 2.1

2.1     National Archives of Australia. Australian Standard (AS) 5090: Work Process Analysis for Recordkeeping. Available for purchase and download at: http:// www.standards.com.au/catalogue/script/search.asp

Organization

National Archives of Australia (NAA). NAA maintains valuable records of the Commonwealth of Australia and ensures their availability for current and future generations. As the provider of national information management policy, it is also responsible for establishing recordkeeping standards that support government accountability to the public by ensuring that evidence relating to individual rights and entitlements is available and that future generations can access meaningful records of their past.

Within NAA, the Information Management and Information Communication Technology components of the organization's Corporate Branch provide basic support services for its other functional areas. Information Management develops recordkeeping policies, standards, and guidelines and provides training and advice that relate to modern recordkeeping. It was recently organized to focus on the intellectual framework of records management, e.g., classification schemes management, but it was also tasked with testing the policies of NAA's Digital Records Section (formerly known as the Government Records Section) by putting them into practice within NAA. For this reason, Information Management has worked closely with NAA's business units on business process analysis. Its involvement with Information Communication Technology in the review of business system redesign and functionality has also been growing.

Methodology

Australian Standard 5090, Work Process Analysis for Recordkeeping (AS 5090). Released in August 2003, this standard was developed by the IT-21 Committee on Records Management as a guide to undertaking work process analysis for recordkeeping purposes in support of AS ISO 15489, International Standard on Records Management. It has also proven useful as a supplement to the closely related NAA DIRKS Manual. Both the International Standard on Records Management and DIRKS recommend business process analysis as part of the second step of designing and implementing records systems, but neither offer detailed advice on how to do it. AS 5090 fills that gap.

AS 5090 complements functional analysis with sequential process analysis, and lays out five principal activities for conducting work process analysis: 1) identifying the sequence of actions within a process; 2) identification and analysis of variations; 3) establishment of a rules base for the identified actions; 4) identification of links to other systems; and 5) validation of work process analysis with participants. In addition to listing detailed steps for performing each activity and the outcomes the activity should produce, it links each steps to a specific set of questions which allow the analyst to understand and map all aspects of the work process. The standard's non linear approach, using both functional and sequential analysis to identify dependencies, linkages to related records, and variations in work processes, helps assure that core business activities and transactions are thoroughly understood so that all recordkeeping requirements can be identified. AS 5090's instructions for both types of analysis and its methodological flexibility make it scalable as well, making it useful for a wide range of recordkeeping projects in many types of organizations and business processes.

Records management task supported

AS 5090: Work Process Analysis for Recordkeeping provides a methodology for performing a business process analysis from a recordkeeping perspective. The identification of recordkeeping requirements for information systems design is only one of the possible reasons records managers might use the standard. AS 5090 is designed as a further elaboration of Design and Implementation of Records Systems as outlined in ISO 15489: Information and documentation - Records Management, especially Step B: Analysis of Business Activity. As a work process analysis tool, it supports the identification and management of information/data/record flows; process standardization and codification of variations; identification and assessment of recordkeeping risks; regulatory compliance relating to work processes; integration of work processes and recordkeeping automation; and the development of the recordkeeping aspect of quality management systems.

Audience

AS 5090 (along with DIRKS Step B) is used primarily by Commonwealth agency information and records management project teams and consultants. Within NAA, Information Management currently owns the work analysis process, although there is the expectation that, following the documentation of business processes, NAA business units will discover wider benefits from applying these methodologies, as suggested above. The integration of systems designers from Information Communication Technology into the process would also be useful in the review of existing business systems and in the design new ones. Whatever the audience's composition, efficient functioning of the process requires the following participant skills: recordkeeping expertise and knowledge, deductive logic and analytical skills, motivation and determination, and interpersonal communications skills.

Benefits and Strengths

AS 5090's functional business analysis feature establishes a broad framework of organizational goals and objectives on which to base fully informed risk analysis and disposition decisions among multiple interlocking processes and records systems. In addition to its usefulness in developing records schedules and classification schemes, its outputs can serve a wide range of other records management objectives, such as those described previously.

The standard's blend of functional and detailed transactional process analysis, however, makes it a particularly powerful tool because of its flexibility, scalability, and the potential reuse of its products. Its approach helps in identifying dependencies, linkages to related records, and variations in work processes and assures that core business activities and ultimately, an organization's recordkeeping requirements, are addressed. Also, the standard's allowance for methodological flexibility depending on the nature of the business process under review, or the purpose of a specific recordkeeping project, make it scalable as well. The nature of the process determines the level of detail to which it needs to be broken down, so that highly technical and well-defined processes may be broken down more fully than less complex or well-defined processes - such as policy-making - which may be left at a fairly high level. Sequential analysis is especially useful in identifying detailed transactions and recordkeeping requirements for core and high-risk business activities that are unique to a particular organization.

Limitations

Applied for a large scale project or at a detailed level, AS 5090 is highly labor intensive. Information Management found that it took around three weeks of continuous work to thoroughly analyze one process. The cost of rigorous application of work process analysis may only be justified where business processes and related records are at particularly high risk, such as for processes under intense public scrutiny or undergoing major automation projects. At the time when we spoke to them, Information Management staff had only applied detailed sequential analysis to two of the National Archives of Australia's highest risk processes and they envision continuing to use risk analysis to prioritize future projects.

In Information Management's experience, the biggest hurdle for business process analysis was getting the right information. It was difficult to drill down into activities grounded in large volumes of assumed knowledge, particularly in complex processes where procedures had not been formalized. Information Management interviewers had to rely on their own logic and interpersonal skills plus the willingness of business unit staff to volunteer information in order to elicit enough detail for effective sequential analysis. Information Management staff members found that they could not rely on documentation alone; they had to probe for unstated and assumed knowledge. Gap analysis was ultimately applied to define the difference between documented processes and the realities of the workplace.

Information Management staff members also found it useful to supplement the standard with concepts of their own, such as "transaction sets," which they found made managing the non-linear relationships among groups of transactions easier.

Environment for which it is suited

Because of its scalability, AS 5090 has potential application in a wide range of organizations and industries ranging from the small and relatively simple, to the large and complex. Before embarking on a business process analysis and selecting relevant elements from this methodology, however, agencies should balance the costs, particularly of staff time and training, against project objectives and anticipated benefits. Agencies should also assess organizational support and organizational culture. High-echelon support is important in assuring that the analysis is undertaken and sustained through completion, that sufficient capital and human resources are available, and that program managers and their staffs cooperate in document collection and business unit interview activities. Support from key legal, IT, and information systems design offices is also critical, given the interdependency of their functions with records management.

In order to effectively manage a project of work process analysis for recordkeeping, records managers may need to acquire new skill sets, including interviewing and related communication skills, deductive logic, and analysis. The need for adequate staff training and staffing to avoid the burnout of analysts on an AS 5090 project can add significantly to project costs and resource requirements.

Significance to NARA

Because of its detailed and highly-structured guidelines on work process analysis in the recordkeeping context, AS 5090 is a worthwhile and technologically independent tool for identifying comprehensive recordkeeping requirements, including metadata requirements, that can be applied in the earliest phases of new systems design. The number of records management products that this standard supports, plus its flexibility and scalability, would allow any organization to apply it to as much of the organization and as intensively as necessary to get the results it desired. Organizations could use it selectively for key business processes and recordkeeping tasks, thereby avoiding potentially demanding labor and other resource commitments that the standard's more expansive and intensive application could otherwise require. Although a fairly high level of expertise and sophistication is required to fully understand and apply AS 5090, it explains work process analysis thoroughly and the examples of practical application make it fairly user-friendly. The standard also decomposes the analysis process it describes into steps focusing on such tasks as analysis of process variation and identification of linkages to other systems and it provides checklists of specific questions for each step. The standard's acknowledgement of business process variations, linkages, and dependencies provide it with the flexibility and reliability needed for practical application in real workplace environments.

AS 5090: Work Process Analysis for Recordkeeping supplies practical guidance for aligning records management with business processes and ultimately for identifying the recordkeeping requirements of those business processes. For this reason, Federal agencies could use features of the AS 5090 methodology for application in their particular business and recordkeeping environments, especially for high risk situations such as automating business processes or fixing dysfunctional business processes. Federal agencies should decide which of their recordkeeping objectives could be met through application of work process analysis and then use cost-benefit analysis to determine which projects justify the significant commitment of staff time and other resources required. Because of the expense of information systems design, IT projects almost always justify the analysis necessary to identify all relevant requirements, but problems in any high-risk, high-accountability process might also justify this most detailed level of analysis.

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