Case Study – National Archives of Australia

Case study for the development of information management plans for digital business systems

Note: This nomination was submitted to promote progress made by the National Archives, but was not considered for an award.


Business systems were assessed against a summarised list of 12 questions based on the 125 questions in ISO 16175, an international standard which provides functional requirements for information management software, resulting in a holistic picture of business systems, confirming information is managed appropriately. The questionnaire, used for training, has been shared with other agencies.  

Agency overview

The National Archives of Australia can best be described as the memory of our nation – collecting and preserving Australian Government records that reflect our history and identity. As well as preserving our history, the National Archives plays a key role in helping to ensure the Australian Government and its departments are effective and accountable to the people. The Archives has National Archives has two main roles:

  • to preserve Australia's most valuable government records and encourage their use by the public
  • to promote good records management by Australian Government entities.

The Archives has about 400 employees across 10 offices across Australia, and uses over 20 digital business information systems to conduct its business.


The need for a project to improve the use of these digital business information systems was identified due to requirements of the Digital Transition Policy:

  • to move to digital records and information management for efficiency purposes
  • for records eligible for transfer to the National Archives' collection being accepted in digital format only
  • the completion of an annual assessment using the Check-Up 2.0 online survey tool.

In response to these requirements, the need to improve governance and practice for the Archives' digital business information systems within was identified. Many of these requirements were initially informed by the international standard, ISO16175 which was released in the years just prior to the Policy and the Check-Up assessment being introduced. ISO16175 provides internationally agreed principles and functional requirements for software used to create and manage digital information in office environments.

Project objectives

Additional impetus to complete a project to improve governance and practice for digital business information included:

  • Being a test case for assessing business systems to help advise other government entities
  • The need for the Archives to act as an exemplar in achieving requirements of the Digital Transition Policy
  • Internal auditing requirements
  • Recommendations of the 2012-13 ANAO Audit into Records Management in the Australian Public Service.

Project execution

To conduct the assessment, the 125 requirements of ISO 16175 –  Guidelines and Functional Requirements for Records in Business Systems were summarised in 12 specific questions to form a questionnaire, with a 5 point rating system was used to respond to each question. A series of one-on-one meetings with Directors was undertaken to help identify systems and determine an overall approach. Following these meetings, the questionnaire and user guide were distributed for them to complete within their sections. A concurrent assessment was conducted with the National Archives' Recordkeeping System, an instance of HP TRIM, to ensure its compliance with ISO 16175 – Guidelines and Functional Requirements for Electronic Records Management Systems.

Based on the questionnaire responses and subsequent assessments against, the Archives' Records Manager formed an individual information management plan for each system. These plans would identify whether the systems had the capacity to manage information 'in place' for as long as is needed or whether some form of export or migration is required to achieve this. As the Recordkeeping System was identified as being fully compliant with ISO 16175 many of the plans to manage other systems rely on export to the Recordkeeping System. This is a method approved by ISO 16175 to help systems overcome native deficiencies in information management capability. The identification of the requirements to manage information for as long as it is needed also assists planning for the decommissioning of business systems.

Project outcomes

The assessment is now a repeatable process that sums up the essential requirements of the standard in a way that is agreeable and efficient for both owners of business systems and the Archives' Records Management staff. The questionnaire checklist has been used to help respond to many other entity's queries to the Archives' Agency Service Centre about similar assessments of digital business information systems. It was also presented as a case study in the Archives' Digital Edge training workshop 'Demystifying 16175'. Due to the positive response received from these presentations of the questionnaire as a user-friendly alternative to the full standard, the advice is now available on-demand through the Government Agency Information Network as a model for other Australian Government entities.

Project impact

As a result of the questionnaire and assessment process, there is a holistic picture of the business systems within the Archives and an assurance that business information within these systems can be managed for as long as is needed. There is also an assurance that high-risk information or information requiring transfer and permanent retention within the Archives' collection is also identified and managed appropriately. 

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019