Create business information that is fit for purpose to effectively support business needs.
Business needs include:
- having evidence of the efficient and accountable operation of business
- enabling business operations, decisions and continuity
- allowing proper scrutiny
- managing business risks
- supporting the business if there is legal action or dispute
- supporting individual and collective rights and entitlements
- satisfying the requirements of stakeholders
- meeting legislative and regulatory obligations.
Australian Government agencies should document business information (create a record of business activity) where there is, or reasonably could be, a business or stakeholder need for that information.
This includes, but is not limited to, the need to:
- document events and their significance to an agency’s business purpose
- refer to the information to support efficient and continuous business activities
- enable and provide evidence of client transactions, interactions and entitlements, both now and in the future
- understand why an action was taken or the basis for a decision
- support and provide evidence of policy, program or project development and implementation
- provide evidence of research undertaken and to support recommendations and outcomes
- explain risk assessments and mitigations
- enable review of decisions and processes to identify what worked and what could be improved
- show compliance with legislation, regulation or codes of practice
- report on agency performance in achieving agency purposes
- enable audit or scrutiny of actions and decisions
- justify expenditure
- protect the rights of the Australian Government and any person affected by Australian Government actions.
Documenting business information also supports rights of access and meets Australian Government commitments to open government, including:
- demonstrating accountability for, and transparency about, an action or decision
- letting clients access, correct and annotate their personal information
- responding to public requests for information about Australian Government activity
- letting government, industry and the public use and reuse Australian Government information and data
- retaining interactions between the Australian Government and people affected by its decisions and actions to support personal, community and national history and memory.
- communications made or received
- actions undertaken or observed
- research and investigations
- deliberations and decisions.
This should be recorded at the time of the activity or shortly afterwards.
Australian Government business activity includes, but is not limited to:
- written communications sent and received, such as:
- text messages
- communication through social media
- oral communications such as meetings and conversations. These may be face-to-face or through telecommunications
- deliberations and decisions on matters such as:
- current and emerging issues
- stakeholder, industry and community engagement
- strategic planning and implementation
- policy, program and project development and implementation
- operational planning, implementation and delivery
- actions such as granting or refusing client applications for:
- an entitlement
- advice or feedback sought or provided
- observations made
- advice provided to clients, stakeholders, or a national or global audience.
Business needs should consider the needs of Australian Government stakeholders.
Stakeholders include, but are not limited to:
- the people of Australia
- any person who seeks entitlements or services from the Australian Government or is affected by Australian Government decisions and actions
- Australian Government ministers
- Australian Government agencies
- Government agencies and private or not-for-profit organisations (both Australian and international) that interact with, or are impacted by, the Australian Government
- any person who has a right to access, use, correct or annotate Australian Government information, including public data, current business information and national archives.
- contains sufficient detail to meet current business needs and can be understood by others in the future
- is accurate
- is created in a format that enables efficient business processes and maximises its potential for use and reuse.
Australian Government agencies should create good quality business information.
Good quality business information:
- is based on identified and known needs for the information
- is created systematically as part of business processes and accurately documents the business activities an agency performs
- is objective, clear and complete, including necessary detail such as:
- what happened
- what was decided or recommended and why
- the advice or instruction given
- the date it happened (and time if applicable)
- who was involved
- under what authority a decision or approval was made
- an adequate description, so that content and context can be understood now and in the future.
- is created accurately by a person with full knowledge of the facts
- is created during or as soon as possible after the conversation, event, action or decision being documented
- is linked to any other documentation needed to give a full picture of the event, decision or action. Other documentation might include options papers, drafts, recommendations, and reasons to implement, change or stop a decision or action. All of the needed information about a person or event may be held across multiple systems.
- enables authorised and unauthorised access and changes to be known over time, if required
- is saved where it can be reliably accessed for as long as needed.
Australian Government agencies should create business information that is fit for purpose. Business information is fit for purpose when the following apply:
Content and context are clear
Business information’s content and context reflects why it is being kept.
High-risk or high-value information usually contains more detail. For example, a project that requires large expenditure and labour resources will have more detail than a low-value or routine expenditure.
There are some exceptions. For example, an emergency text message sent to affected people does not need much detail, but every detail included is critical.
Context can vary, from background information on a project to ensuring that data is structured in a database with meaningful field titles or linked to a data dictionary so that the data can be understood for future use.
Decisions to create are based on risk
Decisions about the appropriate business information to create are made based on risk.
For example, people providing approvals may be authenticated using email or workflow systems. However, certain information may require stronger forms of authentication such as digital signatures.
It uses an appropriate format
Business information is created in a format that lets it be accessed, shared and reused for as long as needed.
Digital formats support remote access and let multiple users have access to the same source of information. They also allow data sources to be manipulated for use and reuse.
Some digital mediums can be preserved for longer than others. To support ongoing use, digital business information may need to be created in systems where it can be extracted and migrated to newer systems over time.
2.4 Ensure business information creation is integrated into business processes and that staff know when and how to create fit-for-purpose business information.
Information governance documents, such as an agency’s information policy, should state the need to create business information.
It is important that your business processes either:
- ensure business information is created automatically by business systems, or
- ensure staff clearly understand when they need to document business information.
Ineffective processes can lead to poorly informed business decisions. Often agencies only discover that necessary business information has not been created when something goes wrong (such as a project failing).
Methods to integrate information creation into business processes include:
- providing templates for common processes such as project management or policy development
- designing systems where users are prompted to create a record as part of usual work practices and workflows.
Mandatory requirements should be applied to create business information that documents high-risk or high-value business activities.
All Australian Government staff, contractors, outsourced providers and volunteers are responsible for documenting Australian Government business activities to meet business needs.
Some government staff have specific governance responsibilities for the creation of business information. These include:
- agency heads, who are ultimately responsible for the creation of business information in their agency
- information and records managers, who are responsible for guiding the creation of necessary business information
- ICT staff, who are responsible for implementing systems to create and capture needed business information.
You should train all staff responsible for creating Australian Government business information to ensure that the information meets business and stakeholder needs.
- International Standard ISO 15489 (2016) Records Management
- Australian Public Service Commission - APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice: Section 4: Managing information
- Department of Finance - Resource Management Guide No.209: Guidance for Commonwealth entities on the requirements to keep non-financial records