Although the existence of records management may be as old as the organizations themselves, most organizations are still not sure about the role that records management plays in their daily operation. This raises serious concerns as to whether the role of records management is reflected in the plans of any of these organizations.

Even though most organizations appear not to take records management seriously, there are those who are trying their best to save their records the sole aim being quicker and easier access to information. If records are properly managed, it becomes very easy to locate any record, if the necessary information is available.

Apart from quick and easy access to information, records management also has a role to play in promoting an organization’s competitive position. Lack of attention to records management can, therefore, negatively affect the survival of an organization against its competitors. Perhaps organizations that lack interest in proper records management do not know how to manage them. Records management is concerned with the generation, receipt, processing, storage, retrieval, distribution, usage and retirement of records (New

South Wales 1998: 1). It encompasses a wide variety of activities and sub-disciplines, such as the management of mail, correspondence, reports, copies, forms and directives.

In support of the above definition, Quible (1996:450) indicates that the ever-increasing volume of an organization’s records that must be maintained requires their efficient management. A well-designed, efficient records management program can significantly reduce an organization’s operational costs. It is, therefore, evidently clear that owing to the sheer number of records either created or received by organizations, the significant role of records management cannot be over emphasized.


Like any other service organization, Polokwane Municipality, which emerged from the amalgamation of the former Pietersburg

M unicipality and the former Seshego

Municipality after a local government election on 5 December 2000, is also involved in records management to improve the standard of services they render to the community of

Polokwane. As Polokwane is the capital of the Northern Province, documents such as financial statements, traffic fines, water and electricity bills, as well as administrative documents such as agendas and minutes, are created and received on a daily basis.

With its focus on daily community problems, records management is of utmost importance for the survival of Polokwane Municipality. Currently, Polokwane

Municipality has a section that deals with records management in particular. There are numerous records about the community of Polokwane which needs to be kept safe for future reference in order to render good service to the community. It is only through a proper records management system that the administration of such records can be assured.

The big question is whether Polokwane Municipality can identify the role of records management in its daily operation.

It is in the light of the above background that a study on the role of records management in the promotion of better services has been conducted. Records management is the hub that facilitates services, in terms of searching for relevant information.



Given the background of records management globally, the purpose of this study is to establish whether records management can be used as a service tool within a service organization. There are a number of aspects that may affect the role of records management such as technology, professionalism and the level of training. The above goal can only be realized once the above aspects have been thoroughly explored. Access to records with necessary information for service purposes, is the pillar of this research project.



As argued by Quible (1996:450) enterprise records are ever increasing. Consequently, a well-designed records management system is of significant importance to bring records under control. For this reason, it is necessary for organizations to familiarize themselves with the role of records management in their daily operation. In support of Quible’s statement, Robles & Langemo (1999:30) indicate that business executives, managers and people at all levels in today’s office environments are greatly affected by the unprecedented rate at which the volume of recorded information is growing.

Administrators and personnel at all levels of federal, state, and local government offices agree that the number of paper documents, electronic records, and all forms of recorded information, continues to increase.

The South African Government’s “Batho Pele” (people first) campaign challenges service organizations to provide better services to their clients at all times (Republic of South

Africa, 1999:21). It is, therefore, the purpose of this study to examine the role of records management in promoting better services to customers. Better services always begin with better control of records, hence records management. It is difficult for an office bearer to trace an important document if files are stored in various places. The clients, in turn, would have to wait for a longer period than expected and this would affect the organization’s image.

In view of the above, the research question can be formulated as follows:

“How can electronic records management promote better service in a service organization?”

Within the scope of the above research problem, the following sub-problems may be identified:

1. Is there a distinction between records management, archives, information management and administration?





To what extent has technological advancement affected the field of records management?

What is the level of professionalism and training among records management staff in SA?

Do service organizations rely on records management for better services and decisions?


The study is conducted at a time when technology is taking a lead in every field of study.

In terms of records management, there has been a sudden shift from manual records management to electronic records management. The shift has basically been accelerated by the creation of computerized records.

Instead of filing cabinets, most organizations now use computerized means to save their records. This enables records managers to easily access records electronically. Although this seems to be a positive development of records management systems, some organizations still cannot afford electronic equipment, and this affects their service delivery to respective clients. It is, therefore, the aim of this research to investigate both the weaknesses and strengths of Information Technology (IT) in records management.

Furthermore, although focusing on Polokwane Municipality, the study is conducted with a view to making recommendations to improve the standard of records management in South

Africa. It is on the basis of the above that the researcher felt it necessary to conduct this study.

A literature study that covered aspects of both manual and electronic records management was undertaken, with special emphasis on the role of records management in promoting service delivery within a service organization. Particular attention was given to

5 technological advancement as a key concept.

Furthermore, this study made use of comprehensive questionnaire, which was compiled and distributed to three selected departments within the Polokwane Municipality to establish the extent of each aspect. Owing to their influence with regard to the success of

Polokwane Municipality, the Secretarial, as well as the Treasury and Management

Departments were taken as the source of the study.

The following sections within the above departments were selected as samples representing the entire population of Polokwane Municipality:

Secretarial department

Services and Building Section,

with 3 staff members

Records Section,

Legal Section,

with 7 staff members

with 3 staff members

Treasury department

Income Section,

with 17 staff members working on enquiries and 9 administrative staff members

Creditors Section,

with 3 staff members

Management department

Data Section,

with 12 staff members that assist the Records Management Section with the Document Organization Control System (Docs) for electronic records management purposes.

Protection Department

Traffic Department,

with 10 staff members working in administration


The weaknesses and strengths of the existing electronic record management system

(Document Organization Control System) were carefully observed to identify problems and areas of improvement in favour of better service. The findings of the study were then analyzed and interpreted in order to arrive at the current record-keeping practice, problems and opportunities linked to the existing practice.


Chapter One: This chapter provides an introduction and gives background information with regard to the study and sets out the problem statement and methodology.

Chapter Two: This chapter introduces and defines concepts that are often confused with records management. The main purpose of the chapter was to identify distinctions and similarities between records management and related concepts such as Archives, Information Management,

Administration, etc.

Chapter Three: This chapter looks the life cycle of into electronic records management and records management automation as a way forward in the record management field. The chapter aims at addressing the effects of technological advancement on records management.

Chapter Four This chapter looks into professionalism and the training records management staff and explains why records management should be part of an organization’s strategic function. The purpose of the chapter is, therefore, to identify weaknesses and strengths in the record management field as the pillar for service delivery (role of records management as such).

Chapter Five:


This chapter contains a data analysis of information gathered during a survey on electronic archived records management in Polokwane

Municipality. The findings of the survey are also discussed in this chapter.

Chapter Six: This chapter summarises the contents of the study from Chapter One to Chapter Five, as well as the conclusion. For the purpose of improving the prevailing situation with regard to the records management system of the Polokwane Municipality, recommendations in favour of the future of records management in a service organization, are also made in this chapter.





Records management is often confused with other concepts such as information management, administration, archives, etc. It is, therefore, the purpose of this chapter, to distinguish records management from such concepts. To enable researchers to distinguish records management from other related concepts, clear definitions of the concepts that fall within the scope of record management are required. This chapter seeks to define concepts that fall under the subject of records management, such as: records, management, electronic records management, and records management itself.

Following a literature study on records management, this chapter is constituted as follows:

Definition of concepts that fall within the scope of records management

Distinction between records management and other related concepts such as archives, information management and administration


Much has been written about records management. Most scholars are of the opinion that the role of records management in a service organization are affected by a number of issues such as:

• determining if there is a need for records management in a service organization; technological advancement; and professionalism and training.



Records management is an essential component of office administration. An effective records management program allows the organization to render better customer service, provides legal defensibility and leads to improved profitability. Hence, it is necessary to award high priority to records management to avoid organizational problems that may arise owing to poor handling of office records (Robles & Langemo, 1999:30).

As much as people try to deny it, office organization has a distinct link with productivity.

The quicker an organization can locate a file or important legal document, the more productive it will be. That does not, however, mean that employees have to be neat freaks in order to be productive. It simply means that an organization needs to learn more effective ways to handle its daily paper flow (Shaver, 2000:24).

Records are the memory of an organization. They are the assets of an organization that are created, processed, transmitted, used, stored, retrieved, retained, and eventually destroyed.

Records management is the systematic control of this “memory” throughout its life cycle.

The records manager is responsible for ensuring that all information required for operating the business is accurate, and readily accessible (Peters, 1993:12).


The volume of electronic records is growing exponentially because of increasingly powerful and easy-to-use computer hardware and software, the growing popularity of email systems, the ease with which records can be downloaded from Internet, and the conversion of paper formats to electronic formats. The increasing use of electronic document management (imaging) systems, video and audio machines further adds to the growing volumes of records in electronic format (Robles & Langemo, 1999:30).

Information and communication technology have developed rapidly over the past decade and provided the means to easily capture, store and distribute documents in vast quantities

10 and at an ever-increasing speed. To be able to make good use of this information instead of becoming swamped by it, scientific controls need to be applied (Raas, 1999:1).

Like any other profession that is greatly affected by technological advancement, the future of records management is at stake (Ardern, 1998:10). Phillips (1998:63) raised serious concerns about the future of records managers. Since the dawn of the 21 st

century records are primarily received and stored in electronic devices. The question is whether there will be any need for record managers if document users can search data warehouses to retrieve electronic records themselves? The answer to this question can have a tremendous impact on the future viability of the profession of records management. Will the work of record managers be performed by the computer in the future and will there be any need for paper records?

Electronic document management software allows organizations to create, store, and disposing of records in a paperless manner, potentially precluding the need to send a copy to a records center. All these technologies could reduce the need for records managers in service organizations (Phillips, 1998:64). For records managers to secure their jobs, they must have the same computing skills as document creators and computer systems managers. Ardern (1998:10) further indicates that information management professionals can influence these changes by identifying them and their impact on the future of records management.

Phillips (1998:64) indicated that it would be critical to distinguish between records management business activities that can be easily automated, and records management business activities that can be only partially automated, as well as those records management activities that can probably never be automated successfully. Obviously, records managers who develop their skills in regard to activities that are unlikely to be automated will be in demand professionally for some time to come.



Records management was first identified and acknowledged as a distinct occupation in the early 19 th

century. This activity arose in response to the growing amount of information and documents produced, used and stored, in both public and private organizations

(Webster, 1999:20).

By definition, records management can achieve professional status only when professional education is available to all practitioners. Professional education, which distinguishes professions from occupations, is today defined as a degree course that comprises theory and practice and is taught along with other university level professional study courses often at post-graduate level. Unfortunately, there are very few educational opportunities for records managers that remotely resemble the professional education provided in other fields (Pemberton, 1991:50).

As yet, records management cannot be considered a profession since it does not meet all the criteria of the professional model. These include an educational standard for records management and community endorsement of the profession. For example, a profession demands a period of education and training, the dimensions of which are clearly defined by the profession itself. Increasingly, this educational experience takes place at a university or technikon and at a post-graduate level. The training includes abstract and theoretical knowledge as well as the more technical skills of the field (Pemberton &

Pendergraft, 1998:51-52)

According to Ardern (1998:17), the rapid change in the workplace has resulted in a reassessment of the skills required to do the job. Employers encourage staff to take control of their own career paths and develop their skills to meet the changing needs through lifelong learning. If they do not understand what skills are needed to address the “new world

, educational institutions cannot provide the necessary courses, or hold seminars and workshops that provide people with the new skills they require. In view of the above, it becomes very difficult to develop records management skills to meet future needs.


In conclusion, Pemberton (1991:53) suggested that, based on the dire financial straits in which higher education currently finds itself, it does not seem reasonable to expect that records management will soon become a discrete field. For this reason, records management needs to position itself in a field of study such as Information Management, that has a larger scope. Information Management is a field of study that can effectively host records management as an area in its expanding domain. In support of the above sentiment, Palmer (2000:3) conducted a telephonic survey of the teaching of records management at South African universities. Her discovered that records management is seen as a part of information management. In most cases records management is taught as a unit or module in library and information departments at South African universities such as RAU, UNISA and UNIZUL.


Records are either defined in terms of the physical formats in which they appear, or along with the information they contain. It must be noted that records differ in format or size, and have different contents.

A concept record is defined by Kallus (1991:571) as written or oral evidence that information has been collected and kept for use in making decisions. The most common records (such as forms, correspondence, reports and books) are written, printed or typed on paper. Oral records capture the human voice on tape, and are stored on cassettes or on other magnetic media. Quible (1996:450) defines records as informational documents such as forms, letters, memoranda, reports, and manuals used to carry out various functions.

According to Roberts (1998:1), the Association of Records Managers and Administrators

Inc. (ARMA International) defines records as a “recorded information, regardless of medium or characteristics, made or received by an organization, that is useful in the operation of the organization”. The National Archives of South Africa Act (Act No. 43 of


1996) defines a concept record as recorded information, regardless of form or medium.

Roberts (1998:4), states that records are information created, collected or received in the initiation, conduct or completion of an institutional or personal activity. Records have the

• following requirements:

Provide evidence (which is a by-product)

Comprise content, context and structure

Have integrity and immutability

Are unique

Exist regardless of physical format

Lead to an outcome.

In view of the above, much emphasis is placed on the role of records in providing evidence to document the transaction of business. Based on the above definitions, records can, therefore, be defined as follows:

Recorded information in any form, including data in computer systems, created, received and maintained by an organization or person in the transaction of business or the conduct of affairs, and kept as evidence of such activity.

According to Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer (2000:1) several key terms, phrases and concepts in the statutory definition of records are defined by the Code of Federal Regulations Part 1222 (subpart A, section 1222:12) as follows:

“documentary materials ”

is a collective term for records, non-record and personal papers with necessary information, regardless of the nature of media or the method or circumstances of recording.


“Regardless of physical form or characteristics”

means that the medium may be paper, film, disk, or other physical type or form, that the method of recording may be manual, mechanical, photographic, electronic, or any other combination of these or other technologies.


means the act of creating and recording information by agency in the course of their official duties, regardless of the method(s) or the medium involved. The act of recording is generally identifiable by the circulation of the information to others or by placing it in files accessible to others.


means the acceptance or collection of documentary materials by agency personnel in the course of their official duties, regardless of their origin (for example, other units of their agency, private citizens, public officials, other agencies, contractors, government grantees) and regardless of how transmitted (in person or by messenger, mail, electronic means, or by any other method). In this context, the term does not refer to misdirected materials.


means the filing, storing, or any other method of systematically maintaining documentary materials by an organization.

“Appropriate for preservation”

means documentary materials made or received which in the judgment of the organization should be filed, stored, or otherwise systematically maintained by an organization because of the evidence of an organization’s activities or information they contain, even though the materials may not be covered by its current filing or maintenance procedure.

In support of DonCio’s definition, Ardern (1998:14) indicated that records exist within any organization on a variety of media and need to be managed from their creation to their

15 disposal. Regardless of the medium on which they are created and stored, they document decisions and activities, and provide evidence of transactions in support of everyday business.

The definition of the concept “record” has a significant impact on what is understood by an electronic record. One can start with the observation that electronic records are records in electronic form, i.e. they are generated electronically and stored by means of computer technology. Electronic records include all components of an electronic information system, namely: electronic media as well as all related items such as input documents, printouts, programs and metadata, which is background and technical information on the information stored electronically (Republic of South Africa. National Archives of South Africa Act,


Roberts (1998:2), Robles & Langemo (1999:35) defined electronic records as records that contain machine-readable information, as opposed to human-readable information.

Electronic records can be further described as recorded information that is communicated and maintained by means of electronic equipment in the course of conducting a transaction. They may consist of any combination of text, data, graphics, video, or audio information that is created, maintained, modified, or transmitted in digital form, by a computer or related system.

Owing to difficult questions raised by the introduction of computers regarding the status of records, the traditional definition of records as objects such as paper files, tapes, disks, etc has become problematic when dealing with electronic records. Defining electronic records in terms of physical objects is no longer useful and specific programming or planning is required to ensure that the essential characteristics of records are maintained (Republic of

South Africa. The National archives of South Africa Act, 2000:3). The Act further states three properties that are important to maintain the essential characteristics of a record,

• namely:





In an electronic system, the properties of content, structure and context may be physically separate. An electronic database may contain content in the form of data, but the information on its structure, such as record format and context (what other records it relates to) may be kept separately in software, technical documentation and directories.

The problem is that content on its own does not constitute a record as it is not sufficient to guarantee authenticity reliability for legal purposes or operational continuity, and without context it is difficult to interpret the full meaning of a document.


According to Keeling (1996:3), concept management refers to the art or skill used by those

• who blend together the six M’s:






Morale in order to set and achieve the goals of the organization. Furthermore, the word

“management” is also used to refer to a group of people, such as top management, who collectively direct or manage the organization.

Eksteen (1994:2) defines “management” as “achievement of objectives through coordination of tasks and staff”. It involves motivating staff to do necessary tasks and

17 controlling the quality of products or services. Management is responsible for planning, organizing, leading and controlling the organization. Penn (1989:5) defines the concept of management as a performance based on knowledge, skill and responsibility.

If managers are to be effective, they must practice management using all three of these attributes.

Records management may be defined two from different perspectives: a traditional perspective or a current perspective. TRADITIONAL PERSPECTIVE

The definition of records management from a traditional perspective concentrates on the activities that comprise the discipline. For example:

“The systematic control of all records from their creation, or receipt, through their processing, distribution, organization, storage and retrieval to their ultimate disposal”. (Glossary of records management terms, 1989).

Mazakina (1990:21) emphasized that “Records management is concerned with the generation, receipt, processing, storage, distribution, usage and retirement of records. It encompasses a wide variety of activities and sub-disciplines such as the management of mail, correspondence, reports, copies, forms and directives.”

The above two traditional definitions of records management raises the question of what has to be managed? The following definitions may perhaps answer this question.

“Records management is a process of controlling organizational information from the creation of the information through its final disposition” (Place & Hyslop,


1982:4). Robek, Brown & Maedke (1987:5) define records management as the application of systematic and scientific control to all of the recorded information that an organization needs to do business. The concept records management is defined by Ricks and Gow (1988:3) as the systematic control of records from creation to final disposal.

From the above it is clear that what has to be managed is:

• information recorded information records.

According to the above definition, records are more than just facts, data or information.

Managing records involves the documentation of organizational activity through evidence in the form of records. The focus on records management is the accountable management of records as evidence. CURRENT PERSPECTIVE

The Australian Standards AS 4390 (1996) defines records management as “the discipline and organizational function of managing records to meet operational needs, accountability requirements and community expectations”.

The above definition covers a number of aspects:

Managing the records continuum, from design of record-keeping systems to the end of a record’s existence.

Providing a service to meet the needs, and protect the interests of the organization and its clients.

Capturing complete, accurate, reliable and usable documentation of organizational activity to meet legal, evidential and accountability requirements.

Promoting efficiency and economy, both in the management of records and in

19 organizational activity as a whole, through sound record-keeping practices.

Records management is defined by Langemo (1999:31) as the professional management of information in the physical form of records from the time records are received or created through their processing, distribution, and placement in a storage and retrieval system until either eventual elimination or identification for permanent retention in the archives. The definition encompasses the life cycle concept.

Based on the above argument, a working definition of records management may be “the system through which organizations control and monitor the movement of records from creation to disposal.”


In terms of its definition, the concept “information management” focuses on economic, efficient and effective coordination of the production, storage, retrieval and dissemination of information from both external and internal sources (Best, 1988:13). Furthermore, information management is viewed by Boon (1990:320) as the corporate strategic management of information as a resource in an organization in order to place that organization in a more advantageous position than its competitors. The function of information management is to determine the needs of the client, and to develop information resources for improved organizational control and decision-making.

According to Penn, Pennix, Morddel and Smith (1989:215), archives are established to preserve history for the benefit of those who learn from it. An archive is a memory book which houses collections on specific subjects or represents the life of its parent organization. Its fundamental purpose is to preserve and make historical documents available for research, information of enduring value. Collier’s encyclopedia (1994:556,

20 s.v. “Barh, L.S. & Johnston, B”) states that, archives have a twofold character and use.

They are, in the first place, evidence of the activities and legal rights of organizations or individuals and, when current, may become important for the maintenance of legal rights and policies.

Secondly, archives constitute an unsurpassed source of information concerning the political, social, economic, and technological developments of the past: information that is a prerequisite to the understanding of the evolution and problems of modern society. The term is also used to designate the agency charged with the custody, preservation and administration of archival material after it has become non-current, and the building in which archives are housed.

According to the Library and Information Service of Western Australia (1999:1), government archives are records which have been created by the colonial and state governments, as well as local authorities in Western Australia, and which are retained permanently by the State Records Office. They include files, maps, architectural drawings, documents, microforms and sound recordings. According to Gunnlaugsdottir (1999:33) the national archives keeps records concerning all aspects of government. Legally, all public records must be handed over to the archives within 30 years of their date of origin. The archives keep records concerning economic developments, industries, and information concerning individuals, as well as political history and the history of associations.

Administration is defined by Keeling (1996:2) as a group of persons who execute administrative duties such as the governing board of an organization. According to

Eksteen (1994:2) “Administration refers to those functions required for effective organization of a business, the office in particular, which ensures smooth day to day operations. In other words, administration involves the control of office activities, the implementation of the administrative policy and related administrative activities”.

Considering the above definitions of records management, information management and

21 administration, it is concluded that information management is the broader term that focuses on the management of all the information in an organization. Records management is much more specific as it focuses its attention on managing the internal records (business records) of an organization. Although somehow clerical, administration focuses much on the smooth running the office duties in an organization. Administrators and managers are at times the creators of records that are ultimately sent to the records management department for further processing.

Far too many organizations regard records management as a minor administrative task to plan, control and protect the records of an organization whereas, in fact, it encompasses all aspects of a record’s life cycle from its creation to its eventual disposal or preservation as

• an archival record. The purpose of record management would be to ensure that:

• information is available as and when required; information is quickly retrievable; records are protected from unauthorized access, disclosure and alteration and from deterioration and loss; and

• records are not destroyed or removed from the organization’s premises without authorized approval.

Records management is part of the general administrative management of an organization, but it is more than the administration of records. Often definitions of records management place the activities comprising records management within the sphere of a general administrative function, for example “the area of general administrative management concerned with achieving economy and efficiency in the creation, maintenance and use, and the disposal of records, i.e. during their entire life cycle” (International Glossary of

Archival Terminology, 1985:45).




Having defined records management and all concepts within its field, it becomes easier to distinguish between records management and other concepts such as archives, administration and information management. Although there is a distinction in terms of their definition, the above concepts are somehow related. For example, information management is a broader concept within which records management falls. In other words, the main purpose of records management is to manage and control the flow of records with the necessary information within a particular organization.

Some records are received by the administration section of an organization from where they are sent to the records management section for preservation and future reference. It therefore stands to reason that although it is not seem as administration per se, administrative are required in record management.

For a long time, records management and archiving were considered one and the same thing. Archives are concerned with preserving the history of a particular nation, while record management is about preserving the records of particular business for future reference. The two only meet at the preservation point. It is, therefore, possible, after distinguishing records management from other the concepts that are often linked to it, to define the role of records management in an organization: the purpose of records management is to facilitate easy and quick access to information so as to render better service.

Chapter three will focus on records management automation. The following aspects will be discussed in detail: electronic records management life cycle, the effect of technological advancement on records management, specific applications and challenges facing electronic records.






Technological advances are radically changing the discipline of records management.

Information management professionals can influence these changes by identifying them and their impact on the future of records management. Records managers are also advised to enhance relationships with their counterparts in the field of information technology and explain to them the role of records management in the entire information management process (Ardern, 1998:10).


The information revolution has radically changed the way most organizations work. The benefits of electronic information systems, such as improved retrieval of information, quicker and cheaper communication and the ability to reuse information, have changed the nature of both work and record-keeping within organizations. Today, documents are created through computer by sending e-mails, doing electronic banking transactions and preparing articles on personal computers or laptops (Ardern, 1998:11). Corporate information has moved from paper memoranda and letters, to e-mail messages. Today, reports, books, leaflets and publications of governmental agencies are more likely to be accessed through websites.

The impact of technology on organizations and records management is not a new phenomenon. For example, the introduction of the telegraph, typewriter and the telephone fundamentally altered the way business was done and records were kept. The advent of the computer altered record-keeping even more. However, the unique and fragile nature of electronic data demands a re-evaluation of the way governmental bodies manage records.

Processes and procedures created to meet the needs of record-keeping in the paper environment do not apply equally to electronic records (Republic of South Africa.

National Archives of South Africa Act, 2000:1). The purpose of technology is to make easier, more efficient, and less costly to handling information. High technology devices such as computers, optical character readers, fax machines, and laser printers should be looked at no differently than filing equipment, and should therefore, be obtained only to fulfill a specified need (Penn,

et al;


This chapter aims to explore the impact of technological advancement in the records

• management scenario and shall address the following areas:

The impact of technology on the life cycle of records.

The effects of technological advancement on records management field

Specific application type (electronic mail)

Challenges facing electronic records management





The life cycle of a record is the lifespan of a record from its creation or receipt to its final disposal. It is usually described in three stages: creation, maintenance and use, and final disposal. Much of this guidance deals with the creation stage as the electronic signature is created during the first stage of the record’s cycle (National Archives and Records

Administration, 2000:1)


Whether in electronic or paper format, records pass through identifiable phases in their life cycle from initial creation to final disposal. At each phase of the cycle, electronic records need to be actively managed according to established procedures, to ensure that they retain qualities of integrity, authenticity and reliability (Public Record Office, 1999a:1).

According to Penn,

et al

; (1989:9) there are various ways in which a record is created. An individual writes a letter or memorandum to a business associate; a form is sent to a job applicant who must complete it and return it to the organization that has the vacant position; or an existing record is placed on a copying machine and, in a matter of seconds, one becomes two, and so on.

With the advent of new technology, a job is advertised electronically on the Internet.

Those interested may fill in and return the form electronically via the Internet. As reflected in the above sentiments, there is a renewed interest in finding a structured approach to electronic forms management. The users of forms no longer focus on completing and moving pieces of paper. They focus, instead, on items of information and their relationship. Electronic form design principles are beginning to emerge, but their use and

26 that of existing form design and completion software tools lack coherence. For example, management of postal services is a process that is generally placed under the responsibility of records manager in an organization, even though it falls largely outside of the electronic environment. However, the increasing use of mechanisms such as scanners, list servers by geographically disbursed organizations made it possible for records managers to convert manual correspondence to electronic format (Menkus, 1996:40).

Although the system is criticized by some organizations in terms of lack of security

(signatures), it remains an option for many organizations owing to its speed and accuracy.

The notion is supported by the National Archives and Records Administration (2000:5) through a method of signing an electronic record that identifies and authenticates a particular person as the source of the message and indicates such person’s approval of the information contained in the electronic message. Such a mechanism can overcome the weaknesses of electronic records and is called an electronic signature, which may be embedded in the content of the record, or stored separately.

Records in electronic form also have processing capabilities, which could be of considerable value for research and analysis. The high density of electronic data means that it takes up very little storage space, while statistical data can be more easily utilized.

Raw data collected for one purpose can be electronically reanalyzed for another purpose, while a similar operation might be cumbersome or impossible on paper. It is also possible to link electronic records with common data elements from different files, which would increase the value of such records.

Creating correspondence with word processing software on computers is obviously more productive than creating documents manually with pencil and paper. In this sense, it is clear that technology has contributed positively towards the creation of records (Phillips,




According to Menkus (1996:40), the maintenance phase of electronic records management continues to involve organizing and arranging large volumes of shared information and mediating access to it. In the electronic environment, this task is usually assigned to a database administrator.

In most organizations, the database administrator’s position is created for one of two reasons:

To provide a means for retaining or increasing the compensation of a highly valued systems programmer who would otherwise be lost to the organization.

To compensate for the failure of the conventional records manager to deal with the organization and operation of a very large and increasingly distributed database.

Dealing with this aspect of electronic records management begins by determining what the crucial records are and who owns each of them. Vital records protection should play a significant role in the maintenance phase of electronic records management.


Menkus (1996:41) states that the disposition phase of electronic records management continues to revolve around the fundamental truth that is based on the way in which people record and handle information. People will create those records that they want to create and will retain those that they want to retain and will destroy almost any records that they feel like destroying. This was true of paper records, as well. By the same token, there is no feasible way to prevent the deletion of a particular electronic record by someone who wishes to do so. It is also impossible in many instances to recreate what has been deleted.

The records manager’s role in dealing with the retention and disposal of electronic records remains what it has been for more than 40 years in dealing with conventional paper records. The role is to organize and facilitate the orderly retention of those records that

28 merit being kept and ordering the disposal of those materials that do not merit being kept.

The following factors should be considered before disposing records:

Scheduling electronic records

These materials should be scheduled in the same manner as paper records. A schedule entry should identify the records series by its title or any other commonly used designator, and the larger database of which it is a component. The entry should specify who is the owner of the material. The basis for and the timing of the disposition or retention of the series should be stated (Menkus, 1996:41).

Records that are created and retained in electronic form should include those, at least, that document the development of decisions, policies, reports, and positions, significant actions taken, or oral communications in which plans, policies and decisions were formulated.

(Records to be retained may be marked as such in a distinctive fashion by either the sender or receiver of the message.)

Supporting documentation

When an electronic mail system is used to circulate draft documents, all of the comments and major revisions added to these messages should be retained in electronic form. In this environment, system directories, distribution lists, calendars, meeting schedules, and any shorthand or code names used to identify the participants in the creation of a particular class of records should also be retained (Menkus, 1996:41).

Transmission and receipt data

The sender and receiver of a message and the date of its transmission should be recorded externally, along with any acknowledgement of receipt that is requested by the parties to the message transmission (Menkus, 1996:41).

Records created on external systems


The records of electronic mail messages that are sent via the Internet and similar external systems should conform to the requirements for those messages that are transmitted through systems that operate only within a particular organization (Menkus, 1996:41).

Retention format

The individuals who are responsible for electronic records management will find it necessary, in most instances, to become familiar with and to assume the responsibility for operating archiving mechanisms and the software that is associated with their use

(Menkus, 1996:41).

As reflected from the above life cycle of electronic records management, technology has made drastic changes and improvements with regard to the life cycle of records management.



It is a well-known fact that the information revolution has radically changed the way most organizations work. The benefits of electronic information systems, such as improved retrieval of information, quicker and cheaper communication and the ability to reuse information, have changed the nature of both work and record-keeping within organizations. Corporate information has moved from paper memoranda and letters, to email messages. Reports, books, leaflets and publications of organizations are now more likely to be accessed through websites. A shared folder on an organization’s intranet replaces the correspondence file, and relational database systems replace paper forms and case files (National Archives of Australia, 2001:1).


We live in a changed and changing world, with challenges facing those who manage organizational information. Thoughts about the future of information and records management must include the realities of high-speed communication around the world, a global economy, and the accelerating adoption of internationally authoritative standards, such as ISO 9000 and the Australian AS 4300. The effects they will have on records management in the future will pose serious challenges to organizations and the profession worldwide (Mackenzie, 1999:24).

With the proliferation of electronic documents, records management programs is in the midst of a software evaluation which will allow the safekeeping and control of electronic information whether it be e-mail, spreadsheets, or a word processed document created by anyone within the organization. This will ensure that all records, regardless of their format, are created and protected (Assembly of First Nations National Indian Brotherhood,


Since the purpose of technological advancement is to ensure that information is easily accessible as and when required, there has been a significant impact of technology on the

• following aspects of records management:

Access to information and saving of time

Role of the records manager

Saving of space

Costs reduction.



Records management staff no longer have to spend hours or even days trying to locate a particular file or record: they can simply access it electronically. Perhaps even more beneficial, as indicated by Stuenkel (2000:51), electronic records management saves time, because technology allows retrieval of data in seconds or minutes instead of hours, days or

31 weeks. Managers and administrators, irrespective of numbers within an organization, now have much faster access to personnel files. Files can be accessed instantly from desktop personal computers and downloaded so that authorized users can travel with them throughout the world (McInnis, 1999:19). By travelling with downloaded records, travelling users’ access to records is not limited to their offices: they can access records even outside their offices.

Unlike the old system where files were either chronological or alphabetical, once records are transferred to an electronic device, users can find the files they require by keyword searches that can be as detailed as the client chooses. Any number of parameters can be used (Stuenkel, 200:51). Furthermore, an electronic system ensures that information is managed in such a way as to permit quick access and retrieval, regardless of the age of the information. Clients no longer need to worry about difficulties of accessing records owing to their period of existence.

Although it is not advisable to totally do away with manual records, electronic records are better for anyone who needs to look up things quickly. The use of e-mail, for instance, is another option for saving time. Suppose 100 people had to receive an inter-office memo. If this memo is sent by e-mail all these people can receive the memo simultaneously within seconds (Benson, 1998:88). No one would then be able to complain about getting a memo later than anybody else. By implementing the Document Organization Control System

(Docs) software, Polokwane Municipality has demonstrated how much quicker and easier it is if users have access to electronic records.



For a long time records managers seemed unable to cope with the increasing use of electronic information technologies to create and maintain records. For a while, records managers looked away, and even concluded that electronic documents were, perhaps, not records at all. Then they became worried about their loss of credibility, the future of their

32 profession and, ultimately, their jobs. Finally, records managers began to work on policy, as well as legal and technical solutions to electronic records challenges and problems

(Cox, 2001:2).

Records managers cannot assume that electronic records will simply replace existing paper records. Electronic records are often different and add unique or previously unavailable abilities to retrieve, compare, and analyze data. For records managers, this metamorphosis necessitates a need to re-analyze records series in view of their transformation from analog to digital. Functionalities and uses of electronic records also change as information moves from paper to digital media (Yakel, 2001:28).

Menkus (1996:39) states that practitioners of electronic records management will have to work exceptionally hard to catch up with what has taken place in the world of information handling. Fundamentally, they have to apply rigor and responsibility to rapidly evolve the information handling process from which conditions notoriously have been lacking for many years. Record managers who enter this new environment will find that their working situation has been improved dramatically.

The changes brought about by technology will impact on records managers both professionally and personally.


y records managers will have to reeducate themselves thoroughly to learn about such things as

• information processing systems application analysis and design,

• telecommunication networking, and information system security and auditing, hence the introduction of electronic signatures.

Owing to the above major impact on records managers, it may be advisable to consider creating a completely new type of certification for those who will be functioning in electronic records management.


Records managers who undertake electronic records management will find that they will have to drastically improve in the way an organization does its computing. For this reason, records managers who expect to have long careers caring for paper documents had better to think again about what they will be doing in a few year’s time. In most organizations, there will be a great reduction in the demand for file clerks and filing cabinets (Phillips,




According to Stuenkel (2000:51) technology is capable of replacing paper, but a

“paperless office” will probably never exist. Companies are increasingly replacing their paper files with electronic records in order to save space, and improve file security. Highspeed scanners that read thousands of pages a day can convert virtually any kind of paper records into computer files for storage on CD-ROMs that take only a fraction of the space previously required by filing cabinets and boxes. McInnis (1999:19) demonstrated how electronic records management saved space for an organization that initially used filing cabinets. According to Benson (1998:88), the use of e-mail for inter-office distribution dramatically cuts the paper and the filing which would have required a lot of space hence space costs money. The e-mail method works efficiently except when employees print out every e-mail they receive.

The introduction of an electronic records management system (Docs) by the Polokwane

Municipality has demonstrated how space and time can be saved. According to records kept on Docs since its introduction, the Records Section would have required twice the current amount of space for maintaining records in proper form. The electronic records management system now makes it easy for employees who work in the records section to trace records faster.



Storing and maintaining the documents of a municipality in electronic format is more efficient and cost effective than attempting to work with hard copies. Even though computer systems are often accused of creating considerable amounts of paper, there will be an increasing emphasis in future placed on creating and managing information in electronic format only. Owing to the expense of storing paper and the eventual cost of disposing large volumes of paper documents, it is simply not cost effective to generate large quantities of paper documents. By going electronic, organizations can save on postage, storage, shredding, and waste disposal costs all at once (Phillips; 1998:65).

Benson (1998:88) emphasizes the use of e-mail because it saves money on duplicates. Via e-mail 100 people or more can receive the same document which could have cost an organization hundreds of rands.

Legally, departments are also relying increasingly on electronic records for litigation support. Electronic records present faster and cheaper support for litigation in all types of legal proceedings, including discovery, regulatory, and torts. Electronic records are relied upon in the courtroom and are being pursued aggressively by attorneys in many industries.

Thanks to electronic devices, the days of lost records for particular cases are long gone.

(Lysakowski, R & Doyle, L. 1998:27).



There are a number of specific applications or examples of electronic records that are created, maintained and disposed/retained on a regular basis. Technology has brought along advanced methods of communication such as electronic mail (e-mail), voice mail and Send Message Setup (SMS) in terms of telephones, electronic banking in terms of financial transactions, etc.



According to the Kansas State Historical Society (2001:23) electronic mail can be captured and kept as evidence of business functions, activities or transactions. When e-mail systems are used to conduct, support or document official business, the requirements to create and keep records in relation to those business processes need to be carefully evaluated against existing systems, prior to the implementation of new systems.

All information stores, including those used with e-mail, are potential sources of evidence and may contain documents and information. For these information sources to have value as records, however, they need to be incorporated into a record-keeping system along with their content, structure and context. Records need to be created in relation to these forms of communication when there is a need to preserve the evidence of business functions, activities and transactions.

With e-mail, as with other forms of communication, a decision needs to be made as to what records are to be created and in what form. To have value as records, captured information must reflect the business context of the message, preserve the contents of the message and provide a structure for the record that reflects the structure of the original message that was of an evidential nature. Records need to have links to other evidence of the business process. In satisfying these requirements, the capturing of contextual information and the transfer of records to record-keeping systems should be automated where possible, or at least be kept as simple as possible. ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THE E-MAIL SYSTEM

E-mail has an image problem. In many organizations it has been introduced as an informal or even personal form of communication, with no regard to alerting staff of the implications of its use in the business environment. Electronic mail users need to be informed and educated to understand that electronic messaging systems are provided at work to support official business, and that messages created in the course of duty are not the user’s property any more than are business memoranda or letters.


E-mail is recognized as a legitimate source of evidence and can be the subject of subpoena, discovery orders, and access requests, in the same way as any other records. There are advantages and disadvantages of using e-mail, as there are with maintaining traditional paper-based record-keeping systems. Awareness of the pros and cons will assist in the promulgation of systematic rules to ensure appropriate records management practices.

Advantages of e-mail

Transactions result in written documentation that would often not have been captured otherwise.

A synchronous communication (not requiring both parties to be engaged in communication at the same time) alleviates many of the problems associated with schedule conflicts.

Composing messages is quick and easy.

Transfer rates make receipt of messages almost immediate.

Cost of transmission is lower than that of telephone or postal service.

The time (although not always the correct time) and date of message exchange is logged.

One person can send the same message to a number of people simultaneously (one-tomany communication).

E-mail messages are not as intrusive as telephone calls.

Disadvantages of e-mail

The same message is often filed in multiple locations, in both printed and electronic form, leading to storage problems and wasted resources.

Informal or inappropriate use can become an agency liability.

Without appropriate system controls, messages are easy to alter.


There is usually a lack of systematic management, other than deletion for space requirements.

Deletion does not mean destruction (deleted messages can be retrieved).

Multiple copies of messages or attached documents are often printed and filed, which is expensive in both time and paper. E-MAIL RULES

Organizations should establish and operate within a set of e-mail rules. The following are examples of what to include:

Business transactions


Business transactions

E-mail systems are provided primarily for business communications, and important transactions should be captured into an electronic record-keeping system or printed out and filed appropriately.

All e-mail is the property of the organization.

Keep copies only for ongoing business and delete material only in accordance with organization’s guidelines and approved retention schedules.

Do not use paper filing as a dumping mechanism for electronic communications. Only file on paper the important documents initiated or received.

Avoid printing out documents that were sent solely to provide information.

Avoid making hard copies of reference material such as articles or long documents that have been published elsewhere and can be cited.

Avoid putting matters into e-mail messages that would not be put into office memos.

Use sarcasm and humor with care as they can very easily be misunderstood without the benefit of accompanying body language.


Provide a subject line that clearly and accurately reflects the contents of the message.

This will greatly facilitate future retrieval of the message.


E-mail systems must not be used to transmit any classified or confidential material, except where these systems have been established for such a purpose and have appropriate control.

Ensure that passwords are used in all e-mail systems. Scanned signatures should not be used in any circumstances, since they can be cut and pasted to give the appearance that a document has been signed by someone who did not actually sign it.

E-mail communication is not private. Administrators and other authorized personnel

(and sometimes unauthorized personnel) have access to the system.

You can use e-mail for private messages, bearing in mind the rules for e-mail management. Any opinions you express via external e-mail, where they are not related to the conduct of business, should be noted as your opinions and not those of the organization.

Ensure that e-mail systems, like other electronic systems, are backed-up and maintained in accordance with systems management standards.


Like any other records in any medium, electronic mails should be managed according to basic rules and principles. The management and retention of electronic mails in South

Africa are subject to the National Archives of South Africa Act (Act No. 43 of 1996), and its regulations.

Strategies for managing and preserving electronic messages as records will differ depending on the specific environment within an organization. There are two basic options

• for filing and managing e-mail records:


Print messages and file them in paper-based filing systems, or

Transfer e-mail messages to an electronic classification system or repository.

The method chosen will depend on whether the office has a paper-based filing system, or an electronic records management system, or both, in place. Whichever method is chosen, all users should be aware of the policies, procedures and tools for managing electronic mail messages, and they should be capable of applying them consistently to all records.

(Republic of South Africa. National Archives of South Africa Act, 2000,33).

Polokwane Municipality also uses an e-mail facility to retrieve and distribute records from one user to another. The municipality’s electronic records management system (Document

Organisationl Control System) also has e-mail facilities. Records can be sent from the

Records Section to a number of users simultaneously. To ensure the proper use of this service, certain rules and regulations have been drawn up.



Like any other organization, Polokwane Municipality relies much on letters to communicate with other members of the community or other organizations of similar type.

Once a letter is received, the registry clerk records it manually before scanning it in to the computer. The addressee of the letter then either receives a hard copy or an electronic version of the letter that has been scanned.

Once the letter has been scanned into Docs, the records manager must decide how long letter should be retained, depending on its contents. Some letters are kept for a longer period since they serve as evidence for the municipality in case of any legal disputes.

Invitation cards are also scanned before being sent through to the relevant recipient. For example, an invitation card from Technikon Pretoria Pietersburg Campus to the Mayor of


Polokwane Municipality was scanned in and then sent to the Mayor by internal mail.

Alternatively, the Mayor can access the card electronically through Docs.



Road traffic fines form a major part of electronic archived records in Polokwane

Municipality. Although some fines are issued manually, some are issued electronically by means of a electronic traffic camera. Fines that are issued manually, are later scanned into the computer to make it easier for administrative officers to retrieve records in case of any enquiry by clients. The payment of fines is also computerized.

The Polokwane Municipality also keeps traffic fines following camera trapping for future reference. The picture of the car as well as the speed at which it was moving appears on the photograph. Electronic record-keeping helps Polokwane Municipality to render quality service because it no longer takes a long time to access a particular record to check whether the car does in fact belong to the person to whom the fine was issued.



The Mayor, Counselors and other senior members of staff within Polokwane Municipality rely much on previous minutes and memorandums to make quicker resolutions. Some of the resolutions affect the service of the municipality to members of the community. Senior members of Polokwane Municipality discuss problems of the community on a regular basis. Access to relevant previous records such as minutes and memorandums facilitates reaching decisions that satisfy both the members of the community and the municipality.

Minutes and memorandums are scanned into Docs so that anyone who is authorized to access them, may do so. Although available electronically, access is limited to particular members of staff as minutes and records often contain confidential information.




As water and electricity are basic resources without which the community of Polokwane cannot survive, it is necessary for Polokwane Municipality to keep record of each consumer. Such records are kept both manually and electronically. Members of the community may to enquire at any time about how much they owe and why.

Members of the community expect to receive quality service in terms of time and reliability. The Docs system that is used by Polokwane Municipality to capture records electronically should satisfy all members of the community whether they make enquiries telephonically or coming to the office personally.



According to Menkus (1996:42) becoming involved with the management of electronic records provides a number of new opportunities and challenges. The individual who recognizes and exploits these challenges will be positioned to meet a real need as various organizations continue to refocus and reengineer themselves to ensure that they survive and flourish in the expanding global economy of the 21 st


Gable (1997:15) outlined the challenges facing electronic records management as follows:

“The challenge of electronic records has several parts. Unless they are printed, electronic records remain intangible. They are physically stored on a personal computer hard drive or a shared network drive where they remain accessible. The problem is that the physical locations of electronic records are not managed by records managers but by information systems departments. The first challenge of electronic records management lies not in applying a retention period, but in making it stick, i.e. assuring that an electronic record follows the same pre-

42 determined path as its paper brethren and is ultimately destroyed or preserved as prescribed by the record management program.

The second challenge is more complex: electronic records are not named in any consistent way and follow no consistent filing structure. Electronic records are created in decentralized environment, given names that appeal to their creator’s and are placed in electronic file folders or directories that have been set up according to the creators’ sense of order. Until recently, names for electronic documents were limited to eight characters, a dot, and three characters, known as 8.3 file names.

Depending on how clever the creators were about making directories and subdirectories for their work, the electronic documents could literally be anywhere.”

The biggest challenge of all is, however, that users can not gain access to records if the system goes down as a result of electricity or network problems (McInnis, 1999:19).



While paper records will continue to exist and be generated for the foreseeable future, there is a general concern about the ability of government to manage and preserve those electronic records that are needed to support delivery of services (Public Record Office,


As electronic records are more accessible than manual records, it is advisable for organizations involved in service delivery to automate their records management departments. In this regard, Chapter Four looks at professionalism, training and the role of records management as affected by technological advancement in a service organization.








As reflected in the previous chapter, technology plays a major role in records management field. It is, therefore, imperative for those involved in record management to take note of the threats posed by technological advancement. They must, for example, make sure that organizations realize that records management still has a role to play in organization’s daily operation. Professionalism and training techniques should tally with the technological era.

The purpose of this chapter is to determine whether records management staff are properly trained to overcome the threats posed by existing technology. The professional status of records management in this technological era is at stake. Having addressed professionalism and the level of training among records management staff, it remains the sole aim of the study to establish whether professionals and trained staff necessarily result in better service delivery.

This chapter is constituted as follows:


Determining the professional status of records management

Exploring the educational and training needs of records management practitioners affected by technological advancement

Addressing the strategic role of records management within a service organization

Exploring the role of the skilled records management practitioner (professionally and educationally) in better service delivery.



Quality assurance and professionalism go hand in hand. Fulfilling the requirements of the professional model, makes it easier for a records manager to render quality service. It is, therefore, relevant to address issues pertaining to records management as a profession.

Records management was first identified and acknowledged as a distinct occupation in the early 19 th

century. This activity arose in response to the growing amount of information and documents produced, used, and stored in organizations. New information technologies such as fax, photocopying, personal computers, Internet, etc. have added new dimensions to the problem of controlling records efficiently and effectively. Their use has resulted in a dramatic growth in paper- based documents (Webster, 1999:20).

According Pemberton and Pendergraft (1998:51), being a “professional” means more than merely being an expert in one’s chosen field. No occupation, including information and records management, can successfully lay claim to professional status without a clear commitment to issues and concerns that affect the larger society. The key to establishing records management’s social relevance lies in development, maintenance, interpretation, and application of a meaningful code of ethics. It is only when such a code is valued and acted on by practitioners of information and records management that a claim for professional status can be justified.


Professionalism is necessary to ensure quality service in most organizations. In order to render better services, records managers should strive to be accommodated in a profession.

In order to be accepted as professionals, they must posses a number of qualities for professional status.


The concepts “profession” and “professional” mean different things to different people. As often applied by the general public and those who aspire for professional status, the term may refer to the technical expertise with which one’s work is accomplished. The term is often used to differentiate an amateur from the highly trained sportsman. It is a type of high grade, non-manual occupation, with both objectively and subjectively recognized occupational status, possessing a well-defined area of study or concern and providing a definite service, after advanced training and education (Webster, 1999:20).

According to Pemberton and Pendergraft (1998:52) and Webster (1999:21), regardless of which version of the professional model one prefers, all established professions share the following characteristics:

Existence of an organized body of specific knowledge

which includes theoretical principles as well as specific, practical skills. This specialized knowledge serves as one source of legitimization for the professional authority.

A profession demands a

period of education and training

whose dimensions are clearly defined by the profession itself. Increasingly, this educational experience takes place in a university environment and at post degree level. The training includes abstracts and theoretical knowledge as well as the more technical skills of the field.

The practitioners of the profession have

client service

as their primary motivation

46 rather than financial reward or increased status in society.

Community endorsement

of a profession becomes strong enough over time so that the profession achieves the autonomy to set its own educational standards, curriculum accreditation, and legally sanctioned licensing or certification system.

Practitioners of a profession are drawn to it at some level of intensity which assumes a long-term

personal commitment

to the field.

Within each profession there develops a

professional subculture

which consists of values and not simply techniques shared by all the profession’s practitioners. This sense of community is characterized by features such as common vocabulary, a sense of common occupational identity, and a shared sense of direction.

To be recognized as a profession by society, a

profession’s value

must have a relationship to

values held by members of society

outside the profession.

To enunciate its points of contact with basic social values and to remind its practitioners and client of the profession’s commitment to such values, a profession develops a formal or an unwritten code which is more systematic, broad, and binding on members than the

codes of ethics

of occupations or unions. The ethical code exists to instill the profession’s value system and social commitment into its practitioners, though it may be used to regulate the actions of its members as well.


In every professional field there is a code of ethics or professional responsibility normally formalized and written. It is through this code of ethics that all professional bodies speak about social relevance. They codify and describe best practice, functioning as a benchmark against which an organization can measure its practices and systems. Failure to comply with them would leave an organization open to criticism (Robinson, 1999:20).

Bennett (1999:41) indicated that records managers must maintain the highest of ethical standards and they must be on guard against those who might not adhere to this

47 philosophy. The American Records Management Association International (ARMA) has a code of professional responsibility and the Institute for Certified Records Managers has code of ethics. Records managers are expected to adhere to these codes.

According to Pemberton (1996:53), ARMA International has laid the all-important foundation for communication with society in and through its code of professional responsibility as follows:

Support the free flow and oppose censorship of publicly available information as a necessary condition for an informed and educated society.

Encourage the creation, maintenance, and use of accurate information and support the development of information management systems that place the highest priority on accuracy and integrity.

Condemn and resist the unethical or immoral use or concealment of information.

Affirm that the collection, maintenance, distribution, and use of information about individuals is a privilege in trust: the right to privacy of all individuals must be both promoted and upheld.

Support compliance with statutory and regulatory laws with regard to recorded information.

By definition of who qualifies as a records manager, future clarification of the levels of education needed within records management can be easily identified. It is unarguable that records managers consider themselves members of a profession rather than a technical trade. Since one of the factors that distinguishes professions is a body of theory and practice taught in university professional studies programs such as law, AMRA

International endorses a bachelors degree or higher from any of several fields such as business, library and information science for entry at the professional level into records management (Pemberton, 1991:41).



At this point in its development, records management is not in an effective position to control directly many of the elements in the professional model. Unlike other professions, the field has not yet received sufficient community endorsement to set up a licensing system that requires a prescribed education credential from programs accredited by a professional association

It is clear that the field of records management through ARMA International as its professional association, can develop and to some extent insist upon adherence to a wideranging and meaningful code of ethics, a code which can, in turn, lead to eventual fulfillment of some of the other elements of the professional model.

As records management continues to aspire to enhancing professional status, it is time to ask what records managers should do to capture the public’s attention, to inspire public trust and admiration, and to earn the understanding and respect of society? To the broader public, saving records is not as important as saving lives. Ensuring proper retention of records does not quite have the public appeal of ensuring justice.

Webster (1999:21) states that, even though some of the characteristics of a full profession have not yet developed in records management, the existence of others such as professional education and training, professional organizations, professional literatures, and codes of ethics are sufficient to accord it the elevated status of a profession.

Addressing records management as a profession is one attempt of indirectly trying to introduce improvements of service delivery through records management. If a job is performed professionally, the quality of service is likely to improve. By adhering to a code of ethics, practitioners are somehow bound to perform according to particular standard laid down. If an organization is really serious about quality service, it is advisable for it to operate within the lines of a professional model.




It is extremely important to make sure that records managers with specific records management responsibilities have the necessary knowledge and skills to carry out those responsibilities and thus contribute towards improving quality service within an organization. Training remains an important activity for records managers (Robinson,


Most professional records managers work in office environments to support government organizations. These office environments generate large amounts of valuable information in both paper and digital formats as a major component or product of daily activities. To the extent that the information and the records to be managed exist in computer-based information systems, records managers must have the required computer skills to add value to the management of information. They must also have sufficient technology education and training to have serious professional credibility within a computing intensive organization (Phillips, 1995:56).




Since it important for records managers to have some computer skills and a good understanding of technology for professional competency and viability, it become necessary to identify appropriate platforms for teaching them certain IT skills. According

• to Phillips (1995:56), computer skills and technology may be learned by the following:

Job training

Association education

Computer training vendors

Software tutorials and support.

Job Training


Job training is one of the best ways to learn about technology and computers. It offers an immediate opportunity to learning experiences relevant to one’s work. Many individuals have found that they do not retain what has been taught theoretically as compared to practical education, i.e. job related training is retained better and is more easily applied. It is, therefore best to pursue job related training as it is most likely to be retained and used.

As a simple example, learning to use a word processor or database program to merge a mailing list database with a letter

can save some of the time

that might normally be required to generate individual headings for letters and individual labels for each envelope

(Phillips, 1995:57).

Association Education

ARMA International is an large resource of technology information and shared learning experience. The ARMA International conference is one of the activities which offers technology education experience through seminars and session speakers that focus on issues that should be studied for continuing professional education. Their technical publications catalogue contains information on numerous books, reports, standards, and professional methodologies that concentrate on technology. Optical disk-based imaging systems, microcomputer records, electronic records, and disaster recovery and planning are only a few of the subject areas for book and report coverage (Phillips, 1995:57).

Information technology committees, education committees and industry action committees provide relevant information (individual contacts for lessons learned and case studies that are not easily found in the commercial computing literature) to records managers trying to focus on learning practical and useful computing skills. ARMA’s professional journal, the

Records Management Quarterly, contains many articles and columns that cover state of the art issues and experiences in technology and computing related subjects.

Computer training vendors


Many cities have special computer training centers. These are private businesses that offer courses for individuals to learn to use microcomputer hardware and software. Computer training vendors satisfy the need to have contact for resolving unusual technological problems that may arise during work with a particular software package. Record management staff can make use of computer training vendors to learn more about computers and their applicability in their field of study (Phillips, 1995:58).

Software tutorials and support

According to Phillips (1995:58), modern software generally comes with hard copy manuals, embedded help files, and tutorials on diskette that can be used at one’s leisure.

Owing to their sophisticatedness, software companies are moving towards eliminating hard copy manuals, preferring instead to distribute software and manuals on CD-rom.

Some disk-based tutorials use hypertext or multimedia sound and video clips that can serve as primary training modules for a variety of users. The users may find it convenient to do their training on the same computers that will be running the actual software they will use in performing their job duties. Tutorials and training such as these are extremely useful and are valuable references for records manager who wish to move from manual to electronic records management system.

Technical information produced and distributed electronically can be easily updated and distributed at a lower cost than paper counterparts.





Education is of the utmost importance in service delivery. It is through education ranging from short courses to degrees that practitioners can deliver quality service. Although records management is not offered by most of the educational institutions in countries such as South Africa, educational opportunities for records management practitioners in other countries such as Australia, United Kingdom, etc., range from short courses to post graduate programmes such as masters degrees. SHORT COURSE PROGRAMMES OFFERED IN AUSTRALIA

The following short courses developed by the Government of New South Wales (1999:1-

5) empower records management staff with the knowledge and skills required needed for the different roles they play in managing both manual and electronic records.

New South Wales as a leading provider of short course records management training in

Australia offers the following courses:

Records management fundamentals,

which is specifically meant for new-comers in the records management field.

Managing a records management program

designed in Australia for corporate records managers and other people responsible for implementing and managing a public office’s records management program as required under action 12 of the State

Records Act of 1998.

Managing electronic documents and messages

designed for people responsible for managing information resources including records across an organization. The programme provides participants with strategies for taking corporate control of documents and messages within a personal computing environment.

Appraisal and disposal of electronic records

designed for corporate records managers and archivists responsible for managing a records disposal program in technological environment.


ARMA International endorses a Bachelor’s degree or higher in several fields such as

Business, Library and Information Science for entry at the professional level into records management (Phillips, 1991:41) and (Bennet, 1999:41). South African institutions such as

RAU, UNISA, UNIZUL had introduced Records Management as a module in the

Department of Information Studies (Palmer, 200:3).

Furthermore, the Department of Library and Information Science at UNITRANS is offering an introductory paper on Archives and Records Management as part of the one year B.Bibl.Honours programme (Kangulu, 1998:122). Records management is also taught at Technikon Pretoria as a module for their Commercial Administration Diploma.

Even though records management education is offered as modules at some of the South

African universities, it is more widely through short courses and degree programme that one may qualify as a record manager (Webster, 1999:22). The training courses are designed to support best practices in the technological environment of records management and to help organizations to meet the requirements of government’s wide records management standards and code of best practice.

Since technology is changing the whole organizational approach, lifelong learning with much emphasis on electronic records management as a way forward, less emphasis on manual records management as historical background should be encouraged. Achieving the qualifications discussed here should enable any records manager to reach a level of excellence so that the challenges raised by technology may be encountered with excitement as well as confidence. With these qualifications, any records manager will recognize records, information, and knowledge as corporate assets and will be able to mange these assets effectively to help achieve organizational success (Bennett, 1999:41).



Three universities in the United Kingdom are currently offering courses leading to Master degrees in Records Management. The University of London offers a masters degree in

Archives and Records Management, The University of Liverpool offers a Masters in

Archives and Records Management and started with an MBA in Records Management in

1999. The University of Northumbria at Newcastle offers a Masters degree in Information and Records Management and in Records Management by distance learning. The

University College of London also offers a Doctoral program in Records Management.

The University of Wales, Aberystwyth, planned to start with a new degree programme in

Records Management in 1999, offered both full time and distance learning (Webster,

1999:22). Currently the University of Wales is offering degree programme in Records

Management as planned.


Lifelong learning is a process in terms of which records managers continue to learn in order to remain up to date with daily changes or improvements within their type of work.

It is, therefore, the responsibility of every organization to make sure that its employees receive lifelong learning. According to Robinson (1999:23) organizations control secure sponsors to conduct in-house training such as workshops and seminars, or encourage employees to affiliate to professional associations such ARMA International, Records

Management Society, International Records Management Federation, Records

Management Association, Association for Common Wealth Archivists and Records

Managers and to attend the conferences that are held by these associations.

As explained earlier, technology is very important in service delivery. It is only when

55 practitioners are not skilled enough in applying or using technology that service delivery deteriorates. It is, therefore, advisable for organizations to make sure that their staff members are computer literate.

Owing to technological advancement, most records managers are becoming irrelevant in promoting the role of records management in an organization. For the sake of organization’s success, the existence of records management is mainly necessary for the following reasons:

Service (effectiveness and efficiency)

Profit (cost avoidance)

Social (moral, ethics and legal responsibility)

It is increasingly acknowledged that the efficient control of recorded information leads to effective management which, in turn, means that information is more easily retrieved, readily identifiable and economically managed (The Library and Information Services of

Western Australia, 1999:1).

For their survival in the technological environment, records managers should strive to have a basic knowledge of

automated systems

and how they process data. Of utmost importance here is acquiring a good working knowledge of the most prevalent systems presently being employed in organizations such as transaction support systems (TPS), database management systems (DBMS), management information systems (MIS), decision support systems (DSS), data warehouse and electronic document management systems

(EDMS) (Bantin, 2001:18).

Owing to this latest tools with which records are created, stored and disposed, well-trained records managers can make a success of the strategic role of records management in an organization. For example, Polokwane Municipality uses well-trained IT specialists to support the records management section for quicker retrieval of records. Records are

56 electronically retrievable through the Document Organizational Control System (DOCS) software. If staff are not trained on how to use computers, services may be delayed while they are still struggling to master the complications of new technologies. The sooner users gain access to a particular record, the better the services they offer to members of the community.


According to the Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer (2000:1-3), the strategic role of records management is based on the following reasons:


control the creation and accumulation of records.

Despite decades of using various non-paper storage media, the amount of paper in offices continues to escalate.

An effective records management program addresses both creation control and records retention, thus stabilizing the growth of records in all formats.


reduce operating costs

. Although filing equipment, space in offices, and staffing to maintain an organized filing system cost money, the cost eventually is much higher if an organization does not have a record management program in place. Misplaced files could cost an organization more money to create new files.


improve efficiency and productivity

. Time spent searching for missing records is non-productive. A well-defined and operated filing system with an effective index can facilitate retrieval and delivery of information to users as quickly as they need it.


assimilate new records management technologies

. A good records management program provides an organization with the capability to assimilate new technologies and take advantage of their benefits.


ensure regulatory compliance

. The only way an organization can be reasonably sure that it fully complies with laws and regulations is by operating within a good record management program which takes responsibility for regulatory compliance.

Failure to comply with laws and regulations could result in severe fines, penalties or

57 other legal consequences.


minimize litigation and risks

. Organizations implement records management programs in order to reduce the risks associated with litigation and potential penalties.


safeguard vital information

. Every organization, public or private, needs a comprehensive program for protecting its vital records and information from catastrophe or disaster, because every organization is vulnerable to losses.


support management’s decision-making process

. In today’s organizational environment, the first manager to access relevant data wins, either by making the decision ahead of the competition, or making a better, more informed decision. A records management programme can help ensure that managers have the information they need when they need it.


preserve organizational memory

. An organization’s files contain its institutional memory which is created with a view to future management decisions and planning.


foster professionalism in an organization

. An office with papers lying all over gives the impression of a poor working environment. This may discourage customers and result in less of income.

In support of the above, the library and Information Services of Western Australia

(1999:1) and Ardern (1998:14) stated the following as justification for fasts related to records management:

To serve as the corporate memory of the organization

To document an organization’s accountability and decisions

To preserve the evidence of an organization’s activities

To enable timely access to current administrative information

To ensure that records of archival value are marked for preservation at the time of creation, and not inadvertently destroyed.

In order to provide better services through records management, records must be timely, accurate, cost effective, accessible and usable. Better information at the right time makes

for better organization.


Even if one argue that in paper-based systems, records management did not require theory but only a set of principles or techniques, one has to admit that the complexity of electronic records management has brought about both new theoretical and practical issues that must be addressed. Formal education has become the only effective means of providing records managers with the new skills required to operate in this environment

(Webster, 1999:22).



From technological point of view, the goal of the records manager is not to become a programmer, system analyst, or decision support specialist but rather to be a records professional who can speak the language of the technologist, understand how various data and information systems function, and be able to perform some basic tasks related to modeling and describing organizational processes (Bantin, 2001:19).

Without an ongoing effort to stay abreast of technological developments that are work related, many records managers will find their job skills less marketable. Knowing that one is contributing professionally will also reduce personal stress and provide for more enjoyable and satisfying work experience (Phillips, 1995:59).

It is in terms of the above information that well trained records management staff can make a difference towards improving the quality of services in records m anagement in a technological environment. In Chapter Five the focus falls on examining Electronic

Archived Records (EAR) within the context of Polokwane Municipality. The findings of the survey conducted shall also be discussed in this chapter.






This chapter divides the answers received in questionnaires into categories, gives totals and generally sets out the pattern of the responses in terms of percentages. The survey was deemed necessary based on a number of factors addressed in the previous chapters to find an answer to the question: How can electronic records management promote better service in a service organization?

The discussion of the findings is based on computerized data obtained from the questionnaires completed by the employees of Polokwane Municipality. The feedback of the survey was used mainly to determine if it is indeed to be recommended that organizations use records management to improve their service delivery.



The study conducted a survey by questionnaire. The survey approach is defined by Treece and Treece (1977:149) as a non-experimental type of research in which the researcher investigates a community or a group of people. This may be done by asking questions, by interviewing, by observing what people are doing, by telephone interviews, and by other techniques. The survey approach is also considered an exploratory technique of a learning process for setting up a larger research study.

Polit and Hungler (1983:189) describe a survey as any research activity in which the investigator gathers data from a portion of a population for the purpose of examining the

60 characteristics, opinions or intentions of that population. Furthermore, a survey is a method of obtaining a large amount of data, usually in a statistical form, from a large number of people in a relatively short period of time (McNeil,1990:19).

Brink (1996:154) defines a questionnaire as a self-report instrument where the respondents write their answers to printed questions on a document. A well-designed questionnaire is easy for the respondent to fill out, and is easy for the researcher to administer and score.

Researchers should distribute questionnaires to the respondents physically. To avoid a poor response rate as indicated by Behr (1988:162).

The questions in the questionnaire used in this study (Appendix 1), covered:

Access to electronic archived records

Maintenance and disposal of electronic archived records

Retention period of electronic archived records

Advantages and disadvantages of electronic archived records

Training (software and records management)

Apart from poor a response rate, there are other problems inherent in the use of questionnaires, as indicated by Behr (1988:163): “Questionnaires are on the whole instruments that provide information of a subjective nature, the validity and reliability of which are difficult to determine. Bias may arise from respondents’ misunderstanding questions, resentment of interference in their personal affairs, or falsification for reasons associated with the subject of the study.”

Bailey (1978:135) indicated the advantages of questionnaire surveys as follows:

Convenience: The respondents have ample time to answer the questions whenever they have time.

Greater assurance of anonymity: Since there is no interviewer present who will identify the respondents later, they may be willing to provide socially undesirable answers or

61 answers that violate norms.

The fact that each respondent is exposed to exactly the same wording facilities comparison of respondents’ answers.


Although it is convenient to use questionnaires as a data collection tool, it remains expensive to provide each respondent with a copy. Furthermore, it also takes lot of time for the researcher to go from one office to another to hand out and collect the questionnaires.



Although Behr (1988:162) indicated poor response rate as a serious disadvantage of using questionnaires, the researcher opted for physical distribution and collection of questionnaires to and from the respondents. Poor response rate normally occurs when public postal services are used as means of distribution and collection of questionnaires.

Questionnaires often get lost on their way back to the researcher. In addition, some respondents cannot find time to fill in the questionnaires unless they are encouraged by the researcher to do so.



Surveys through questionnaires are normally conducted anonymously. In this research, anonymity was maintained by means of the fact that none of the respondents were requested to fill in their names on the questionnaires. Respondents were assured that all information would be treated with utmost confidentiality. In this way it is hoped that the respondents could provide an objective answer to each of the questions. Nachmias and

Nachmias (1996:225) indicated that the absence of an interviewer provides greater

62 anonymity for the respondent. The assurance of anonymity that a questionnaire provides is especially helpful if the survey deals with sensitive issues.



The response rate is the percentage of respondents in the sample who returned completed questionnaires. The response rate is of great significance when making generalizations

(Nachmias & Nachmias, 1996:226). Although questionnaires are known to have a poor response rate, the researcher may obtain 100% response rate through physical involvement

(distribution and collection of questionnaires). In this project, all questionnaires were collected, i.e. 100% response rate.



A sample by definition is a part or fraction of a whole, or a subset of a larger set, selected by the researcher to participate in a research project. A sample, then, consists of a selected group of the elements or units from a defined population (Brink, 1996:133).

The major aim of this survey was to examine the role of electronic records management in a service organization. Polokwane Municipality was identified to represent such a service organization. The most influential divisions within Polokwane Municipality were selected

• to represent the entire population of Polokwane Municipality as follows:

Data Section of the Management Department

Traffic Section of the Protection Department

Services and Building Section of the Secretarial Department

Records Section of the Secretarial Department

Legal Section of the Secretarial Department

Income Section of the Treasury Department

Creditors Section of the Treasury Department


A total of 55 employees of Polokwane Municipality under the above-mentioned sections received questionnaires. The 55 employees who were selected to receive questionnaires play a major role in rendering community service, were available and willing to provide information.



Question 1

In which section do you work?

The majority (36.4%) of the respondents reported that they work in the Treasury

Department. 23.6% of the respondents indicated that they work in Secretarial Department,

21.8% stated that they work in Management Department, and 18.2% reported that they work in the Protection Department.

Question 2

What is your highest qualification?

A large number of the respondents (45.5%) indicated Standard 10 as their highest qualification, 27.3% indicated post school short course certificates as their highest qualification, 14.6% indicated a degree as their highest qualification, 9.1% indicated a post school diploma as their highest qualification, and 3.6% indicated other qualifications as their highest qualifications.





STD 10






Figure 5.1 Qualifications


It is interesting to note that though organizations depend on records management for their survival, only 23.7% of the employees indicated a degree or diploma as their highest qualification. (See figure 5.1.) This indicates either little effort with regard staff development by organizations or lack interest by employees to further their studies.

Table 5.1 Level of qualifications


Table 5.1 Qualifications per department

Std 10









70.0% certificate

Question 3.

What is your current post level?

The majority of the respondents (38.2%) fall within post level 8-10, 27.3% fall within post level 11-13, 25.5% fall within post level 5-7, and 9.1% fall within post level 3-4. Figures

5.2 illustrate the above results











3 to 4

5 to 7

8 to 10

11 to 13


Question 4

Figure 5.2 Post levels


How long have you been working for the Polokwane Municipality?

The majority of the respondents (38.2%) reported that they have four to ten years experience, 36.4% have more than ten years experience, 12.7% have two to three years experience, 9.15% have one to two years experience, and 3.6% have worked for

Polokwane municipality for less than one year.

Considering the lower number of employees with either a degree or diploma (see figure

5.1), it becomes clear that Polokwane Municipality relies strongly on experienced staff for their survival. Figure 5.3 indicates clearly that most employees who work for Polokwane

Municipality have more than ten years experience.





0 to 1 yr

1 to 2 yrs

2 to 3 yrs

4 to 10 yrs

10 yrs beyond


Question 5

Figure 5.3 Experience

Do you have access to electronic archived records?

A large percentage of the respondents (92.6) admitted that they have access to electronic archived records, whereas 7.4% do not have access. (See Figure 5.4.)

Yakel (2001:26) indicated that the implementations of electronic record-keeping systems can provide more people with access to information. Unlike Yakel, Stephens (1999:68) indicated that many platforms that exist, the lack of standardization, the rapid

66 developments in IT, all make it difficult to solve the problem of keeping electronic records available and accessible.





Figure 5.4 Access to electronic archived records

Table 5.2 Access to electronic archived records

Table 5.2 Access to electronic archived records departmentally

Department Department





Yes 100% 90% 92.3% 90%

No 0% 10% 7.7% 10%

Question 6

How often are electronic archived records used in your section?

The majority (69.1%) stated that they use electronic archived records very regularly,

21.8% use electronic archived records regularly, 3.6% use electronic archived records sometimes, while 5.5% never use electronic archived records.


Figure 5.5 indicates the rate at which electronic archived records is used in Polokwane

Municipality. Only a few of the respondents have never used electronic archived records, whereas a large number of employees rely on electronic archived records for their daily operation.




V. regularly





Figure 5.5 Use of electronic archived records

Figure 5.6 indicates how very regularly each department uses electronic archived records.

The majority of the respondents (75.0%) from the Management Department use electronic archived records very regularly, followed by the Protection Department with 70.0%, then the Secretarial Department with 69.2% and the Treasury Department with 65.0%.








Man. Dept.

Prot. Dept.

Secr. Dept.

Treas. Dept



Figure 5.6 Very regularly use of electronic archived records

Question 7

What type of electronic archived records do you access frequently?

The majority of the respondents access (81.5%) letters or correspondence frequently,


64.8% of the respondents access memorandums frequently, 53.7% of the respondents access minutes frequently, 44.4% of the respondents work with electricity and water statements, 20.4% of the respondents access traffic fines frequently, 1.9% don’t access any of the above-mentioned records, while 13.0% access other electronic archived records.

Figure 5.7 cites the above evidence. It seems as if letters are used more often than any other records.














Electricity & water statements

Letters/ Correspondence



Traffic fines




Figure 5.7 Accessibility of different types of electronic archived records

Table 5.3 depicts on how each department accesses different types of electronic archived records. It is interesting to note that different electronic archived records are used differently by different departments.

Table 5.3 Access of different types of electronic archived records departmentally


Electricity/Water statements 54.5%








Letters/Correspondence 100.0% 50.0% 100.0% 75.0%

Minutes 81.2% 20.0%

Traffic fines


0.0% 70.0% 30.8% 0.0%

0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 5.0%

Question 8a


Do you use the Document Organizational Control Systems (Docs)?

The majority (87.35) reported that they use Docs, whereas 12.7% indicated that they do not use Docs. Although it was previously reported that 92.6% of the respondents (see figure 5.1) have access to electronic archived records, it is surprising at this stage that

87.35% of the respondents (see figure 5.8) uses Docs to access electronic archived records.

This implies that Docs is not the only system used by Polokwane Municipality for electronic archived records.

Furthermore, it also implies that although other systems may exist, a large number of the employees prefer Docs. Langemo (1999:30) indicated that a high quality records management program provides organizations with legal defensibility, better customer service and an improved bottom line.





Figure 5.8 Use of Docs

Table 5.4 shows to what degree Docs is used per department. It is clear from the table below that all departments except management use more than one system to access electronic archived records.

Table 5.4 Use of Docs departmentally

Department Department.





YES 100.0% 70.0% 84.8% 90.0%

NO 0.0% 30.0% 15.2% 10.0%

Question 8b


Have you received training on how to use the Document Organization Control System


The majority (87.3%) indicated that they had received training, while 12.7% indicated that they had never received training. Figure 5.9 indicates the percentage of employees who received training on how to use Docs. It is interesting to note that the number of employees who received training correlates with the number of employees who use Docs to access electronic archived records. (See figure 5.8) This implies that better and quality service may be expected from employees of Polokwane Municipality since large number of them have been trained on how to use the system (Docs).





Table 5.5.

Figure 5.9 Training on how to use Docs

Level of training departmentally

Department Department.





YES 100% 70% 84.6% 90%

NO 0.0% 30% 15.4% 10%

Question 8c


If you answered yes in 8a, from whom did you receive training?

The majority (37.3%) received training from fellow colleagues, 11.8% received training from managers/supervisors, 21.6% received training from an outside consultant, 7.8% trained themselves, while 23.5% received their training from other sources. Although managers and outside consultant are used for training employees, it seems that most employees in the Polokwane Municipality simply train each other.




Fellow Colleague


Outside consultant

Self training




Question 8d

Figure 5.10 Source of training

If you answered yes in 8b, which one of the following best describes the length of your training?

The majority of the respondents (48.0%) indicated a day as the length of their training,

42.0% indicated a week, 2.0% indicated two to four weeks, whereas 8.0% indicated more than two weeks as the length of their training


Since a large number of respondents indicated a day (see figure 5.11) as their length of training, it raises a concern as to how intensive their training was.













2 to 4 Weeks

More than 2 yrs


Figure 5.11 Length of training

Question 9a

Do you maintain electronic archived records?

The majority (58.2%) indicated that they maintain electronic archived records, whereas

41.8% indicated that they don’t maintain electronic archived records. The response per department is as follows:

Table 5.6 Maintenance of electronic archived records departmentally

Department Department





YES 75.0% 30.0% 53.8% 65.0%

NO 25.0% 70.0% 46.2% 35.0%

Question 9b


If you answered yes in 9a, have you received training on how to maintain electronic archived records in a system such as Docs?

The majority (56.2%) reported that they had received training on how to maintain electronic archived records system, whereas 41% indicated that they had never received training.

Question 9c

If you answered yes in 9a, which one of the following best describes the frequency with which you maintain electronic archived records?

The majority of the respondents (44.7%) reported that they maintain their electronic archived records daily, 10.6% maintain electronic archived records on weekly basis,

12.8% maintain electronic archived records on monthly basis, and 4.3 maintain electronic archived records on annually basis 36.2% indicated other options for maintaining electronic archived records. According to Figure 5.12, recording keeping in a Polokwane

Municipality is very reliable. As electronic records are either maintained on daily or weekly basis, the quality of service is very high. It is easy to access relevant and reliable information.









Figure 5.12 Maintaining electronic archives records

Question 9d

Which one of the following best describes how often you electronically scan in new



The majority (72.3%) stated that they electronically scan in new records on daily basis,

12.8% on a weekly basis, 6.4% on a monthly basis and 8.5% on another basis. Figure 5.13 indicates the dedication of employees in Polokwane Municipality. In support of using scanners, Van Zyl (1992:27) indicated that document imaging and scanning has become increasingly popular, and can be a very useful storage device, provided that it is applied to serve the best interests of the client.















Figure 5.13 Scanning in new records

Question 9e

Which one of the following best describes how often you load electronic archived records onto the mainframe?

40.0% of the respondents reported that they load electronic archived records onto the mainframe on a daily basis, 42.2% on a weekly basis, 13.35% on a monthly basis and

2.2% once a year.

Figure 5.14 indicates how often employees load electronic archived records onto the mainframe. It shows clearly that a large number of the employees prefer loading electronic archived records either on a daily or weekly basis. Because the records are always up to date, quality service is guaranteed.
















Once a yr



Figure 5.14 Loading electronic archived records onto the mainframe

Question 10

How long are electronic archived records kept on your system?

The following table clearly indicates how electronic archived records are kept on the system. Quality service is guaranteed in this regard since the majority (78.8%) keeps electronic archived records for longer than two years. According to Benson (1998:64) every organization needs to create and maintain a records retention schedule to determine when records can legally be destroyed.

Figure 5.7 Length of keeping electronic archived records

Less than 1Month

1 to 6 Months

7 to 12 Months

1 to 2 Years

Longer than 2 Years






Question 11a

Who is responsible for electronic archived records disposal?

The majority of the respondents (56.8%) indicated that the records manager is responsible

76 for disposing of electronic archived records, 39.6% indicated the database administrator, and 3.8% indicated that the task is carried by other people. As not everybody is responsible for the disposal of electronic archived records, one may assume that the records manager, in cooperation with the database administrator, knows exactly what to dispose of.

Question 11b

Are you allowed to dispose of electronic archived records?

The majority of the respondents (90.9%) stated that they are not allowed to dispose of electronic archived records, 5.5% stated that they are allowed, and 3.6% stated that they do not know whether they were allowed to do so.

Question 11c

If yes in 11b, have you received training on how to dispose of electronic archived records?

The majority (93.3%) stated that they had never received training on how to dispose of electronic archived records and 6.7% stated that they had been trained.

Question 12a

For each of the following, please indicate the percentage of saving you believe occurred with the introduction of the electronic archived records at Polokwane Municipality


The following table indicates on how each department reacted to the above question:


Table 5.8 Extent of saving since the introduction of electronic archived records

Saving time








100.0% 66.7% 83.3%

Saving money 81.1% 100.0% 66.7% 87.5%

According to Lysakowski and Doyle (1998:27) it saves an organization time if it has all its data in one place. This implies that it does not take much time for users to access records because the same record may be accessed by more than one person from different access points. Technology therefore saves employees of Polokwane Municipality time when they need to locate relevant records.

Question 12 b

To what extent do you believe has the introduction of electronic archived records resulted in improving each of the following


Table 5.9 depicts how the introduction of electronic archived records has improved the lives of the employees of Polokwane Municipality. Langemo (1999:30) indicated better customer service as one of the areas of improvement if a high quality records management program is introduced in an organization.

Table 5.9 Extent of improvement since the introduction of electronic archived records

Areas of improvement

Customer satisfaction

Job satisfaction

Quality service





Question 13a

Which of the following would you consider as advantages of electronic records management?


The following table reflects how the respondents rated advantages of electronic archived records.

Table 5.10 Advantages of electronic records management

Advantages of electronic archived records Percentage

Accessibility of records

Time saving

Space saving




Quality service 72.7%

Other 1.8%

Question 13

Which of the following do you consider as disadvantages of electronic records management?

The following table reflects how respondents rated the disadvantages of electronic archived records.

Table 5.11 Disadvantages of electronic records management

Disadvantages of electronic archived records Percentage

Records not accessible when system is down 89.1%

Not enough people are skilled to access records 63.6%

The system is slow 41.8%

The system is not user friendly 38.2%

Other 3.6%

Question 14

Have you received any records management training?

The majority of the respondents (83.6%) indicated that they had never received records

79 management training and 16.4% indicated that they had received training. The following table reports on how respondents reacted per department.

Table 5.12 Records management training

Department Department.





YES 0.0% 0.0% 46.2% 15.0%

Question 15

Do you belong to any professional association in records management?

The majority of the respondents (96.4%) stated that they did not belong to any professional association. 3.6% stated that they did belong to a professional association.

The following table shows how respondents from each department reacted on the question of professional association membership. A few members from Management Department and the Secretarial Department indicated that they were affiliated to a professional association for records management such the South African Archive Association.

Table 5.13 Professional association

Department Department





YES 8.3% 0.0% 7.7% 0.0%

Question 16

The following recommendations were made by the respondents:

System must be faster and more user friendly.

Intensive training is necessary.


All payments of the day should reflect on the system as soon as manual receipts have been issued.


The main findings based on the interpretation of the data, revealed the following aspects in relation to electronic records management within Polokwane Municipality:

Access to and use of electronic archived records

Advantages and disadvantages of electronic archived records

Maintenance of electronic archived records

Retention period of electronic archived records

Disposal of electronic archived records

Training (software and records management)



Electronic archived records are easily accessible since 92% the employees of Polokwane

Municipality to have access to the system. Yakel (2001:26) indicated that the implementation of an electronic record-keeping system can provide more people with access to information. It is also important to note that a large number of the employees

Polokwane Municipality use electronic archived records regularly.

Accessibility and regular use of electronic archived records clearly explains how important records management is in rendering a quality service to the community. Employees would not have used electronic archived records regularly if there had been no demands from the community. The fact that they are not struggling to access such records, proves that the system is satisfying the demands of the community.

Communicating with members of the community is another way of rendering quality

81 service. According to the findings, letters as a form of communication between Polokwane

Municipality and members of the community are accessed more often than any other archived records. Access to electricity and water statements is also a major factor in rendering quality service. It is the right of the community to know how much they owe at all times. Records about water and electricity consumption should, therefore, be ready and accessible at all times. According to the findings of the survey, electricity and water statements are used regularly.

Minutes and memorandums are required during council meetings, board meetings and staff meetings on regular basis for quicker resolutions. The authorities of Polokwane

Municipality rely heavily on previous minutes and memorandums for decision making.

The minutes and memorandums that are available on the Docs system are visited on a regular basis.





The following emerged as advantages of electronic archived records in Polokwane


Records are easily accessible.

Electronic archived records save time.

Electronic archived records save space.

The system improves own job satisfaction.

It improves customer satisfaction.

It improves quality of service rendered to the community.



The following emerged as disadvantages of electronic archived records in Polokwane


Records are not accessible when the system is down.

Not enough employees are skilled enough to access records.

Based on the above advantages and disadvantages, it is easy to draw the following

• conclusions:

Electronic records management is there to stay in Polokwane Municipality.

A back-up system is necessary for records retrieval when the system is down.

Intensive training is still needed.


Records are kept as long as possible for future reference. Every organization needs to create and maintain a records retention schedule to determine when documents can legally be destroyed (Benson, 1998:64). Such a schedule ensures that records will be available and that the retention times will be appropriate to meet users’ needs as well as requirements of applicable laws and regulations (Langemo, 1999:32).

However, there seems to be no standardized electronic record keeping policy. Some employees indicated that they keep records from one to two years, whereas others reported that they kept records for longer than two years. The retention period may be based on the records manager’s or analyst’s experience with similar records, knowledge relating to other organization’s retention of similar records, original research of government statutes and regulations, or from other sources such as published retention information, as long as such information can be deemed reliable (Penn,

et al;


Although the retention period differs in the various to departments in Polokwane, it would

83 seem that it is up to the records manager’s discretion with the help of representatives from other departments, to decide when to keep what and for how long. The reason may be that departments do not keep the same records. Other factors that may influence the determination of retention periods irrespective of departmental or organization structure are: organizational, governmental, or archival regulations related to administrative, fiscal, legal, and historical values of the records (Penn,

et al

; 1989:178).



Records are disposed of in either the data section or the records management section. This raises a concern as to which division is responsible for the disposal of records. According to Penn,

et al

; (1989:170) destruction can be carried out by departmental representatives, there is not always a need for records managers to become involved in the actual process of destruction. However, it remains the responsibility of the records manager to make periodic checks to ensure that the work is being carried out.

Database administrators have been trained on how to control data while records managers have been trained how to control records. Database administrators may only advise records managers on how to dispose of records. This implies that database administrators cannot be held responsible for any records that may have been disposed of by mistake. It remains the responsibility of records managers to decide which records to dispose of and to check whether the correct steps have been followed (Penn,

et al

; 1989:170).

In Polokwane Municipality, both records managers and database administrators have been trained how to dispose of records. This does, however, not give database administrators full responsibility in terms of records disposal.



In Polokwane Municipality, the duration of software training takes either a day or a week.


The question is: How intensive is such training? Unfortunately, most of the training is conducted by fellow colleagues who perhaps received training for only one day or for a week. The quality of service resulting from such short term training is questionable.

To render a simple service, staff members are required to be literate. They do not transpose numbers or letters, and should have an understanding of the importance of security.

Quality service, however, requires highly qualified people (Penn,

et al

; 1989:184). The

Department of Information Sciences at Moi University recognized the need to produce graduates equipped with appropriate knowledge and skills in the management of electronic records (Barata, Kutzner and Wamukoya, 2001:39).

Only a few employees from two departments of the Polokwane Municipality have received records management training. There is no one from the Records Division with either a diploma or a degree. This means that training for records management in the Records

Management Division and to selected members from the Secretarial Department is basically offered on a short term basis. Appointment in a records management position is based on experience rather than a qualification.



Employees of the Polokwane Municipality view technology as a means to reduce their workloads, satisfy customer’s needs and render quality service.

Records managers should be comfortable with the emerging technology and be familiar with all information management applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, database management, electronic mail,etc. Records management goals and objectives should, therefore, be linked to the information technology strategy of an organization to ensure the application of the most suitable technology in hardware and software (Van Zyl,

1992:27). Promotion of quality service should be among the major aims and goals of introducing electronic records management.


Based on the findings of the survey, well-planned electronic records management help organizations to render quality service and increase the organization’s profitability and competitiveness. Skilled and competent staff are required to address the issue of quality service in an organization.

In the following chapter, chapters One to Five will be summarized and a conclusion made, based on literature review and the survey. Recommendations on the survival of records management in a service organization shall be also set out.





The main objective of this study was to investigate whether a service organization, like


Polokwane Municipality, can rely on electronic records management to improve the service it renders to the community.

Chapter One provided a background to the study and set out the problem statement. The research methods and chapter outline were also given in the first chapter thus providing a broad overview of the current position of electronic records management in a service organization.

Chapter Two looked into the different concepts related to records management to identify similarities and differences. Although organizations use records for their daily operations, some still cannot differentiate between records management, archive management, information management, and administration. Each concept was therefore, defined and explained in detail to assist service organizations in identifying what were they doing in practice.

Chapter Three examined records management automation, its brief life cycle and specific applications. The chapter also looked into the effect of electronic records management in a service organization. The effects are discussed from both positive and negative angle. The chapter also set out the challenges facing electronic records management.

Chapter Four spelled out the strategic role of records management through technological advancement, professionalism, training and skills of records managers. The aim of the chapter was to examine the extent to which records management plays a role in an organization’s daily operation. The more records management lags behind in either one of the above aspects (technology, professionalism, training, etc.), the less are the chances of it playing a crucial role in an organization’s daily operations.

Chapter Five covered an electronic records management survey within the Polokwane

Municipality and set out the findings of the survey. In this chapter electronic records management is seen as a mechanism/tool to be used by service organizations to improve

87 the quality of service offered to the community. The skills and training of records managers are of utmost importance in this regard.



Based on information gathered the during literature review and the survey, the following conclusions may be made:

Electronic archived records are essential for rendering quality service.

Training is of utmost importance when using electronic archived records in a

• service organization.

Access to electronic archived records does not guarantee service quality but service quantity instead. Organizations must, therefore, make sure that employees are skilled enough to guarantee quality in whatever service they are rendering.

Like manual records, proper electronic records management (disposal, maintenance, etc.) is of utmost importance for speedy retrieval of records and cost reduction.



Based on the findings and literature review, the following recommendations are made for the survival of records management in a service organization. These recommendations

• relate to:


Disposal responsibility

Professional affiliations


The way forward in records management




Having identified the insufficient duration of training and the sources of training in

Polokwane Municipality, it is recommended that service organizations consider training seriously. The period of training should be increased to guarantee quality service in the long term. Training should be conducted by outside consultants and by senior members of staff who are qualified enough in that particular field.

The duration and the source of training normally determine the kind of service the trainees are going to offer. Poor training results in poor service. Service organizations should, therefore, make sure that the training they offer is as intensive as possible. The intensity of the training is obviously subject to the duration of the training and the qualifications of the trainers.

Organizations should negotiate with institutions of higher learning that have already indicated interest in records management training, such as RAU, University of Transkei,

UNISA, to introduce records management training as a short course or a degree programme.

The need still exists for organizations to provide training and continuing education for records staff in the management of computerized records. Although records staff do not require high-level computer skills, they must be taught to understand the principal concepts and the technical limitations in information technology (Barata, Kutzner and

Wamukoya, 2001:41).



The disposal of records is a major decision to be taken by records managers. They must, therefore, be empowered to do so, and must have the necessary knowledge about the organization to enable them to take such decisions. Since two sections in the Polokwane


Municipality are responsible for records disposal, it is advisable to give the records manager the necessary authority and responsibility for the disposal of these records. He or she should inform other departments on what, how and when to dispose records. A records division under the leadership of a records manager should be responsible for all decisions with regard to records disposal.



The fact that only two employees of the Polokwane Municipality are affiliated to professional associations indicates a lack of interest or knowledge about the benefits of being a member of a professional association. Service organizations should encourage their employees to affiliate with relevant professional organizations. Not only do employees benefit, but the organization also benefits in terms of the skills and knowledge employees gain from workshops and seminars. The basic aim of most professional organizations is to promote lifelong learning. According to Gunnlausdottir (1999:34), the aim of an association is to increase knowledge and improve understanding of records management by individuals, enterprises, and public bodies.



Electronic records management was introduced as a solution to manual records management. Like any other program electronic records management also has its weaknesses. Security and skilled manpower are the most burning issues in electronic records management today.


Since technology is associated with loss of information in different mechanisms, it remains

90 important for service organizations to make sure that their records are safe. Records may be totally destroyed by lack of the necessary security precautions. Security measures should be implemented to protect records against industrial espionage and vandalism, and to prevent them from being accessed or destroyed by unauthorized persons (Van Zyl,

1992:28). Access to records should, therefore, be reserved to clients with passwords.

Firewalls should be installed if records are available online. If competitors gain access randomly, an organization’s success may be in jeopardy. It is important for records managers and database administrators to make sure that records are safe and protected against illegal access.

It would not sufficient to discuss the issue of security without addressing the issue of signatures. With manual records management it is easy to sign a record as a matter of security. Although electronic signatures were brought in an attempt to eradicate forgeries, it is still not safe enough to rely on electronically signed records. Much has still to be done.

Owing to the fact that electronic records management relies on electricity for retrieval, it is advisable for service organizations to introduce a backup system which can be used when electricity is down. Organizations may lose unsaved records at the time of a power failure.

If backup systems are implemented, the chances of loosing records are limited.


The rapid changes taking place in the workplace have resulted in a reassessment of the skills required to perform jobs. Employers should encourage their staff to take control of their own career paths and develop their skills to meet the challenging needs through lifelong learning (Ardern, 1998:16).

Technology is changing regularly, and systems are revised regularly and new tools are being introduced. It is, therefore, very important for organizations to keep their employees up to date on all the changes that are taking place in the technological environment.

Regular workshops should be conducted in this regard.




Although the study addressed the most crucial and challenging aspect of records

• management, the following areas should receive further attention in the near future:

Security of vital records in an electronic environment

Possible training mechanisms for records managers

Professionalism in records management.



Records managers have a professional responsibility to continue to manage recorded information. The move from manual to electronic media should provide record managers with the opportunity to rejuvenate outdated programs and launch new ones. This will only happen if records managers take responsibility for educating themselves about information technology and how it affects the work of their organizations. Combined with their detailed knowledge of the records, people, and process of the organization, this will put records managers in a unique position. They will become an important asset in simplifying the complex needs of users for information, while ensuring the organization’s accountability for the substantiation of the information it holds.

The future of records managers depends much on collective mastering of information technology to show that records management practice is an essential constituent part of imaging, LANs, E-mail, and other electronic record keeping. Expertise in the field of information systems technologies is essential when making decisions on specific technologies, systems and software packages. If the expertise does not exist within the organization, consultants would be recommended to assist in the planning and installation of these systems (Van Zyl, 1992:27).


Based on the introduction of new technologies, the future role of records managers has shifted from office bearers to information searching consultants. Unlike in the past, records users can now have access to whatever records anywhere, any time, for as long as they have password access those records. Records managers are no longer consulted strictly in their respective offices: they have become information searching consultants, helping clients in case of any technical problems related to records. Much of their service must be rendered be rendered online. Online communication forms the basis of their future.



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Kindly complete the following short questionnaire regarding electronic archived records by crossing the block corresponding to your answer.

Please do not enter your name on the questionnaire. It remains anonymous.

It should not take you more than 10 minutes to complete.

Kindly return the questionnaire within four days.

1. In which section do you work?

Management Department

Protection Department

Secretarial Department

Data Section

Traffic Section



Services and Building Section 3





2. What is your highest qualification?

Standard 10 (grade 12) 1

Post school short course certificate 2

Post school diploma 3

Degree 4

Other (Please specify.) 5

What is your current post level?

Post level 1-2

Post level 3-4

Post level 5-7

Post level 8-10

Post level 11-13 5

Post level 14-16 6

Post level 17-19 7





4. How long have you been working for Polokwane Municipality?

Less than a year

One to two years

Two to three years

Four to ten years





More than ten years 5

Do you have access to electronic archived records?

Yes 1

No 2

6. How often are electronic archived records used in your section?



Electricity and water statements 1

Letters/correspondence 2

Minutes 3

Memorandums 4

Traffic fines 5

None 6

Other (Please specify.) 7

8a. Do you use the Document Organization Control System (Docs)?

Yes 1

No 2

8b. Have you received training on how to use the Document Organization Control

System (Docs)?

What type of electronic archived records do you access frequently? (Mark all applicable answers).

Yes 1

No 2

Very regularly 1

Regularly 2

Sometimes 3

Seldom 4

Never 5




If you answered yes in 8a, from whom did you receive training? (Mark all applicable.)

Fellow colleague 1

Manager/Supervisor 2

Outside consultant

Self training

Other (Specify.)




If you answered yes in 8b, which one of the following best describes the duration of your training?

One day

One week

Two to four weeks

Two to six months

Seven to twelve Months 5

More than two years 6





9a. Do you maintain electronic archived records?

Yes 1

No 2

9b. If you answered yes in 9a, have you received training on how to maintain an electronic archived records system such as Docs?

Yes 1

No 2

9c. If you answered yes in 9a, which one of the following best describes the frequency with which you maintain electronic archived records? (Mark all applicable answers.)

Daily 1

Weekly 2


Monthly 3

Annually 4

Other (Specify) 5

9d. Which one of the following best describes how often you electronically scan in new records?

Daily 1

Every 2 nd

day 2

Weekly 3

Every 2 nd

week 4

Monthly 5

Other (Please specify.) 6

9e. Which one of the following best describes how often you load electronic archived records onto the mainframe?

Daily 1

Weekly 2

Monthly 3

Once a year 4

Other (Please specify.) 5


How long are electronic archived records kept on your system?

Less than 1 month

1 to 6 months

7 to 12 Months

1 to 2 years

Longer than 2 years






11a. Who is responsible for the disposal of electronic archived records?

Database administrator


Records manager 2

Other (please specify.) 3

11b. Are you allowed to dispose of electronic archived records?


Yes 1

No 2

Do not know 3

11c. If yes in 11b, have you received training on how to dispose of electronic archived records?

Yes 1

No 2

12a. For each of the following, please indicate the percentage of saving you believe occurred with the introduction of the electronic archived records at Polokwane.

Saving in time 1% to 10% 11% to 20% 21% to 50% More than 50%

Saving in money 1% to 10% 11% to 20% 21% to 50% More than 50%

12b. To what extent do you believe has the introduction of electronic archived records resulted in improving each of the following?

Customer satisfaction

Your own job satisfaction

extent extent



To a large extent

To a large extent

To a very large extent

To a very large extent

Rendering of a quality




To a large extent

To a very large extent

13a. Which of the following would you consider as advantages of electronic records management? (Mark all applicable answers.)

Records are easily accessible.

It saves time.

It saves space.

It improves the quality of service offered to the community.

Other (Please indicate.)







13b. Which one of the following do you consider as disadvantages of electronic records management? (Please mark all applicable answers.)


Records are not accessible when the system is down.

Not enough people are skilled enough to access records.

The system is slow.

The system is not user friendly.

Other (Please indicate.)

Have you received any records management training?






Yes 1

No 2


If yes, describe the nature and extent of the training---------------------------------------





Do you belong to any professional association in records management?

Yes 1

No 2 the electronic records management system in Polokwane Municipality?






Thank you for your assistance

Kindly return the questionnaire to Moss Makhura

PO. Box 31147