ISO 23081 for Records Management Metadata

A new set of ISO guidelines has been published to enable management to deliver authentic, reliable, and usable records over time to meet their business needs.

Records are created, received, and constantly referred to in the conduct of business activities. To preserve records and guarantee their authenticity, reliability, usability, and integrity, metadata must be produced through time both within and across domains. The implementation of the new ISO 23081-1:2006 will support business and records management processes by enabling records to be used in any application or information system.

Before continuing to describe this new standard, let’s discuss metadata, which literally means data about data. An example is the library catalog card, which contains data about the contents and location of a book. Other types of metadata would include the source or author of a described dataset, how it should be accessed, and its limitations. So, Metadata is structured information that describes, explains, locates, or otherwise makes it easier to retrieve, use, or manage an information resource.

Robert McLean, an expert member of the ISO subcommittee responsible for archives and records management, comments: “ISO 23081-1 clearly shows how an organization can systematically and effectively improve its recordkeeping – and do so in such a way that the business objectives are supported.”

By creating and maintaining reliable records, and protecting their integrity as long as is required, organizations can reap the benefits of conducting their business in an orderly, efficient, and accountable manner. “Senior management will be able to identify tangible benefits such as reduced costs and better managed risks, thereby contributing to better corporate governance,” further notes Mr. McLean

The new ISO standard is a guide to understanding and implementing metadata for use within the framework of ISO 15489,Information and documentation – Records management. It addresses the relevance of records management metadata in business processes and the different roles and types of metadata that support business and records management processes. It also sets a framework for managing these metadata.

Benefits expected to result from records management metadata include the ability to:

  • Protect records as evidence and ensure their accessibility and usability through time;
  • Facilitate the ability to understand records;
  • Support and ensure the evidential value of records;
  • Help to ensure the authenticity, reliability, and integrity of records;
  • Support and manage access, privacy, and rights, as well as support efficient retrieval.

ISO 23081-1:2006, Information and documentation – Records management processes – Metadata for records – Part 1: Principles, is the first part of an overall framework being developed over the next two years. It will include ISO 23081-2, Implementation issues and ISO 23081-3, Evaluation instrument for existing metadata sets or schemas to assess them in relation to the principles in part 1 of ISO 23081.