Why is digital preservation documentation important to you and your organization?

Digital Preservation documentation takes a number of different forms at the National Archives of Australia (NAA), including procedures and guidelines. 

DP documentation is critical to us for a number of reasons:

  • Clear and consistent approach to digital preservation/digital archiving activities and processes.  Clarity and consistency is important given the complexity of digital transfers from agencies 

  • Risk mitigation - given the risks involved in managing digital records (inherent fragility etc) a clear risk mitigation is to have complete and accurate documentation to ensure consistent treatment of digital records

  • Compliance and auditing - artifacts like SOPs are also important for auditing purposes.  We often have internal and external audits of functions and processes.  There is a need for transparency and sound records management.

  • Business continuity and succession planning - very important for new staff coming on board to have clear instructions/documentation

  • Training and onboarding/induction - procedures etc are important as a training resource

  • Knowledge retention - Content Manager/TRIM is our corporate recordkeeping system and all key documents/records are stored there.  We need to ensure that current procedures, processes, workflows are captured there

  • Communication and collaboration - allows other areas of NAA and other institutions to have a shared understanding of how we do things  


What tools or platforms do you use to create and provide access to your documentation? What works or doesn’t work well with these tools or platforms?

M365 and MS Office for document creation - we have Word templates for reports and other document types that include important information document owner, document approvals and document history.  All records need to be captured in Content Manager (with files and documents appropriately titled). Staff recordkeeping is not always great (eg titling, versioning, finalising), but you can usually find what you’re looking for. 


When do you create documentation and how often is it reviewed and updated?

NAA is currently in transition with the acquisition of Preservica, system development, organization restructure, so this aspect of digital archiving has been neglected and needs to be addressed.

In the past, documenting procedures and workflows has not been systematic and coverage has been quite patchy.   


What is the update process and how do you manage versions?

The document template should include a business owner and review date.  Versions are managed via the document approvals/history section of the template and versions are also managed in Content Manager (eg via document title).


What is next for digital preservation documentation at your organization?

There is a working Excel register titled Digital Preservation Task Logbook that sets out all completed and outstanding work, including documentation that needs to be created.  The spreadsheet includes columns for Task, Type (eg procedure), Priority, Risk, Complexity, Due Date, Responsible Officer, Status (complete, in progress, not started), Sign off (who the approving officer is), Comments, and Resource/Links (eg the Content Manager number of the document, link to a DPC page etc).


Are there any resources or examples that have been really useful to you in creating your own documentation?

Generally discussions with staff about gaps/requirements, DPC RAM and other audit tools


What tips do you have for people starting out on documenting their digital preservation activities?

  • Stakeholder engagement is always critical (could include mapping the business process through a methodology like Lean Six Sigma)

  • Use existing SOP and/or document templates that allow you to manage versions and approvals

  • Always include business owner and review date, think of the audience.

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