Commonwealth Arms

Improving Electronic Document Management

Guidelines For Australian Government Agencies

Note for electronic edition: This document was translated to HTML and placed on-line by the Department of Defence, from a RTF copy provided by OGIT in August 1996. Electronic copies of diagrams were not available and have been omitted. Comments on the mark-up and content should be addressed to: Tom Worthington, (Former Chair of the IESC EDMSC), Deputy Director Information Management Plans & Defence Web Administrator, Information Management Branch, Department of Defence, e-mail:

Copyright notice from the paper edition (October 1995): Prepared By The IESC's Electronic Data Management Subcommittee

Copyright (c) Commonwealth of Australia 1995

ISBN 0 644 35724 X

This work is copyright. Apart from any use which is permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without the written permission of the Executive Director, Office of Government Information Technology, East Wing, Old Parliament House, Parkes ACT 2600.

Any enquiries should be directed to:

Executive Assistant
Office of Government Information Technology
PO Box E437
Queen Victoria Terrace
Canberra ACT 2600
Ph: +61 6 271 4832
Fax: +61 6 271 4899


The increasing penetration of computer networks into government agencies means that more and more essential documents are not only being created and stored on computers, but are being transmitted electronically within and between agencies, thus spending their entire lifetime in electronic form.

Traditional records management techniques have been addressed largely at the management of paper files. It is now time for these techniques to be extended to the management of electronic documents, otherwise we risk the loss of valuable corporate memory through the inaccessibility or inadvertent destruction of valuable documents, and the confusion of the corporate record through the unnecessary retention of non-essential documents.

These guidelines outline the issues to be addressed in introducing an electronic document management system into an agency, combining records management principles with practical advice on the implementation of the necessary records management procedures and information technology support.


Executive Summary

Concerns are being expressed throughout government administration that the corporate foundation of information is being diffused. This is happening with the proliferation of computers and their associated networks without adequate control mechanisms to ensure the availability of information to all who may have a reasonable need for it.

Fully effective management of electronic documents requires consideration of an agency's total information environment. No single medium now holds all the documents relating to an agency's business activities. All sources should be managed in a coordinated way, in a manner appropriate to their environment, in order to preserve and provide access to business documents.

Electronic document management systems are more than just systems for tracking the location of electronic documents. Such systems should manage documents for their complete life cycle based on the value of the document to the agency's business. Just as there are standard procedures for the registration of paper documents and records, suitable procedures should be implemented to manage each electronic document throughout its life from creation to disposal.

The introduction of a new document management system should be done in two stages:

There are three basic strategies for dealing with electronic documents.

Whatever strategy is adopted, the document management system must:

Once the software and procedures for an electronic document management system are in place, it will require on-going operational support in order for it to work. This support comes from four main sources:

These guidelines are intended for senior managers and information and records managers confronted with the task of implementing effective systems for the management of electronic documents. They are a guide, they are not mandatory requirements or standards. Although the guidelines have been produced primarily for Commonwealth agency information and records managers, the basic principles can be applied in any organisation that maintains documents in an electronic format.

The guidelines are structured in three parts:

The appendices contain reference information relevant to the issues discussed in the body of the guidelines.

Next: Part 1 - Principle and Strategies or Contents
See also:

Copyright (c) Commonwealth of Australia 1996