International records management standards: the challenges of achieving consensus

Date11 March 2014
Publication Date11 March 2014
AuthorGillian Oliver
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Information management & governance
International records
management standards: the
challenges of achieving consensus
Gillian Oliver
School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington,
Wellington, New Zealand
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to identify and explore the tensions inherent in the
development of international standards for records management, focusing on the revision of ISO15489.
The paper aims to raise awareness of the need for much more research into the uptake and
implementation of records management standards.
Design/methodology/approach – The experiences of the ISO committee responsible for drafting
ISO15489 provides the context in which to review the literature relating to standards development in
information technology.
Findings – The development of mutual trust or social capital between ISO committee members
responsible for the initial drafting of ISO15489 may have been instrumental in achieving a successful
outcome which masked on-going fundamental differences. Environmental factors are quite different
for the revision of ISO15489 suggesting that positive social capital may not be generated. The
objective of ISO15489 to be an anticipatory or reactive standard needs to be resolved.
Originality/value – Drawing on experiences from a related domain provides a new perspective for
those involved in drafting records management standards, and explains to the broader records
community why standard setting is so challenging.
Keywords Internationalstandards, ISO 15489, Standards development process
Paper type Research paper
The past two decades have seen remarkable progress made in terms of the publication
of national and international standards for records management. However, the
development of these standards has not been without controversy, and the most recent
attempts to revise ISO 15489 seem to present yet another watershed moment. The
purpose of this paper is to reflect on the development process using documented
experiences from another standards setting discipline with a view to explaining why
the development of international standards by consensus is so challenging.
The paper begins by setting out the background to the development of the
International Standard on Records Management, ISO 15489, and subsequent work of
the committee responsible for its drafting. This is followed by a review of the literature
relating to standards development in information technology. The discussion
considers the role of social capital in the development process, the tension between
expectations for an anticipatory as opposed to a reactive standard and the need for
further research into the implementation and use of records management standards.
The world’s first standard for records management was published in 1996. The
Australian Records Management Standard AS4390, had as its theoretical basis the
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 4 January 2014
Revised 5 February 2014
Accepted 6 February 2014
Records Management Journal
Vol. 24 No. 1, 2014
pp. 22-31
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/RMJ-01-2014-0002

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