Digital continuity

Advice regarding digital continuity, ie the ongoing management of digital information, is provided in the Digital Continuity Plan.

What is digital transition?

The Australian Government Digital Transition Policy requires each agency to move to digital records and information management for efficiency purposes and other benefits. Some agencies are already well advanced with this, but for others this will require a change from work practices which rely on paper-based information to fully or primarily digital information management.

Most government information is created and used digitally, but many agencies then print the information to obtain a signature or 'for the record' or for other outdated work processes. If information in digital formats is printed, it loses valuable context, it is less easily shared or reused and it is inefficient. Digital transition will help to achieve Government targets for reducing printer and paper usage.

In some rare cases, information may need to be in paper format, but these instances should be handled as exceptions. In other cases, preference should be given to receiving, keeping and managing business information in digital formats, including scanning incoming paper information where practical.

Depending on your current situation, digital transition may require your agency to:

  • commit to digital information management practices by discouraging the creation and use of paper for retention purposes
  • review work processes and information flows to determine where paper-based practices can be replaced by digital practices
  • limit the creation of paper-based information to that which must be kept and managed as paper, for example, information with security or legislative requirements that can only be met in paper format
  • implement measures to scan incoming paper information where it will provide efficiencies or other benefits
  • review and address, as required, the information managed by business systems (such as content management, human resource, finance and agency-specific business systems and databases) to ensure that the information can be managed appropriately by the business system for as long as it is needed. To achieve this, business systems may need improved functionality.

Managing change

Agencies should develop their own plans for digital transition, informed by Check-up results and shaped by their particular business priorities and risks.

However, in each agency a senior officer should oversee implementation of the Digital Transition Policy and ensure that the agency information remains accessible and usable. Appropriate change management strategies should also be applied.

Where to begin

Your agency will need to determine the best starting point for ‘going digital’ based on the current situation, the expected efficiencies and other benefits.

Digital transition is almost certain to involve changes to operations and business processes, technology and the behaviours of people involved. Digital transition may also trigger strategic changes for your agency such as the way in which products or services are delivered or outcomes are achieved.

Many agencies already have formal mechanisms for establishing priorities for new programs, projects and change initiatives and digital transition should be incorporated into these mechanisms.

Specific issues that may need particular attention include:

  • the expected lifespan of the digital information, how it will be used and what is required to ensure it remains fit for purpose throughout its useful life
  • the lifespan of digital information will probably be different to the life of other assets (such as software and hardware) in an investment decision, so the information will need to be managed beyond the life of the system
  • the behaviours expected of people who have to capture and use the information – ensure that the right thing to do is the easy thing to do
  • not treating it solely as a technology challenge – behaviour change and process review are usually more challenging.

If your agency is not sure where to start:

  • Develop an understanding of the state of your agency's information and record environment from your Check-up results. Based on your first assessment, identify priority actions for your agency and seek support for the case for digital transition.
  • Develop a plan for transition, using change management strategies to support the transition.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Digital Continuity Principles and the Digital Continuity Plan.
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019