Co-Design of Information Systems with Digital Records Management
A Proposal for Research
Sherry L. Xie
Key Laboratory of Data Enginerring and Knowledge Engineering, Ministry of Education, Beijing, China
Center for Electronic Records Management Research, Beijing, China
School of Information Resource Management, Renmin Univeristy of China,
59 Zhonguancun Ave, Beijing, China
Keywords: Information System, Business Process Management, Records Management, Design Science.
Abstract: This position paper, via rationalizing the potentials of carrying out a carefully crafted research project,
argues that the three fields of enterprise information system, business process management, and digital
records management should join forces in serving the needs of organizations, regardless of their types. By
preliminary findings uncovered during the conceiving process of the project, it advocates that the best point
of convergence is the design phase, a basic step for all of the three fields and an increasingly critical one in
today’s digital environment.
Information systems (ISs), business process
management (BPM), and digital records
management (DRM) are typically viewed as
independent fields, albeit in the context of
enterprises/organizations, they cross paths in more
than one ways. Aiming at exploring the relationships
between and among these fields, a research project
was conceived to identify the most efficient and
effective manner regarding their collaboration. This
paper introduces the conceiving process of the
project, along with the researcher’s (earlier) belief
that the best way of serving organization needs is to
consolidate the needs of business process, enterprise
information system, and digital records management
at the stage of (re-)design.
This section illustrates concepts key to the conceived
project, in a way that also serves the purpose of
providing the necessary background information of
this paper.
2.1 Records
Records have been the subject of scientific study
since the 17th century and had gone through phases
of being associated with the fields of diplomatics,
jurisprudence, history, archival science (Duranti,
1996) and records management (see, for example,
Schellenberg, 1956). Each field studied records with
distinctive focuses, for instance, diplomatics focuses
on record authenticity, jurisprudence on record
evidentiary quality, history on records traceability of
historical figures and events, and archival science
including records management on record(s) creation,
maintenance, and use. As a result, the characteristics
of records were historically articulated variously.
As a common construct in our modern society,
records have been defined by a variety of societal
actors such as legislative/regulatory bodies,
professional associations, and cultural institutions.
For instance, the United States Federal law defines
records in relation to the operation of the US Federal
Government (2006 Edition), the ARMA
International (2007) defines records with
considerations for the diverse nature of its member
organizations, and the Library and Archives Canada
(2004) defines records under the guidance of the
country’s documentary heritage framework. These
definitions are typically worded differently,
reflecting the different yet legitimate purposes that
they were intended to serve. This makes the
Xie, S..
Co-Design of Information Systems with Digital Records Management - A Proposal for Research.
In Proceedings of the 7th International Joint Conference on Knowledge Discovery, Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (IC3K 2015) - Volume 3: KMIS, pages 222-228
ISBN: 978-989-758-158-8
2015 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
common construct rather a complex concept in terms
of abstracting or generalizing its defining features
from practical usages for disciplinary developments.
As a result, the characteristics of records are
currently articulated variously, and research on the
concept of record has been ongoing (see, for
example, Reed, 2005; Yeo, 2007, Xie, 2013). For
the purpose of this paper, two definitions of records
are selected and analyzed as its communication
• records are documents created in the course of
conducting practical activities and set aside for
future actions or references (Duranti, 1994, 1998,
2002; Duranti and Thibodeau, 2006 ), and
• records are information created, received, and
maintained as evidence and information by an
organization or person, in pursuance of legal
obligations or in the transaction of business” (ISO
15489, 2001)
The ISO 15489 is the first international standard
on records and their management, and its definition
on records represents a comparatively high level of
consensus on the subject internationally. These two
definitions, therefore, are representative of the
concept of record, from which the most fundamental
characteristics (MFC) of records can be extracted
despite of the different wordings. Two MFCs are
identified as directly relevant to the inquiry of this
study, and they are:
MFC1. records are a special type of information
(indicated by the terms “documents” and
“information”), and
MFC2. records possess inherent and inseparable
ties with human activities (indicated by the terms
“practical activities”, “pursuance of legal
obligations”, and “ transaction of business”)
The concept of information in this context refers
to data presented in readily comprehensible form to
which meaning has been attributed within the
context of its use (Reitz, 2015), and data refers to
words or figures representing a specific concept or
object (ISO/IEC 2382-1, 1999; US, 2005, 20123;
ARMA International, 2007, 2012 ; Reitz, 2015).
Other terms in the definitions and the MFPs are used
with their commonly understood meanings (i.e., face
meanings) unless definitions are provided elsewhere
in this paper (note please, some of the terms, e.g.,
“set aside” and “evidence”, will be researched on
during the process of this project for establishing
their disciplinary relevant meanings).
2.2 Digital Records (DR)
Digital records are records in digital formats. Digital
records are previously called machine-readable
records and electronic records due to the changing
understanding of the nature of the technologies
involved in their productions and existences. In this
paper, the terms digital records and electronic
records are both used because the former presents an
accurate description and the latter, unlike machine-
readable records, are currently still existing in many
important research findings, thus difficult to be
bypassed. The term “digital formats” in the
definition are derived from digital technologies,
which, in this paper, encompass any technologies
that are relied on or related to digital computation.
Digital records were initially considered as only a
special type of records but increasingly, with the
now almost ubiquitous use of digital technologies,
have become the dominant type of records. Even
though no organizations have so far made for their
working environments completely paperless, many
organizational functions start indeed operating in an
entirely digital manner. As indicated by the manner
by which digital records are defined, the
international records community holds the consensus
that digital formats do not change the nature, i.e., the
MFCs, of records, but only give rise to issues and
challenges with respect to their management (United
Nations, 1989; International Council on Archives,
1997; ISO 15489, 2001; ARMA International, 2012;
InterPARES, 2010; ICA-InterPARES, 2012). Given
the fact that the issues and challenges associated
with digital records were firstly and predominantly
exposed in organizations and that the exposure is
identified as the backdrop framing the conceived
project – digital records thereby refers to only those
that are created in organizations.
2.3 Information Systems (ISs)
The term information systems, like records, does not
have a universally accepted definition and unlike
records, it lacks consistency in expression.
According to the Subject Headings developed by the
Library of Congress, the term information systems is
identified as a variant of the term management
information systems (MIS), which is the authorized
entry. In this paper, however, the term information
systems is chosen to be used for the purpose of
being consistent with the name of the Association
for Information Systems (AIS), a highly regarded
organization which publishes the prestigious
Management Information Systems Quarterly
(MISQ), MIS Quarterly Executive, and the Journal
of the Association for Information Systems (JAIS).
The Association, however, does not provide a
Co-Design of Information Systems with Digital Records Management - A Proposal for Research
definition for IS or ISs, and definitions for IS, as a
search for an authoritative IS definition revealed,
abound. In one of the recent PhD dissertations on IS,
at least 36 IS definitions were identified, all with a
certain type of authority, and they collectively cover
a group of five views of technology, society,
technology-society, modeling, and process (Boell,
2013). For the purpose of this paper, the definition
for MIS provided by Gordon Davis in his 1974 book
is chosen to be the definition for IS:
[An IS] is an integrated, man/machine system for
providing information to support the operation,
management, and decision-making functions in an
organization. The system utilizes computer hardware
and software, manual procedures, management and
decision models, and a data base (p. 3).
This book, entitled Management Information
Systems: Conceptual foundations, Structure, and
Development, is recognized by the AIS as the
“bible” for the ISs field, and a preliminary analysis
on this definition and the 36 definitions for
information systems suggests, in a rather clear
manner, its currency despite of the seemingly
obsolete usages of the terms of “man/machine” and
“data base”. This definition covers indeed all of the
five views. More importantly, the ideas conveyed by
the definition shows solid relevance to the focus of
the conceived research, i.e., digital records in
Closely related to information systems is the
discipline of business process management (BPM),
considered a field with roots in both the
management science and computer science and one
that has matured. At the center of BPM is the notion
of a process model, which aims to capture the
different ways in which a case (i.e., an instance of a
process) can be dealt with. Modeling typically relies
on notations, which are used to describe ordered
activities. The modeling of business processes not
only sets up the stage for business analysis,
refinement, what-if stimulation, etc., but also serves
the purpose of configuring information systems.
Information systems need to be configured and
driven by precise instructions in order to achieve
expected higher productivity. In the context of the
conceived project, both the control flow perspective
(i.e., modeling the order of activities) and the data
perspective (i.e., modeling decisions, data creation,
forms, etc.) of BPM are relevant and will be
instructive for data interpretation. The relationships
among the key concepts and ideas can be illustrated
as follows:
Figure 1: High Level Relationship between DR & ISs.
3.1 Relevant Research
Research on digital records has been going on for
over forty years since the time when the National
Archives and Records Administration of the United
States of America (NARA) first started its inquiry.
In brief, the term “digital formats” in the definition
of digital records accounts solely for the
international interest in digital records research,
which has created not only unprecedented intensity
in the history of records but also continued
momentum. The characteristics of digital
technologies, as even life experiences can tell, are
penetrating, i.e., they impact almost all aspects of
human activities, complex, i.e., they entail
specializations in both academic development and
practical application, and volatile, i.e., they evolve
rapidly. The intricacy of digital technologies,
therefore, gives intricacy to digital records in a direct
manner. Within the framework of organizational
operation, digital technologies manifest themselves
typically in the form of ISs, which was encountered
as challenges by researchers on digital records from
the very beginning. From the early 1980s till now,
the challenges with ISs were researched on by the
United Nations’ task force on electronic records
management, the UBC-MAS project (Canada), the
Pittsburgh Electronic Records Requirement project
(US), the AC+erm (UK), the Electronic Health
Records project (Australia), the InterPARES project,
etc. In particular, research has focused on functional
requirements for electronic/digital records
management system design, which were led by the
US Department of Defence (subsequently joined
force with NARA), the InterPARES project, the
National Archives of Australia, the National
KMIS 2015 - 7th International Conference on Knowledge Management and Information Sharing
Archives of the United Kingdom, the European
Union, and the International Council on Archives
(ICA). A sizable body of knowledge has been
generated including conceptual frameworks (e.g.,
the InterPARES Terminology Database with key
concepts ontologies), models (e.g., the OAIS
Model), specifications (e.g., the EU MoReq
specification), and standards (e.g., DoD5015.2 and
ISO 16175 1-3).
A preliminary analysis of all these findings and
products indicates that the existing research needs to
be much strengthened in the area of in-depth
collaboration with ISs
professionals charged with
ISs design. The idea of working with ISs
professionals is not an entirely new one as the
existing research has long been advocating
organizational Digital Records Management (DRM)
personnel’s communications with IT personnel.
However, this call is largely limited to the design
and implementation of digital records management
system (DRMS), a special type of ISs, and not all of
the ISs implemented in organizations for operational
purposes. The noticeable exceptions are the
InterPARES project, ISO 16175-3, and EU DLM
Forum. By its second phase (2002-2007), the
project had produced a comprehensive
model on digital records management (called the
COP Model), in which the ties between
recordkeeping systems (synonyms with ERMS) and
recordmaking systems, i.e., all the other ISs in
organizations, were logically established, and
mechanisms (i.e., policies and guidelines) for
implementing the COP Model were produced.
However, it is found, including by the third phase of
the InterPARES project (2008-2012), that the
application of this model was very challenging, due
mainly to the complexities of the various
organizational ISs. The ISO 16175-3 is a step further
from typical ERMS standards, which embraces the
idea of implementing DRM requirements within an
IS as opposed to exacting records from
recordmaking systems to recordkeeping systems. It,
however, only conceptualizes ISs (as in its term
“business systems”) and does not provide any
specifics on how to gain deep understandings of ISs,
let alone on how to collaborating with ISs
professionals at the stage of system design. The need
to gain deep understandings of ISs was made more
explicit by the EU DLM Forum, which, through its
MoReq 2010 Specification, stated that the next steps
of its efforts toward DRM are to
develop system
design requirements that are industry-specific. By
this view, ERMS will be designed with direct
relevance with ISs designed for the various business
functions, for instance, finance management, sales
management, marketing, education, healthcare, etc.
It is this researcher’s belief that this is the only
approach owning the potential of solving issues of
unreliable, inaccurate, inauthentic, untrustworthy,
inaccessible, and/or unusable digital records in the
increasing complex ISs environment, and one that
can bring success to all relevant fields.
3.2 Research Areas & Sample
Research Questions
A series of research areas and research questions can
be devised through analysing existing research
findings, which are listed in the following table:
Table 1: Research Areas and Research Questions.
Research Area Sample Research Question
C1. Organizational &
Managerial Theories
in today’s
How are the established
organizational behavioural &
managerial theories impacting the
fields of ISs and DRM? For the
notion of ISs-DRM co-design, what
are the constructive factors and what
are the adverse ones?
C2. ISs design:
relationships with
current issues
How are ISs developed in
organizations and what role the
Design Science has played in the
development process? How can the
design of ISs take into considerations
of operational needs and records
quality requirements efficiently and
C3. DRM:
relationships with
mechanisms; tools;
current issues
What knowledge of ISs is needed for
the DRM professionals to collaborate
with ISs professionals? To what
degree should they be equipped with
knowledge of ISs, of the Design
Science as it is applied in ISs
C4. Relationships
between information
and DR (and other
tightly related
concepts such as data,
information resource,
authenticity, integrity,
responsibility, etc.)
Is there a need to rigorously defining
these concepts? What are the benefits
if defined and what are the
consequences if not?
How can they be defined, if the
benefits of defining prevail, with
maximum usage/application
C5. Relationships
between ISs and
What role can organizational
dynamics play with ISs-DRM co-
C6. Role of Design
Science (DS) in ISs
Can ISs developments be balanced
with operational productivity and
legal compliance as represented by
quality records?
Co-Design of Information Systems with Digital Records Management - A Proposal for Research
Table 1: Research Areas and Research Questions(Cont.).
C7. Impact of DS on
ISs-DRM co-design
How the relevance of DR and DRM
developments is manifested in the
field of ISs and ISs design? Can types
of digital records be established by
the ISs-DRM co-design effort? Can
digital records be pre-determined
individually at the co-design stage?
C8. ISs-DRM co-
design theoretical
To what degree the theoretical
constructions in each field can be
integrated as a coherent whole in this
context of ISs-DRM co-design? What
are the user friendly manners by
which the integrated theories should
be articulated and presented?
To what degree (or at which level of
the design process), can concrete
joints for ISs and DRM be identified
(when existing) or established (when
The following figure demonstrates the high-level
logic that guided the conceiving of this project, with
the red Xs indicating the areas of issues requiring
research attention:
Figure 2: Research Conceiving Logic.
The methodological framework devised for this
project consists of the methods of systematic
literature review (SLR, also called evidence-based
literature review), case study (CS), business process
analysis (BPA), diplomatic analysis (DA), and
design principles for ISs analysis (DP-ISsA). Each
of the method serves a specific research need, and
for that need, it guides data collection and analysis.
SLR is needed to accommodate the interdisciplinary
nature of this project, which requires knowledge
from the 5 fields of organization behaviour,
management science, ISs, archival science, and
records management. By requiring a priori
identification of questions, SLR helps to narrow
down the scope of literature for examination and by
requiring being systematic, it ensures both relevance
and credibility of the knowledge extracted from the
analysis (hence the term evidence-based). This
method is expected to lay a solid foundation for the
next steps of the research.
The method of CS is needed because ISs is
commonly deployed in organizations and as
introduced above, ISs can be industry or function
specific. To select cases for in-depth analysis is the
only way to make a project like this manageable and
more importantly, to solve the problems that the
existent DRM research projects have failed to solve.
The selected cases provide boundaries for the
analyses that follow.
BPA, DA, and DP-ISsA are needed for boiling
down organizational missions and strategic goals to
concrete, executable requirements, for both the ISs
development and DR determination. These
requirements are the raw findings on which the final
research products, through integration and
abstraction, can be further developed. The following
diagram illustrates the relationships between the
components of the framework, in a simplified order
of execution (it’s simplified because many analytical
steps will overlap with each other and new types of
analyses may be needed with phase findings being
generated). The following figures illustrate the
chosen analytic frameworks and the overall
methodological framework for all the analyses
(omitting the one for SLR):
Figure 3: Business Entity Lifecycle Analysis (BELA)
(source: IBM).
KMIS 2015 - 7th International Conference on Knowledge Management and Information Sharing
Figure 4: Ontology of Record for Diplomatic Analysis
(source: InterPARES).
Figure 5: Design Science Research Cycles for DP-ISA
(source: Hevner).
Figure 6: Methodological Framework.
Research on DRM in ISs environment has a
profound impact on the advancement of an
organization that relies on digital technologies.
Specifically, this project can contribute to advancing
both the fields of DRM and ISs, and to optimizing
operations of organizations. The field of ISs has long
been encountering the issues of satisfactorily
fulfilling the operational requirements of
organizations and the failures of ISs projects have
been widely noticed. ISs projects are typically
resources demanding and as such, are expected to
greatly enhanced productivity and to yield high ROI.
On an isolated view, ISs seems to be separable from
DRM, yet, from the viewpoint of the organization,
the collaborations between ISs and DRM is logically
the most effective way for organizations to achieve
the objectives of improving resources allocation,
streamlining business processes, detecting risks,
protecting rights and interest, being legally
compliant, and ultimately being competitively
advantaged, both locally and globally.
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