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Appraisal is a proactive component of information and records management. When appraisal is carried out early it is possible to improve the management of information and records over their whole life by ensuring their timely disposal and maximising their benefits. It also reduces the risk that records are managed or destroyed inappropriately.

Benefits of appraising your records and information

The organisation:

  • can identify and manage information and records that are high risk, high value, or both, for immediate and ongoing business needs

  • is making efficient use of resources – information and records are not stored for longer than necessary taking up space and incurring storage costs, or migrated when they could be disposed of

  • can locate, retrieve, and use information and records easily

  • can understand which information and records have archival value for permanent preservation

When to appraise your records and information

We advocate a proactive approach to appraisal, either at point of creation or shortly after creation, when information is still ‘current’.

Appraisal may occur:

  • before records are created and during the design of business processes

  • when records are created - to ensure they are correctly managed over their lifespan

  • retrospectively for un-appraised records that have fulfilled their immediate purpose

  • when a public office creates or amends a Disposal Authority

  • when an administrative change or transfer of function occurs

  • when a local authority wishes to dispose of protected records

How to appraise your records and information

Appraisal decisions are made on the basis of information about the functions of an organisation, and the records management processes that support those functions. The following resources will help determine core functions and identify records into groups or classes:

  • Legislation, regulations, standards, code of practice

  • Corporate documents such as annual reports, statements of intent

  • Interviews with internal staff who have knowledge of business activities

  • Existing appraisal reports

  • Existing business classification schemes or taxonomy

Once you have gathered this information you need to organise the business activities that occur and their associated records into groups or classes and describe them.

An example of a core function of Archives would be:

  • Provision of access to open public records to government and the public

An example of two classes of records related to the core function of Provision of access to open public records would be:

  • Class of records = Strategic level access policies

  • Class of records = Reader application forms/database

These classes should be clear and specific enough to be related to the function that they are determined by. They should be easily recognisable by receivers and creators of the records.

Once the main functions and activities have been identified, it may become apparent that similar functions or activities can be grouped together, and some may need to be broken down even further into subclasses.

Once classes of records are identified, it is necessary to assign values, minimum retention periods and trigger points such as a date or event from which the retention period starts to each class of records. The following tools will help your decision-making:

Step 1. Appraisal criteria

We have developed selection criteria or principles that can inform decisions about retention periods and disposal actions for information and records of public sector archival value.

These principles are:

  • New Zealand public sector authority, functions and activities

  • Treaty of Waitangi - Te Tiriti o Waitangi

  • Individual and community knowledge, identity and memory

It is important to note that information and records with administrative or business value that may be important for an organisation for many years, may not also have archival value. Organisations will need to determine how long they need to retain these information and records to meet their business needs or legal requirements before implementing any disposal actions.

There will be several different views on the archival and business value of information and records from the owners, creators, contributors or subjects to users and future users. These should all be considered when applying these criteria.

Step 2. Stakeholder consultation

Different groups may value records in different ways and have different needs for accessing records over time. This should be considered when appraising records. This process ensures that interested parties can contribute to the process, are informed of the reasoning behind retention and disposal recommendations, and that the organisation is fully aware of the potential impacts of its decisions.

Most importantly, consultation gives the Chief Archivist confidence that informed decisions are being made about the disposal of government records. Resulting in timely authorisation and that information of the highest enduring value is transferred to our archives.

A successful appraisal requires a consultation process that includes stakeholders, both internally and externally. This has multiple advantages as it can:

  • inform the decision making from a range of perspectives

  • minimise the risk of miscommunication, and uninformed decision making

  • develop appropriate retention periods and disposal actions

  • identify where duplication of information may exist

  • promote a transparent and accountable appraisal process

Both internal and external stakeholders of the organisation should be identified, and their rights and interests considered when making appraisal recommendations.

2.1 Internal consultation

Internal consultation should occur only once groupings of function/records have been decided to avoid multiple rounds of feedback. The purpose of the consultation is to find out if internal stakeholders have any concerns about the decisions made to either transfer or destroy records. Often the records creator or user will have a strong view on records the long term value. The records need to be considered both within the context of the organisation, and across the whole of government, not just the activities of one work area.

2.2 External consultation

We acknowledge that there is more than one type of external stakeholder. There are external stakeholders in the sector of the organisation as well as in the records themselves.

Select groups can be targeted for consultation about specific classes of records. It might be useful to consult while you are drafting the appraisal report and schedule, particularly about classes or records that might have high public interest.

We encourage public offices to consider not only government organisations, but also non-government organisations such as:

  • ethnic groups

  • professional and sector reference groups,

  • research bodies,

  • academic institutions

  • lobby groups

We recommend having a discussion with the internal staff that interact with external groups in some way during their day to day business. These staff will be able to identify external stakeholders.

Step 3. Communications

Communication channels are assessed to decide which is most appropriate to communicate clearly and effectively to each stakeholder. When assessing these you should consider:

  • a stakeholder’s frame of reference and the context in which they work

  • whether they will want to be consulted on the report and schedule. This is more appropriate for information professionals or those familiar with this process

  • whether they will be interested only in specific extracts of the appraisal report

Examples of face to face communication channels can include meetings, hui, fono, or workshops. Follow up communications help to confirm that stakeholders have received the documents and understand the process and their part in it.

Contextual information or guidance on the process will help support communications and get you the valuable input. These communications should be targeted to stakeholders who are best suited to test the decisions being made.

Contextual information should include:

3.1.1 Parameters

Parameters of influence outline what decisions are already made due to legal constraints, intellectual and cultural property considerations and citizens’ rights and entitlements and so on. Let stakeholders know what can be changed by their feedback.

3.1.2 Process details

Details are required to provide stakeholders with appropriate background information, a description of the consultation process, the questions. It is crucial to provide details on time frames in which to respond, how to provide feedback and what follow up can be expected.

3.1.3 Consolidate feedback

Stakeholder feedback should provide you with enough information to determine an overview of opinions. It may be clear that the initial recommendations on retention periods or disposal actions are not agreed upon. What is important is that the opinions are considered and, where appropriate, the recommendations adjusted. This process needs to transparent and well documented in the final evaluation.

Step 4. Stakeholder report

The final report back to stakeholders on the decisions that were made as a result of their feedback should answer the following questions:

  1. we asked…

  2. you said…

  3. we did…

  4. this is why we did…

Step 5. Appraisal report

Once you have completed your stakeholder report you can identify the records that are:

  • of high risk and high value to your organisation

  • are of value to the New Zealand public

  • able to be disposed of

This information can be used to create an information asset register for your organisation or allow you to begin the disposal or transfer process with archives.

The appraisal process and decisions should be documented in an appraisal report, this report provides the context and justification of any disposal decisions and should inform the management of information within the organisation. This report is later used as part of the disposal process to create a disposal schedule.