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III. Identifying the Requirements, the Records, and Their Value

Identify specific legal, business, and policy requirements that apply to the business process and records so that they can be incorporated into system development.

Where does this information on records requirements come from? It comes from past practices, laws, regulations, and agency policies; and those are often implicitly embedded in the business process. Finding answers to these questions requires open and ongoing communication between IT and program staff, legal and policy staff, and all the different combinations therein. If you have a records professional on your system development team, this person is a valuable resource in helping to track down the legal, business and policy requirements for the records that will be converted to or created by the system. Focusing on the business process is essential to get a handle on all the different requirements that apply to the records being created and managed in an information system that is under development. The laws, regulations and policies that authorize or define a specific government business process often define the records management requirements for that process. These requirements identify the records that must be created and may define how the records should be captured, managed and accessed. The requirements may also define the content and structure of the record. Best practices or standards that have been established by many professions or disciplines also serve to direct how agency records are captured and managed. The use of the term ‘best practice’ refers to practices formally adopted or generally accepted by a profession or discipline. Examples of best practices include Generally Accepted Accounting Practices. 4

These requirements and best practices should be made explicit and incorporated into the development of an information system intended to automate a business process or a part of a business process. Each requirement can be mapped to a compliance factor based in law, regulation, standard, or best practice.

The following table is designed to help make explicit the record management requirements determined by law, regulation, organizational policy, or professional standards. The questions asked in this tool are intended to gather information on the records requirements for the process that is being automated.
(What are legal requirements for this process, activity or record?)
(What are the business or regulatory guidelines driving this process, activity or record?)
Agency policies or practices
(What are the organizational policies for completing this process, activity or record?)
Generally accepted best practices
(How do others complete this process, activity or record?)
What business process is this automated system a part of?
What is the purpose of this business process?
What tasks or transactions does this system automate or cover?
Are there any ‘when’ or ‘how’ requirements for the transaction?
What are the records captured or created in theprocess or transaction?
What other records need to be imported to fulfill the transaction?

4 Professional associations often provide standard best practices for professionals practicing in the field. The generally accepted accounting principles are a widely accepted set of rules, conventions, standards and procedures for reporting financial information.