Looking under the hood: unraveling the content, structure, and context of functional requirements for electronic recordkeeping systems

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Krahn, Konrad
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Functional requirements for electronic recordkeeping systems have emerged as a principal tool for archival and records management professionals to communicate electronic recordkeeping standards to both records creators and computer systems designers. Various functional or model requirements have been developed by government and international organizations around the world to serve as tools for the design, evaluation, and implementation of recordkeeping systems that will satisfy these recordkeeping requirements. Through their evolution, functional requirements have become complex guiding documents covering an array of recordkeeping systems and preservation interests. Often misunderstood or simply ignored, the recordkeeping requirements at the heart of these specifications are crucial for ensuring the creation, maintenance, and preservation of electronic or digital records over time, for operational, accountability, archival, and historical purposes. This thesis examines the origins and evolution of these functional requirements, particularly through the contributions of the Pittsburgh project’s study of electronic records as evidence and the University of British Columbia project’s study of the preservation of trustworthy electronic records, which together articulated key foundational assumptions about electronic or digital recordkeeping and the structure of many of the functional requirements circulating today. By looking at their conception, development, and evolution, this thesis sheds light on the content, structure, and context of the most widely-used available functional requirements. It evaluates the merits of their often competing assumptions and deliveries, and suggests that none represent a “silver bullet” that addresses the issues associated with electronic records, as each has limitations resting both with the ability of users to implement the requirements and with the rapid and ever-changing landscape of electronic communication.
Electronic Records, Records, Archives, Digital Records, Functional Requirements, Electronic Recordkeeping Standards