Setting Standards:
American National Standards and the RIM Industry: A Primer

The U.S. celebration of “World Standards Day,” which has been observed around the world for decades, was held in Washington, D.C., October 23. The annual U.S. event, co-chaired by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), was organized to spotlight the relevance of standards to the worldwide economy and their importance in regards to safety-related issues.

Nancy Dupre Barnes, Ph.D.

Bookmark and Share

The records and information management (RIM) industry is one sector of the global economy that continues to depend upon the availability of reliable and robust standards. American National Standards (as designated by ANSI) illuminate the path to an increasingly productive future for all members of the RIM community.

By virtue of its membership in ANSI, ARMA International, an association and global authority on managing records and information, recognizes the benefits of voluntary standards development and utilization. As stated in the current ARMA International policies and procedures manual, American National Standards and other best-practices publications help promote “RIM operational excellence.” Some of the ways in which this occurs include:

  • Ensuring procedural consistency in the management of records and information throughout the enterprise and RIM industry
  • Enhancing interoperability between RIM-related systems and establishing criteria for the selection of products specific to a particular need
  • Advancing the professionalism of the RIM discipline
  • Promoting efficiency and cost savings in RIM operations

Organizations That Develop RIM-Related
American National Standards

ARMA International has been ANSI-accredited as a standards-developing organization (SDO) since 1986 and offers a variety of American National Standards and technical reports. Current American National Standards and technical reports published by ARMA International include:

  • ANSI/ARMA 5-2003, Vital Records Programs: Identifying, Managing, and Recovering Business Critical Records
  • ANSI/ARMA 9-2004, Requirements for Managing Electronic Messages as Records
  • ANSI/ARMA 12-2005, Establishing Alphabetic, Numeric, Subject Filing Systems
  • ANSI/ARMA 8-2005, Retention Management for Records and Information
  • ANSI/ARMA 16-2007, The Digital Records Conversion Process: Program Planning, Requirements, Procedures
  • ANSI/ARMA TR01-2002 Records Center Operations, 2nd ed.
  • ANSI/ARMA TR02-2007 Procedures and Issues for Managing Electronic Messages as Records

ARMA International also partnered with AIIM to produce an ANSI-registered technical report entitled ANSI/AIIM/ARMA TR48-2006, Revised Framework for Integration of Electronic Document Management Systems and Electronic Records Management Systems.

There are many RIM-related organizations that produce and sell American National Standards. AIIM, the American Society for Testing and Materials, the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Information Standards Organization, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Fire Protection Association are some of the organizations that, as ANSI members and ANSI-accredited SDOs, produce American National Standards and/or technical reports for use within the RIM industry. Each organization’s individual website may be consulted for further information regarding standards availability and pricing.

Global Standards Development

The Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) partners with ANSI, as well as other regional SDOs from around the globe. ANSI has created processes whereby ISO standards may be adopted by U.S.-based SDOs and, alternatively, American National Standards may be submitted for consideration by ISO. ISO’s Archives/Records Management Committee, also known as TC46/SC11, has been responsible for the development of some of the most often-cited RIM standards:

  • ISO 15489-1:2001, Information and Documentation, Records Management, Part 1, General
  • ISO/TR 15489-2: 2001, Information and Documentation, Records Management, Part 2, Guidelines
  • ISO 22310:2006, Information and Documentation, Guidelines for Standards Drafters for Stating Records Management Requirements in Standards
  • ISO 23081-1:2006, Information and Documentation, Records Management Processes, Metadata for Records, Part 1, Principles
  • ISO/TS 23081-2: 2007, Information and Documentation, Records Management Processes, Metadata for Records, Part 2, Conceptual and Implementation Issues
  • ISO/TR 26122: 2008, Information and Documentation, Work Process Analysis for Records

In addition to the ISO website, several of these documents may be purchased from other sources, including the ANSI and ARMA websites. A database listing of domestic and international standards, including American National Standards, may be found at www.nssn.org.

Other Standards-Developing Organizations

There are organizations operating within the RIM and/or archives sectors that are not affiliated with ANSI but continue to produce standards that are well-respected by professionals and academics. As examples, the Society of American Archivists and the International Conference on Archives continue to manage prominent schedules of standards development acitivities. Other international organizations of note, not located in the United States, but providing standards and best practices for the RIM sector, are the British Standards Institution, the Records Management Society of England, and Standards Australia.

ARMA International's Program

The scope of ARMA International’s standards development program activities addresses the key concepts of the RIM field, regardless of technological or organizational environment. When there is overlap, ARMA International coordinates efforts with other SDOs, as appropriate.

In addition to developing American National Standards, ARMA International produces ANSI-registered technical reports and other best practices publications (guidelines and white papers) for the RIM industry. All these documents are created for purchase and public distribution. To maintain its relevance in an ever-expanding global arena, ARMA International continues to actively participate in the development of ISO standards, technical reports, and best practices in RIM-related areas.

Members of ARMA International and other interested persons are provided opportunities to participate in standards
development program activities and to express an opinion on any proposed American National Standard or other ANSI-related document that the association creates. ARMA International’s staff works in conjunction with various volunteers and subject matter experts to ensure that the content of its American National Standards, as well as other standards development program publications, are accurate and within the association’s authorized scope.

ANSI Accreditation

ANSI’s website indicates that there are more than 200 SDOs within its purview. Each organization must have written procedures, examined and accepted by ANSI, for the creation of American National Standards, as well as technical reports and supplements. Only accredited developers may submit standards, technical reports, or supplements for consideration by ANSI.

Every five years, ANSI conducts a procedural audit to investigate an organization’s ongoing compliance with the established requirements and determine its suitability for continued accreditation. It is important to recognize that only American National Standards are included in the audit process; technical reports and supplements are not subject to the same rigorous development process that is required for American National Standards. American National Standards are unique in their adherence to a prescribed development methodology as determined, revised, and updated by ANSI.

American National Standards Development

The primary reference document for American National Standards development is the ANSI Essential Requirements: Due Process Requirements for American National Standards. This publication, which is regularly updated and available on ANSI’s website, offers procedural detail and describes the development-related principles that set voluntary American National Standards apart from other types of standards or best practices documents.

Specifically, there are several benchmark tenets pertaining to due process and consensus. Due process allows that all affected parties, both public and private, are afforded the opportunity to comment upon the standard. Each comment is considered, and comment submitters are notified of the right to appeal.

Consensus is characterized by openness, balance, and lack of dominance. In this context, openness ensures that there are no unreasonable barriers to participation, such as specific cost or membership requirements. Balance requires that participants in the development process are drawn from a variety of diverse backgrounds. Lack of dominance effects a fair consideration of viewpoints, such that one group or interest does not exercise undue influence or authority as the standard is developed.

Regardless of the content area within which the standard is created, the process remains constant and robust. “How” the standard is developed is extremely important to ANSI, although there is no consideration, investigation, or assessment of the content, per se. ANSI makes no judgments regarding the accuracy, completeness, or correctness of an American National Standard’s body of knowledge, as that responsibility lies within the realm of the technical content experts affiliated with the SDO.

As part of the ANSI process, and in order to maintain the currency and applicability of a standard, each one is reviewed every five years for revision, reaffirmation, or withdrawal by the original SDO. Finally, for identification and filing purposes, each standard receives a unique numerical designation that remains with it for the duration of its existence. In total, strict adherence to these characteristics define and delineate the American National Standard from other types of standards or best practices publications.

It is important to consider how American National Standards are differentiated from other standards. Within the past few decades, a basic example of one type of standard – a de facto standard – has evolved within the information technology realm. For example, there are two universally recognized “standard” computer operating systems in use in the world today; one system is the product of Microsoft Corp.’s technology, and the other is owned by Apple Inc.

Therefore, it is possible that certain “standards” can develop without the involvement of independent monitoring bodies or government entities. Additionally, as examples of yet another type of “standard,” it is possible for professional or trade organizations to create and distribute standards that have been developed according to their own unique criteria for quality and excellence. These standards may be developed without the oversight of an independent, third-party authority.

How Technical Reports Differ

Technical reports are not subjected to the process requirements that are the hallmarks of an American National Standard but are, nevertheless, developed under the aegis of ANSI. The primary reference publication, which is updated by ANSI and available on its website, is the Procedures for the Registration of Technical Reports with ANSI. Technical reports should be informational or tutorial in nature. It is possible that a technical report may complement an American National Standard or a standard that has been subjected to the approval process of another national or international standards-related body.

With a shelf life of 10 years, technical reports are reviewed for revision, reaffirmation, or withdrawal by the original developing organization before the expiration of that time period. In addition to registration, technical reports are numbered by ANSI for cataloging purposes. Supplements, which are ANSI-recognized and adhere to the same procedures as technical reports, are publications that may be developed by an SDO to accompany an existing technical report.

A Key Business Ingredient

American National Standards assist RIM professionals with the resolution of various business challenges. They enable organizations to confidently create systems, policies, and procedures that can lead to exceptional RIM outcomes. Within a complex, global economy, the requirements for the development of American National Standards, as shepherded by ANSI, represent a pluralistic approach to an individual sector’s specific needs.

RIM-related concerns that confront contemporary business, government, and non-profit organizations demand unique focus and can only benefit froma concerted, rigorous adherence to enduring and consistent processes. As such, American National Standards should play an increasingly prominent role in the RIM industry’s ongoing quest for quality.

 

Sidebar: ANSI’s History and Global Role

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has been in existence for 90 years. A not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization, its corporate headquarters are located in Washington, D.C., with operational offices in New York. ANSI maintains formal affiliations with ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission, as well as several regional standards and accreditation-related consortia.

According to its 2006-2007 annual report, ANSI remains a private,membership organization with unique and far-reaching objectives. Possessing a broad mission in the areas of standards and conformity assessment, it serves as:

  • A policy forum and an interface with government entities
  • A body that accredits American National Standards developers, approves new American National Standards, and safeguards the integrity of the standards development process
  • A monitor of the need for new activities and programs
  • An educational and informational resource
  • A U.S. representative in internationalmatters
  • A coordinator of consumer safety efforts involving a wide range of companies

ANSI has more than 800 members (individuals and organizations), as well as more than 9,000 approved American National Standards that cover an array of industries ranging from banking to health care to telecommunications.

Nancy Dupre Barnes can be contacted at nancy.barnes@armaintl.org.

From November - December 2008