A user-centered approach to future archive solutions

Digitalization is upon us, whether we like it or not. It seems like constant change is here to stay. New technologies brings about new ways of doing things we thought we knew how to do. The familiar becomes unfamiliar and it is hard to keep pace with development.

The digital age impacts the way records are created, processed, preserved and made accessible to the end users. Email is still a key communication channel, but there has also been a shift towards social media platforms, discussion threads, instant messages, and machine to machine communications. How do we capture records in this context? How do we sufficiently document the processes, decisions and discussions that took place? As the amount of information one has to deal with in everyday work life has increased dramatically, documentation has also become a time-consuming activity, and our tools and approaches are not necessarily suited for 21th century documentation. Alongside comes increasing demands on efficiency. After all, we are living in a digital age, right?

This calls for innovation and developent of new approaches and solutions. In the midst of all this, it is easy to put too much emphasis on the technology itself. However, it is more important now than ever to ask ourselves the question: who are these changes really for? What does this mean for the users? When developing new solutions, we need to put people in the very center of what we do. We need to ensure that the descisions and actions of human beings can be accounted for and verifyed in the future.

So, in the midst of the digital age, how should we develop and design our archives? There are many aspects to this, but I will argue that design thinking is key. Design thinking is not about forms, shapes and visually good looking products – design thinking is all about the users! Putting the users in the center of all development will ensure that we deliver benefits to citizens, customers, stakeholders and communities. By involving the users in the early-phase of development processes, we can increase the success rate of our efforts and development initiatives.

At the end of the day – this is what records management and archive is all about: making sure that the information that is precerved accurately reflects the decisions, prosecces and events of the present, past and future, in such a way that it makes sense and serves a purpose for the users. Design thinking will not solve all problems, but it provides an excellent starting point in developing archive solutions for the 21th century!

By Cathrin Blitzner Møller, Project Manager/Senior Advisor, Archive and Document Management Norwegian Health Network