Any professional in the records and information management field, whether private or commercial, should recognize how important the Department of Defense (DOD) Standard 5015.2 is. This standard was no fluke: Years of work went into creating it, and it’s had a huge impact on the records management community as a whole. Let’s take a look at how it came to be and what it means for organizations around the country.


The History of the DOD 5015.2

It first became clear that there was a need for electronic records management policies in the early 1990s. This catalyst was the high-profile investigation into Gulf War Syndrome, which is an illness that affected many soldiers who fought in the war. Many investigations into the reasons for the illness led to the DOD producing millions of records from the military conflict. Congress didn’t feel that the DOD did an acceptable job of managing their records. In fact, many of the records congress requested were lost or destroyed. Congress ordered the Department of Defense to increase and improve their records management policies and capabilities.

The Department of Defense responded by creating a task force to start work on revamping the way they managed their internal records. This task force was made up of representatives from the Army, Air Force, Army Research Laboratory, and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). After they did their research, they published a report called “Functional Baseline Requirements and Data Elements for Records Management Application Software.” It was the cornerstone for creating functional requirements and elements of data for electronically storing and managing records.

They then further developed their report to create a design that was both testable and measurable. After 2 years of testing, the report’s requirements were clarified, new testable criteria were added, and it was published as DOD 5012.02-STD, Design Criteria Standard for Electronic Records Management Software Applications. This updated standard created design criteria for all sorts of automated systems that are used to manage information, including voice mails and email records.


Comparing Document Management Before and After DOD 5015.02-STD

When considering the history of the world, people will look at pivotal situations that changed everything. From the invention of the wheel, to the discovery of power, to the harnessing of electrical power, this is how significant the creation of this standard was to the world of records management.

Before this standard was implemented, the management of records was the responsibility of a few low-level employees who had to manage, track, and destroy paper records. They worked in central and departmental file rooms, but DOD 5015.02-STD was the beginning of a transition from paper systems to paperless, electronic-based systems. This standard made it possible to transfer the responsibility for records management from the file room to the front offices. It took that responsibility from the few and gave it to virtually every employee in the Department of Justice.

This transition wasn’t limited to agencies of the Department of Defense. It was quickly deemed a success, and then it spread to additional federal agencies. Before long it became the standard used by both commercial and private sectors around the world.

Before this standard was implemented, records were generally handled in the following ways:

  • Electronics had to be printed if organizations wanted to handle them as records.
  • Electronic messages were not able to be stored in their original format and there was no way to authenticate their integrity.
  • No commercial software was capable of supporting every function necessary to manage electronic records.
  • Only those records managers properly trained in the process could declare and classify records.
  • All records management systems were tracked with paper.
  • Records management systems were not a part of information or technology structures.
  • There was virtually no way to manage voice mail, instant messages, or internet records.

Once the DOD paved the way, several things were generally true of electronic record-keeping systems:

  • They were a part of an organization’s IT infrastructure.
  • Managing electronic records became essential in both the design and development of business software systems and applications.
  • Whoever is most qualified to decide the business purpose and uses of a specific record is responsible for declaring and classifying records.


The Implications for Document Management Software (DMS)

So what does all of this have to do with DMS? Essentially, this standard paved the way for modern day document management systems. No longer are companies dealing with rooms full of files, and there is no longer a key holder who’s solely responsible for keeping records. Instead, IT is involved, and individuals who manage data can be anyone within a company.

Not only have these changes made it possible for DMS to help organizations in every sector better communicate internally, there is no longer an argument of intranet vs. internet because all data can be tracked, saved, and recorded.