Monday, February 25, 2013

ISA Leads the Technology Charge

Some years ago (well, 15 or 25 of them), software folks began to develop systems in which large organizations could manage their large numbers of files, collaborate on their creation, share the results with other colleagues, and (hopefully) find the documents again when next needed. Imaginative and poetic-minded as such developers usually are, they gave their product the exciting descriptive title Document Management Systems.

Most of humanity doesn't know such systems exist and are are no worse off for their ignorance. Masses of employees of large organizations actually do know such systems exist, and either hate their guts, or, in the cases where they really work, the employees simply give them no thought. Only a tiny sliver of mankind really cares about these systems... but archivists need to be among them. The reason is simple: archivists deal with documents; document managing systems, especially when they function, also deal with documents. Ergo, if organizations which create archival-worthy documents have functioning document management systems, and if the archivists have any say in how they operate so as to ensure that the important documents will be successfully managed all the way from their first draft to the arrival of their final version in the archives, then these systems may prove to be an essential tool for the archivists, and perhaps even for the future users of the archival materials.

Or so you would think anyway. Or hope. Or aspire.

Which is why when Israel's Ministry of Finance decided, some years back, that they wanted the entire government officialdom to use the same document management system - to save costs, mind you, not to help the archives - the folks in the State Archives perked their ears and started pushing their way in. The eventual result, strange as it may seem, is that the powerful officials of the Finance Ministry and the, well, less-powerful officials of the ISA, eventually found that they had common goals, and cooperating might be beneficial.

Will the final result really be that the entire government works in one streamlined system, with a steady stream of organized and catalogued important documentation flowing unimpeded and effortlessly into the servers of the State Archives? Hard to imagine. Nigh-impossible, actually. But it is possible that if enough folks work well enough and intelligently enough, some of the documentation of some state agencies will, in fact, be created, processed and archived in a useful manner. If we aim for the impossible and utopian goal, perhaps there will be significant improvement in the reality.

All of this is an introduction to the following: after years of multi-layered preparations, the project is finally about to reach implementation. Odd as it may sound, the very first agency in the entire government realm to apply the new system is the ISA, and the first installations are happening this very month. Here's the relieved-but-satisfied look on the face of one of our techies on the afternoon, last week, when the system first started working:

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