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The DOMEA concept: from project to practice: DOMEA has become a standard for document management and electronic archiving in Germany's federal, municipal, and state administrations. (Setting Standards).

At the Core

This article

* introduces Germany's Document Management and Electronic Archiving ill computer-assisted business processes (DOMEA)

* identifies the core requirements of the DOMEA Concept and their implementation

* discusses recommendations on disposition and archiving, which are part of the DOMEA Concept

Originally spurred by the re-unification of Germany, Germany's Bundestag (the federal parliament), the federal government, and some federal ministries have resumed their seat in Berlin. Six federal ministries have kept headquarters in Bonn and Berlin. To ensure the functioning of the federal administration and the cooperation of federal offices located in two cities, the Information Network Berlin-Bonn (Informationsverbund Berlin-Bonn, IVBB) was established. First, however, several important information technology (IT) preconditions had to be met, including:

* electronic mail, using the X.400 standard

* Internet access and a central firewall for the federal administration

* establishment of an IVBB intranet, where official documents--records from the European Union Council, the Bundestag, and the Federal Council (Bundesrat, representing the German states), laws, decrees, and ordinances, as well as organization plans of federal offices, databases, advertisements, and announcements--can be accessed

* multi-point video conferences

* implementation of an electronic address list (X.500 standard), which provides centralized connection and application data in a standardized format

* end-to-end encoding of e-mail

However, the biggest challenge for the IVBB continues to be the step-by-step transition from paper-based to electronic document exchange between Berlin and Bonn. The IT benefits of the IVBB can be fully exploited only if priority is given to the electronic transmission of documents and records. This requires the implementation of IT systems that support records management, electronic records creation, and cooperative business processes over long distances.

For this purpose, in 1996, the Coordinating and Advising Agency of the Federal Government for Information Technology in the Federal Administration (KBSt) introduced a pilot project--Document Management and Electronic Archiving in computer-assisted business processes (DOMEA)--in the Federal Ministry of the Interior (Bundesminister des Innern). The project group defined a government-wide "once-and-for-all" concept, later called the DOMEA Concept, which mainly addresses office systems manufacturers and points out the federal administration's requirements regarding electronic recordkeeping and IT support of administrative working processes. The group defined a standard for workflow and document management systems for the federal administration. The group was advised by an Inter-Ministerial Coordination Committee (IMKA) subcommittee, in which the German federal archives (Bundesarchiv) was also a member. Part of the project was a "test bed" for practical ministerial working procedures in an electronic environment.

The Record Concept in DOMEA

According to the "Committee on Electronic Records: Guide for Managing Electronic Records from an Archival Perspective" edited by the International Council on Archives: "A record is recorded information produced or received in the initiation, conduct, or completion of an institutional or individual activity and that comprises content, context, and structure sufficient to provide evidence of the activity regardless of the form or medium."

In workflow and document management systems, content, context, and structure of records are stored in different objects. The DOMEA Concept introduces a three-level object hierarchy for documents, folders, and files:

1. The basic objects in business processes are documents. They are the most important carriers of the content (primary information). Accordingly, documents are the basic units for storing primary information in the DOMEA Concept.

2. Documents produced in the same business process are linked in electronic folders. These folders are the results of particular transactions or operations that are, from a functional point of view, elementary units of action. In the electronic folders, the working process is documented by notes, endorsements, annotations, comments, instructions, orders, and approvals. They provide contextual information that provides evidence of business transactions. All relevant contextual information is stored automatically by the system together with the folders in a way that it cannot be changed or altered.

3. During the course of business, all documents and folders become part of files. Electronic files provide the functional and organizational framework for record creation. The identifiers that link documents and folders to particular files (meta-information) are kept evident after registration. (Registration involves recording brief, descriptive information about the record and assigning it a unique identifier. It provides evidence that a record has been captured in the records system.) Files remain the primary criterion for a subject-oriented systematic arrangement of records in the context of electronic archiving and workflow management. Folders serve as sub-units of files because they contain the contextual information.

Electronic Records Requirements and Electronic Recordkeeping Principles in Business Processes

The Federal Ministry of the Interior instructs that electronic records also have to meet the requirements for recordkeeping in public administrations, which are prescribed in laws, standing orders, regulations, and instructions. The requirements call for the

* completeness, integrity, and authenticity of official records--official documents cannot be subsequently altered, changed, removed, destroyed, or deleted

* records principle of public administration--documents have to be appropriately joined together in systematically arranged subject files according to the functions of a particular office

* accountability and lawfulness of administrative procedures--accountabilities and responsibilities have to be documented in records in the course of business, and the state of affairs and development of transactions in a given case must be completely evident in records at all times

Citizens and administrations will benefit from the observance of these principles because they guarantee objectivity and continuity of public service as well as government transparency. A subject-oriented, systematic structure of records and the observance of the records principle also will provide essential requirements for a successful implementation of IT-supported working processes.

The implementation of the recordkeeping requirements resulted in the following principles for electronic recordkeeping in business processes, which were emphasized in the final report for the project DOMEA:

* Records and workflow management systems have to give complete evidence on all records and on all relevant business activities and processes. All documents, folders, and files must be registered and captured in the system. Furthermore, the system has to ensure automatic and user-independent documentation of activities in the IT-supported course of business and give evidence of business processes.

* The objectives of the introduction of workflow management are the overall IT support of business processes and the creation of electronic records. If there are still paper-based working processes in the administration, paper documents will have to be digitized subsequently and integrated into the electronic records.

* In principle, paper versions parallel to electronic records should be avoided. If paper documents have to be produced, they should be managed as parts of digital hybrid records, which have to be digitized completely before they are transferred to the federal archives.

Step-by-Step Concept of Implementation

Implementing systems for records and workflow management bring about considerable changes in employee working processes. Therefore, the DOMEA Concept proposes for the federal administration a step-by-step implementation in three stages:

Stage 1: Registry system--The meta-information of the objects of workflow management (documents, files) are registered and managed, regardless of whether the documents are in electronic or paper format. The objectives of IT support during this stage are the capture of evidence on records and relevant meta-information for the management of records, such as retrieval and renewed submission. Business processes during this stage are predominantly paper-based.

Stage 2: Electronic records--With the creation of electronic records, the meta-information and the primary information will be electronically stored and managed. DOMEA provides functions for importing data files from office communications, e-mail, and fax as well as a scanner interface for importing digitized paper records. Information on working processes (notes, comments, instructions, and approvals) is not captured at this stage with information technology. It either has to be written on a print copy and subsequently scanned or typed and digitally signed in the electronic document in order to prove the working process by means of textual annotations and digital signatures.

Via electronic capture of primary information, folders and files that are dispatched often or submitted can be electronically mailed in the business process. The storage of primary information enables full-text retrieval of documents, folders, and files. The introduction of the first and second stage of implementation will provide the prerequisites for an electronic document exchange with the help of the IVBB--without paper records.

Stage 3: Workflow Management--DOMEA also is used for document-based working processes and the exchange of documents, folders, and files. Comments and instructions are captured automatically with the electronic folders and serve as a means of control for business processes. Folders are transmitted electronically and participants and approvals are documented automatically by the system. Using DOMEA as a workflow management system enables complete creation of electronic records and evidence of working processes.

Archiving Electronic Records

Under the framework of DOMEA, a project group was set up in 1998 to find solutions for the disposition and archiving of electronic records. Members of the team were experts from the KBSt, the federal archives, the Research Institute for Computer Applications in Public Administration at the University of Koblenz, and two organizations, Infora and Siemens. The goal was to find a suitable and efficient way for the disposition of electronic records created and maintained in office systems.

This procedure should facilitate appraisal in an electronic environment and enable federal agencies to meet their obligation to transfer non-current electronic records to the federal archives. The project group agreed that established and functioning records management practices should be applied to the electronic environment. Moreover, the group wanted to show how, in the existing technological situation, electronic records of archival value could be preserved permanently.

As a result of the group's work, the "Concept for the Disposition and Archiving of Electronic Records in Federal Agencies," the federal archives' recommendations for managing electronic records, was published in September 1998. It became part of the overall DOMEA Concept and a basis for the subsequent project "Electronic Office." The conclusions of the Concept, however, should apply to all electronic records in federal agencies, regardless of the system in which they were created.

The objects of management, or disposition, are defined as complete, authentic, and reliable electronic records that are no longer needed for current business. However, electronic records do not form physical units like paper files. As a consequence, they probably never become complete. In contrast, folders are closed quickly because they are the results of particular transactions. Therefore, folders that are no longer needed for current business are selected after certain periods of time and joined together in their appropriate files. In this way, electronic files contain all complete folders (transactions) of a certain time period, arranged according to the file level of a filing plan. The folders (transactions) within an electronic file are ordered chronologically. In the federal archives, each electronic file represents an archival item.

After retention periods expire, electronic files should be offered to the federal archives. These files are supposed to contain all relevant contextual information on business activities and transactions (e.g., instructions, participants, approvals, notes, endorsements, and comments).

The development of transactions as well as the responsibilities for these activities have to be captured completely and automatically in the records by the system. Contextual information has to be stored as part of documents, document versions, or as attached documents. Meta-information that is created in the process of registering documents, folders, and files also is captured together with the related objects.

Hybrid files that consist of paper and electronic parts are not acceptable for archiving. Because of the problems connected with the management and archiving of hybrid files, a single file may be transferred to the federal archives either in electronic or paper form, but not in a combination. An agency's paper and electronic files must be registered in only one recordkeeping system.

Appraisal and Disposition

Only a small part of the federal administration's official records are permanently preserved in the federal archives. To ensure efficient, economical disposal of government records, only electronic records of archival value--or already appraised records--should be transferred to the federal archives. In order to achieve this objective, different stages are defined in the Concept:

* In an initial stage of the disposition procedure, a disposal list has to be prepared on the basis of the filing plan of the agency that offers the records. The disposal list contains all records and series of records, which the federal archives does not want to take over because they are of no archival value. These records can be destroyed by the agency. For an automatic selection of records, the metadata of documents, folders, and files have to contain a data field "disposition status." An entry such as "delete" or "offer to the archives" may be entered into the field. The disposition status should be registered on the file level and transferred to all folders and documents of the particular file.

* All records that have to be offered to the federal archives are listed in a schedule, which contains the metadata of all files and folders of the portion as well as information on the lowest classification level of the filing plan related to that portion. The schedule is transferred electronically in a database table format into the federal archives' IT system. Every file on the schedule is numbered automatically during the input process.

* In the federal archives, the files listed in the schedule are appraised with the help of its IT system. The decision whether a particular file is of archival value is entered in a specific data field of the database table. Appraisal decisions are reported back to the creating agency electronically.

* On the basis of this appraisal decision, the agency automatically selects files of archival value and converts them into an archive format. Together with a transfer list and a count of all files and folders of the portion, the records are transferred electronically to the federal archives. The transfer list and the count serve as a means of checking the completeness and correctness of the delivery. The agency also hands over a document that certifies the authenticity of the transferred records up to the point of delivery.

Technical Aspects

In the federal archives, electronic records are kept independent of their original system environment. Consequently, they also need to be accessible independently from their original system. So far, there is a lack of established and stable standards for the long-term preservation of electronic records. Therefore, the project group decided on flat, generally applicable formats. Primary and contextual information--the content of the documents and evidence on business activities and transactions--are received from the creating agencies in the image format TIFF, version 6.0, CCITT/TSS group 4. This is a relatively stable and widespread format that is supported by most imaging systems. Graphs, diagrams, pictures, and layouts are preserved in their original format. All meta-information related to documents, folders, and files, which usually is stored in a database format, has to be delivered as ASCII files in order to keep it retrievable. For now, these formats seem to provide the best standards for digital preservation.

Alternatives to TIFF have been under consideration, such as SGML (standard generalized markup language), which has become an international standard (ISO 8879), and XML (extensible markup language), which seems promising for the future. However, conversion to TIFF is a standard routine not only in DOMEA, but also in many other office systems, whereas conversion to SGML or XML is still a special requirement. This was an important factor that influenced the project group's decisions.

The federal archives refrains from preserving the functionality of digital signatures because it would require permanent care and re-signing procedures as well as archiving the complete signature documentation. Electronically signed or encoded documents have to be opened for public access before their transfer to the federal archives. All documents have to be legible and understandable without the help of specific keys or software. They have to present the names of issuers and recipients, the date of document creation and reception, and the names of participating persons. The authenticity of the document after its transfer to the federal archives is guaranteed by organizational procedures and by documentation, not by technical devices or attributes.

DOMEA As a Public Administration Standard

A government-wide communication infrastructure has been created by the installation of the IVBB network as an intranet of the federal administration, the integration of electronic mail, document management, digital archiving, and business process support. It has centralized services such as the implementation of an electronic directory system and end-to-end encryption. This infrastructure ensures a reliable exchange of documents and records between offices over long distances.

The DOMEA Concept for electronic records and IT support of business processes prepares the federal administration for cooperative work between offices in different locations. At the same time, the concept for disposition and archiving guarantees IT support of business processes in the federal administration over the full lifecycle of electronic records. This fulfills the requirements for the implementation of electronic document exchange and digital archiving within the IVBB as a routine alternative to paper-based procedures.

In the "Electronic Office" project, products in the field of workflow and document management systems were tested to determine to what extent they met the DOMEA Concept requirements. The evaluation included:

* system representation

* IT support of records management functions

* electronic recordkeeping

* workflow management

* document management and retrieval

* archiving and disposition

* handling, support, manuals, training

* administration

* technical performance

Systems were evaluated according to their compatibility with these requirements and the handling of their functionalities. The project's goal was to foster market transparency and competition in office systems. With those firms whose products fulfilled the DOMEA requirements, the Federal Procurement Office (Beschaffungsamt) made outline contracts that facilitated procurement in federal administration and federal government. The overall results of the evaluation in "Electronic Office" have been published by the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

Today, the DOMEA Concept serves as a quality certificate and a standard for office systems not only in the federal administration, but also in German municipal and state administrations. Two systems that were compatible with the DOMEA Concept already have been implemented in federal agencies: the workflow-system FAVORIT by T-Systems, which is used in the Federal Administration Office (Bundesverwaltungsamt), and the system DOMEA by CSE (not be confused with the DOMEA Concept), which is working in the Federal Ministry of the Interior and has just been introduced in the state administration of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz).

The DOMEA certificate indicates that essential requirements for administrative functions and recordkeeping have been met. The DOMEA Concept contains checklists of requirements that can be adopted easily by agencies, which can develop their own specifications on that basis. Therefore, German municipalities and state agencies regard compatibility with the DOMEA Concept requirements as an important criterion in the decision-making process for a specific product as well. DOMEA is no longer just a standard for the German federal administration--the DOMEA certificate has become a market benefit in public administration in Germany.

Today, more systems are evaluated due to demand from producers who want to obtain the DOMEA certificate for their products. In light of new technological developments, additional requirements for e-government services, and ISO 15489, the DOMEA Concept will be revised in the next few years. In contrast to the initial DOMEA project, not only the federal administration, but also municipalities and state administrations are involved in the process. Consequently, the aims of DOMEA have shifted toward the modernization of German public administration and the introduction of e-government services. As such, DOMEA represents a milestone on the way to creating a modern administration in the information society.


Coordinating and Advising Agency of the Federal Government for Information Technology, ed. Concept Electronic Office--DOMEA-Concept (Konzept Papierarmes Buro--DOMEA[R]-Konzept). Cologne: KBSt publication 45, 1999. Available at (accessed 20 May 2003).

Coordinating and Advising Agency of the Federal Government for Information Technology, ed. Concept for Disposition of Electronic Records, Part 1: Federal Archives' Recommendations for Disposition of Electronic Records; Part 2: Creation and Archiving of Electonic Records in the DOMEA Project (Konzept zur Aussonderung elektronischer Akten. Teil 1: Empfehlung des Bundesarchivs zur Aussonderung elektronischer Akten. Teil 2: Erfahrungen zum Aufloau und zur Ablage elektronischer Akten im DOMEA-Projekt). Cologne: KBSt publication 40, 1998. Available at (accessed 20 May 2003).

Coordinating and Advising Agency of the Federal Government for Information Technology (Koordinierungs und Beratungsstelle der Bundesregierung fur Informationstechnik in der Bundesverwaltung, KBSt), eds. Information Network Berlin-Bonn--Overview and Implementation Concept (Informationsverbund Berlin-Bonn--Ubersicht und Realisierungskonzept). Cologne: KBSt publication 39, 1998. Available at (accessed 20 May 2003).

Federal Ministry of the Interior (, and Law on Administrative Procedures (Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz), from 25 May 1976.

Federal Ministry of the Interior (Bundesministerium des Innern), ed. Document Management and Electronic Archiving in the IT-supported Course of Business (Dokumentenmanagement und elektronische Archivierung im IT-gestutzten Geschaftsgang). Bonn: KBSt-letter Nr. 1/98 (DOMEA-Telegramm 1998a), 1998. Available at (accessed 20 May 2003).

Federal Ministry of the Interior (Bundesministerium des Innern), ed. Evaluation of the Conformity of Electronic Systems with the DOMEA-Concept and Conclusion of Outline Contracts (Evaluierung der Konformitat von Vorgangsbearbeitungssystemen mit dem, "Konzept Papierarmes Buro (DOMEA[R]-Konzept)" und Abschluss yon Rahmenvertrtigen). KBSt-Brief Nr. 3/00 (DOMEA-Telegramm 2000). Available at (accessed 20 May 2003).

For Federal Agencies: Rules of Procedure of the Federal Ministries (Gemeinsame Geschaftsordnung der Bundesministerien), 26 July 2000. Directive on the Processing and Management of Records in Federal Ministries (Registraturrichtlinie fur das Bearbeiten und Verwaltung von Schriftgut in Bundesministerien), 11 July 2001.

International Council on Archives (ICA), eds. Committee on Electronic Records: Guide for Managing Electronic Records from an Archival Perspective. Paris: Studies 8, 1997.

Andreas Engel is head of Koblenz University's Information Technology in Public Administration Research Institute. From 1996 to 1999, he was project leader for the research institute in the DOMEA project. He may be contacted at

Michael Wettengel is Director of Archives for the City of Ulm and has worked as an archivist at the German federal archives (Bundesarchiv). He participates in projects, committees, and working groups concerning electronic records management and information technology in public administration, including the pilot project on DOMEA. He may be contacted at
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Title Annotation:Document Management and Electronic Archiving
Author:Wettengel, Michael
Publication:Information Management Journal
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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