Vendors follow DOD records standard

As vendors scramble to develop products that fulfill federal electronic recordkeeping needs, they are coalescing around a set of standards issued last November by the Defense Department.

Known formally as "DOD Standard 5015.2: Design Criteria Standard for Records Management Application Functional Baseline Requirements,'' these specifications define what recordkeeping software should do to ensure that agencies file, track and preserve or destroy their digital files according to federal records laws. Although only Defense agencies are required to buy systems that meet the specifications, civilian agencies are starting to view compliance with the standards as a test of whether various software packages meet their own needs.

"Early on, there was some speculation that the standard wouldn't take hold,'' said Dana Harris, director of industry solutions with PC DOCS, Burlington, Mass., which integrates its DOCS Open document management software with ForeMost, a recordkeeping application from Provenance Systems Inc. that meets the Defense requirement. After eight months, however, "the assumption is that the bar has been set.''

"It tells us they're aware of records management requirements in general,'' said an Environmental Protection Agency official who asked not to be identified in order to prevent a flood of marketing pitches from vendors. "Usually they know about the DOD standards, and they know about lots of other things as well,'' the official continued, such as the policies and procedures that agency records managers use in their work.

Federal agency demand for systems to help manage digital documents has exploded since last fall, when a federal judge ruled that agencies had to maintain these records electronically rather than print them and file them. The government is appealing that decision, but meanwhile agencies are starting to plan for future systems purchases.

Government records management officials and information technology managers together have been clamoring for guidelines they can use to make those purchases, and so far the Defense standards are the only ones available. National Archives and Records Administration officials have said they intend to use the standards as the model for governmentwide requirements, and this announcement also has made vendors take notice.

"We're evolving the standard right now,'' said DOD policy analyst Bert Newlin, adding that the specifications are based on general federal records laws and can be amended to accommodate civilian agencies. "We'll put on the table at the same time any comments we receive from NARA or the civilian/vendor community.''

To date, four vendors— Provenance, Tower Software Corp., DynSolutions Inc. and FileNet Corp.— have had solutions approved by the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JTIC), Fort Huachuca, Ariz., as compliant with the Defense standards. Others are lining up for the $50,000 certification test, even when potential customers have not specifically requested it.

"The 50215.2 certification is taking on a life of its own,'' said Frank McGovern, director for DOD programs with DynSolutions and a former Air Force records officer.

The reason that the certification is proving popular, said Barry Nelsen, vice president of sales with Sales Resources Consultants Inc., Annandale, Va., is that the test offers vendors credibility. "There are a lot of vendors who say, '[My product] can do that,' '' said Nelsen, who is marketing a service called Total Electronic Records Management Solution. "I think [DOD] set this up to knock out a lot of this nonsense, to say, 'Let's see what this does.' ''

"I don't see the companies that have passed so far go from no sales to billions in sales,'' said SMS Data Products Group Inc. vice president Joe Grajewski, who is not convinced that even Defense agencies will fully comply with the specifications. Nevertheless, he plans to have his product, CD-Rkive, tested, conceding that the standards offer consistency in how records are maintained from office to office.

Most vendors consider the market to be too immature to draw any conclusions about the criteria that agencies will use to make specific purchases. "We obviously had hoped the market would be moving much quicker at this point, particularly with end-of-year money coming up,'' said Robert Starbird, the mid-Atlantic sales manager with Cuadra Associates Inc., which is revamping its Star product line for DOD. "I think people are still trying to figure out what they need to do.''

Nevertheless, Geoff Moore, president of Tower Software, said one civilian customer, the Office of Thrift Supervision, delayed a recent $100,000, 700-user order until his company's software package, Trim, passed the JTIC test.

Catherine Teti, director of the OTS Records Management and Information Policy Office, said most of her agency's records are paper-based, but eventually employees will do more electronically. JTIC certification was "a very important factor'' when ordering Trim, she said, because "it was clear these were across-the-board federal requirements.'' Even though every agency will have unique recordkeeping needs, Teti added, "The bottom line is [that] you have to have something that is going to comply, that the National Archives will accept and approve.''


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