Panel: Agencies pay dearly for overlooking records planning

Panel: Agencies pay dearly for overlooking records planning

Too many agencies don’t think about records management during the planning stages of their IT projects, making the flow of documents harder to oversee in the long term, a panel of federal and industry experts said today.

Catherine Teti, knowledge services officer for the General Accounting Office and a 27-year records management veteran across government, said project managers need to include records management as a part of their business processes.

“When agencies begin work on a solution, records management needs to be integrated on the front end along with acquisition strategy, project milestones and anything else that is done up front,” she said at a conference in Washington sponsored by Adobe Systems Inc. “It really needs to be a part of good business management.”

Teti, who said she was speaking from her career experiences and not for GAO, said agencies also need to better define what a record is and which ones merit long-term preservation.

“There can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to defining a record,” Teti said. “We need to look at the purpose of the record, whether it requires staying in the format it was originally composed in, and the impact of electronic signatures.”

Teti also said there is very little guidance on records management in government. She said the National Archives and Records Administration should regulate the process and the Office of Management and Budget would be the most logical place for enforcement of NARA guidance.

“Records management has fallen behind the other initiatives in the CIO’s office,” she said.

Stephen Levenson, the judiciary records officer for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, said the court system has to change how it handles the amount of electronic records that courts create and that lawyers and others send to his office.

“We need to have a common format that everyone adheres to,” he said. “The government cannot be a policeman at the records counter. The standards need to be included in [software] tools and brought to the record preparer’s desktop.”

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