Study calls for records data improvement

A government-sponsored study states that agency officials must do a better job of collecting performance data on systems that manage electronic records.

The study, conducted for Office of Management and Budget and National Archives and Records Administration officials, suggests nearly a dozen ways that managers can judge the adequacy of agencies' electronic records systems.

Performance metrics, the topic of a report on the study released last week, provide an overall measure of the difficulty of finding and retrieving electronic records, for example, in response to an audit or Freedom of Information Act request.

Agency officials rely on electronic records management systems to perform a variety of other government functions, including legal discovery, managing grants and complying with regulations. However, no two agencies do it alike.

Some performance metrics require that data be collected manually, but many others can be automated, according to the report.

The report's authors are members of the Industry Advisory Council's eGovernment Shared Interest Group. The members recommend that NARA and OMB officials do more to encourage industry to offer standardized ways of capturing and reporting performance metrics for electronic records management systems.

The report recommends that federal officials set agencywide standards and guidelines for measuring how well those systems are supporting their agencies.

A system's accuracy can be measured during periodic, manual audits. But other measures such as system productivity — the number of requests processed per week — can be captured automatically.

The study defines 11 categories of productivity metrics and describes the pros and cons of each. The most frequently used metric is an obvious one: user satisfaction measured by a survey.

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