The lowdown on ERM

Who certifies ERM systems for use in government? NARA has endorsed the Defense Department’s 5015.2 standard for records management applications. The Joint Interoperability Test Command certifies vendors’ products on two levels: those that comply with standards for handling classified records, and those that don’t but still comply with other 5015.2 standards. Most of the products listed in this guide meet current DOD 5015.2 standards according to JTIC. A new version of the DOD standard is due out for public comment by the end of September.

How do records end up in an ERM system? Many software tools require users to file documents or e-mail messages from within the applications they’re created in, or in “drop boxes” on the desktop or network file system. Newer systems use a set of rules configured by administrators to check and file documents automatically. These solutions can also classify records either based on user actions (with a limited set of choices based on the context of the record) or automatically, using information within the record or metadata created when the record was captured.

Once they’re in the ERM system, what do records officers do with the records? Rules created by administrators or records officers can do much of the indexing of records, which in turn can be sorted and searched based on metadata. The metadata often includes such information as what kind of document or file the record is, who created it and when, and what the project or process was. Workflow tools can alert records officers when a record is up for deletion and request approval of destruction by the designated owner of the document.

How do users access stored records? Depending on how old records are and where they’re stored, some ERM systems give access through a Web-based search tool or other browser-based client. Older records may first need to be retrieved from offline storage. For long-term storage, records need to be converted to a format that allows them to be viewed without the application that created them, such as PDF/A or XML.

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