Records managers see value of enterprise architecture

BOSTON — Federal agencies are starting to acquire and manage enterprisewide records management systems in a methodical and mature fashion.

At the AIIM International Exposition and Conference this week, records management employees from the Interior Department, the Internal Revenue Service and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission discussed how they worked with their agencies’ enterprise architectures and developed solid business cases so upper managers could easily understand the programs. Those strategies were key factors in their success in developing content and records management systems.

Edwin McCeney, Interior’s departmental records manager, said his agency applied the Software Engineering Institute’s Capability Maturity Model (CMM) to gauge its progress in achieving comprehensive records management.

"Records management is a lot more than just a file plan, schedules, inventories and boxing up things,” he said. “It is a process of creating and managing records. And as you improve that process, you improve records management.”

CMM offers a benchmark that objectively charts the progress of records management across multiple offices.

"CMM is really a snapshot of where we are," McCeney said.

The methodology uses five levels to demonstrate the maturity of a given process, the highest level showing that it is fully mature and the lowest indicating that the organization is unaware that a process is even needed.

McCeney mapped the CMM levels to specific states of an enterprise records management plan. Level 2, for instance, indicates that some records are captured and the organization has assigned some relevant responsibilities.

He devised a number of factors to help establish the levels. The amount of training the agency provides for employees is one factor, and Interior employees go through basic records management training within their first 60 days of employment.

Once an agency gauges its levels, it should work on the areas where it scored the lowest, McCeney said.

"It's always the weaker points that will hold you back,” he added. “If you're already at a Level 5 in training but are at a Level 2 or Level 3 in other areas, then focus on the weaker areas.”

However, he said achieving any degree of thoroughness in records management requires buy-in from all employees.

"If you don't change the culture of the organization, if you don't start getting champions and sponsors for records management, you're not going anywhere," McCeney said. "If you don't have management buy-in, you won't get beyond Level 2."

In another talk, IRS Records Officer Daniel Bennett said that when he joined the agency in 2003, it "had no well-coordinated approach to records management."

Although the agency was undertaking a number of efforts to move from paper-based to digital systems, there was no overarching plan for enterprisewide records management. The IRS currently has more than 630 systems running various processes for the agency.

"Our systems were not linked. They were not talking to each other,” Bennett said. “As a result, we had a difficult time complying with new [Electronic Freedom of Information Act] requirements, and e-discovery was a real problem for us.”

Records management was not part of the agency's enterprise architecture, so as IRS officials designed and engineered new information technology systems, they did not consider such requirements.

"We found that records management issues and requirements had to be linked to the implementing technology…and directly to the business process," Bennett said.

His office developed a records management component for the IRS’ enterprise architecture, which characterized records as assets. That let Bennett describe records management as a business requiremen and detail the creation, maintenance, use and disposition of records.

As other offices proposed and developed new systems, officials had to factor in records management governance.

Bennett's office also created an enterprise records management system that other systems could use and sought records management software that complied with the Defense Department's 5015.2 standards.

The agency bought 60,000 licenses for EMC's Documentum document management software with the records management and workflow options.

A case management system that handles tax exemptions uses Documentum, as does a form-publication system and an integrated financial management system. The agency is also testing records management software via intranet and Internet sites, while Bennett's office is developing records management workflows for case management systems.

His office is also incorporating e-mail management systems so the records repository can store attachments. This will save storage capacity because the repository will hold only one copy of an attachment regardless of how many IRS employees receive it.

Bennett said that although this system is not yet being used across the entire agency, officials have built the foundation for all the systems to use records management capabilities.

In another talk, Roya Noory, a project manager at NRC's Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, agreed that the success of a records management system depends on working with the agency's enterprise architecture. She started developing a content management system for her office in 2002.

"We kept an alignment with the organization's overall policy and infrastructure," Noory said. “We have to fit into the agency's enterprise architecture.”

NRC's effort involved developing a business case that described the benefits of putting "quantifiable values" in an enterprise content management system, she said. "We needed to do that in order to get the organization's upper management approval" for implementing the system.

"For us, it was not so much about choosing the right technology…but it was more about expectation-management training," Noory said.

Joab Jackson is a senior technology editor for FCW’s sister publication Government Computer News.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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