Managers knock information management efforts

Despite the push to transform the federal government into a digital powerhouse, many agencies remain dependent on paper records, and current information management practices often are ineffective, according to a new survey.

OpenText and the Government Business Council – the research division of Government Executive Media Group -- polled 150 government managers ranging from the GS/GM-11 through SES level in defense and civilian agencies. The findings showed although managers acknowledge information management plays a key role in the business of government, improvements are needed.

Current information management systems received only a passing grade (“C”) by federal managers, and just 22 percent gave grades of “A” or “B.” Twenty-eight percent of managers rated their agency information management as “adequate,” while 58 percent used “inefficient,” “confusing” or “outdated” to best describe theirs.

The findings also revealed agencies have different formats for their records, but despite newer technologies, paper remains the most common. More than 90 percent said their agency manages paper documents, while 77 percent manage digital text or documents. Nearly 25 percent of managers say their agencies still manage microfiche or microfilm.

(To see more graphics, click here.)

Several managers said the use of paper records rather than digital solutions hampered agency record-keeping. Inadequate resources were deemed the largest obstacle to agencies in their efforts to overhaul information management. Another roadblock was the absence of a comprehensive strategy: 66 percent of managers said information management requires an agencywide approach.

Managers recognized the switch to electronic files would not only cut the time searching for records but also increase transparency and access to information. More than a third said digitizing records would reduce paper consumption, and nearly as many said it would slash operating costs.

The survey findings come nearly a year after President Barack Obama signed a memorandum that called on executive branch agencies to reform records management policies and practices and to develop a 21st-century framework for the management of federal records.

Despite the heavy focus on paper in the federal government, some agencies have pushed forward on their digitalizing efforts in hopes of seeing an IT transformation, the survey report noted.

The Interior Department, for example, is adopting a cloud-based records management and electronic archiving solution. Additionally, the Library of Congress’ U.S. Copyright Office is working to digitize its historical copyrights from 1870 to 1977 and have so far scanned 17 million cards.



About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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Government Cyber Insider tracks the technologies, policies, threats and emerging solutions that shape the cybersecurity landscape.


Reader comments

Tue, Oct 9, 2012

So how about some across-the-board data standardization, removal of politically-driven "stovepipe" systems, and the courage to find the contractual resources to enter the cloud?

Fri, Oct 5, 2012 Larry Medina

I wonder where all these "Federal Managers" were when the Presidential Memo was in Draft form last September and after it first went out last November? If they had these opinions then, they should have voiced them LOUD AND CLEAR to ensure NARA was aware of the stumbling blocks for adoption of the new strategy. The biggest issue isn't simply a lack of resources (funding and staff, which sort of go hand-in-hand) but a failure to determine the SCOPE of this effort and the enormity of the volume of records it will involve. As for the Agencies currently managing records in microform formats, the concept of scanning and converting those is utterly ridiculous. Microfilm, properly processed and stored, has a known life expectancy of 500 years (LE500). Why on Earth would you scan it into digital form, then create a requirement to periodically convert and migrate the images to ensure persistent access for its full retention period? Unless there is a frequent access requirement to images in a random manner, creating a sound finding aid that allows access t the filmed images would remain the best bet for long term to Permanent retention.

Fri, Oct 5, 2012

When my father passed away, I took my mother to the social security office. On his death certificate, my mother is listed as the spouse. We were in formed that social security still needed their marriage license. Talk about Enterprise Architecture!

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