Records Management

4 keys to digitizing federal records

Shutterstock image: digital record management.

As government records grow in both volume and type, agencies are challenged with managing that information in a manner that combines physical and digital environments. Moreover, by 2019, agencies will be required to manage their permanent electronic records in a format that meets the guidelines of the presidential directive on managing government records.

The directive's goals are to minimize costs and promote greater openness, accessibility and accountability between government and citizens in alignment with President Barack Obama's Open Government Initiative, which was launched in 2009.

As agencies work to improve their digitization strategies, they must recognize the value and efficiency of close collaboration between records management (RM) and IT professionals. Although each group brings its own expertise to the digitization process, together -- and in compliance with National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) procedures -- they can form a winning partnership to propel agencies forward during their move to digital records.

Working collaboratively, RM and IT professionals need to find the most effective ways to use technology to identify, classify, retain and dispose of every record made or received by an agency, regardless of format.

To accomplish those objectives, there are four issues on which RM and IT professionals should focus together:

  • A common language. Communication challenges often stall the records management progress due to varying definitions of terms between RM and IT professionals. To better manage records, those professionals must determine a common language for frequently used industry terms related to information management and should incorporate input from all stakeholders, including legal, program management and department leaders.
  • Space constraints. As the amount of information to be stored continues to grow, NARA and other agencies have been running out of space, sparking an initiative to Freeze the Footprint and restrict the growth of agency office space, storage and inventory. RM and IT should find ways to keep up with increasing demands for space and ensure that all records are fully protected, available and stored for the proper retention period.
  • Tools and services. RM and IT leaders must work together to make records management sustainable by selecting the right tools and services to align current and future electronic records management practices with IT systems and plans. By doing so, they can help their agencies determine how and when to outsource information asset management and help save their IT department from sustainment challenges down the road.
  • Performance goals. RM and IT professionals should jointly establish performance goals that are "specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound," according to NARA's recent self-assessment survey. They should also conduct risk assessments of records management to identify the internal controls necessary for successful IT implementation.

By strengthening collaboration between RM and IT, agencies can expect to see several measurable benefits. They will better manage paper and electronic records, redefine processes and retool system efficiencies. IT professionals will save time and employee resources by helping agencies more effectively use their IT investments for workflow and productivity gains and, in turn, federal agencies will be better prepared to deliver services to constituents.

By bringing together RM and IT to work on records modernization, federal agencies will meet mandated goals faster. Moving forward, there will no doubt be more steps to take to better bridge the gap between the groups, but their progress has already started to move the federal government forward, making digitization a more seamless process while modernizing information management programs and fostering a more open government.

About the Author

Sue Trombley is managing director of thought leadership at Iron Mountain.

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