Interior takes records management to the cloud

New system promises to cut costs, deliver 'real business intelligence.'

hands and cloud

The Interior Department is the first Cabinet-level agency to take records managements to the cloud. The Email, Enterprise Records and Document Management System (eERDMS) is designed to manage records, documents, forms and other data that supports the department's programs and missions. It is part of Interior's IT Transformation initiative, which is expected to save $500 million by 2020.

Through eERDMS, relevant agency data and records are captured and stored in a cloud managed by the IQ Business Group. Three enterprise programs, components of eERDMS, operate in harmony to achieve Interior's goal of storing and cataloging important communications and other content.

The components are:

Enterprise eArchive System, which captures approximately 800 million inbound and outbound email messages annually, including attachments, from about 80,000 users and stores them in the cloud, which operates on an OpenText records management platform. Thus far, close to 1 billion email messages from previous years have also been indexed. It uses auto-categorization, a form of artificial intelligence in which the system learns to analyze incoming and outgoing email messages to determine, for example, how long a message should be stored. Highly important messages are sent to the National Archives and Records Administration. Most other communications are retained for a few years, while some are deleted, based on the system's determination of their importance. The system's rapid success was aided in part by Interior's move to a cloud-based email application for its employees, called Bison Connect.

Enterprise Content System, which provides content support for records management initiatives and supports requests through the Freedom of Information Act, during inspector general audits and for other reviews.

Enterprise Forms System, which centralizes, standardizes and automates all internal and external forms. It provides a single integrated forms portal for Interior's 4,700 departmental forms.

The eERDMS has been a hit already, said DOI eRecords Service Manager John Montel, who oversees the largest cloud-based records and information governance program in the federal government.

Records can be easily searched by keyword, and documents containing potentially important terms for legal cases, such as "Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill," can be flagged to stay in the system indefinitely.

"Every inbound and outbound email, we get a journal copy in our records management system in OpenText format, right into the cloud, and we're the first Cabinet agency to achieve this," Montel said. "We've got a commonality across the board in our records. But we are looking to expand."

The agency is planning to add new features to eERDMS. An enterprise dashboard would act as a platform for reporting statistical information for the automated systems within eERDMS while another system would provide desktop faxing capabilities and store those communications in a similar manner to how email messages are stored.

The eERDMS package, Montel said, is the "big kahuna burger" for the agency because it provides "real business intelligence." In terms of efficiency, it could save the agency tens of millions of dollars -- a small but sizable chunk of the $500 million it expects to save through its IT Transformation initiative.

"Records management is not a sexy phrase in the federal government, but what you get when you remove transitory and spam messages is real business intelligence," Montel said. "You can build models of how you are doing business. We want to be able to demonstrate from business actions -- take a subject, run analytics and see the systems and people it talks to. Before, it took us forever to do this. But we're doing this quicker, faster and cheaper, and the real intelligence of data capturing is way beyond IT transformation. It adds huge value."

Editor's Note: This story was modified on July 3 to clarify several points of information.

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