Experts advise not rushing to meet digital records deadline

"Where I see failures happening in implementation is when people try to do too much all at one time," says Guidance Software’s Chad McManamy.

E-mail circling the globe

Deadlines for managing electronic records are about to begin bearing down on agencies, but industry experts offer counsel that might have come from basketball legend John Wooden: Be quick, but don’t hurry.

The 2011 Presidential Memorandum on Governments Records Management initiated a 2016 deadline for agencies to begin electronically managing emails and a 2019 deadline to manage all permanent electronic records digitally – at a time when many agencies still print out and physically file emails.

"The National Archives certainly hopes that those requirements will serve as a lever for agencies to start managing all their information electronically by 2019," Meg Phillips, external affairs liaison for the National Archives and Records Administration, said last week at the Digital Government Institute’s E-Discovery, Records and Information Management Conference.

But don’t be in too big a hurry.

Chad McManamy, associate general counsel for legal eDiscovery at Guidance Software, said he sees organizations fail when implementation is rushed.

"Where I see failures happening in implementation is when people try to do too much all at one time," McManamy said. Instead, organizations and agencies should ensure buy-in from different departments and accomplish the basic tasks before sending their plans up the organizational ladder. The directive on records management also mandates that all agencies have a senior official review their records management programs. 

Phillips said that while automation for eDiscovery and information management systems goes beyond the scope of the presidential directive, implementing automation would make hitting the directive deadlines easier for agencies with large amounts of data.

The National Archives and Records Administration encourages automation not just to “reduce the burden of records management on the end-users, but also just to increase consistency, increase compliance and to make sure those records are captured for reuse, for proactive disclosure, for eDiscovery, for [Freedom of Information Act] and for ongoing business use," Phillips said.

Like other government initiatives, from social media expansion to the adoption of the cloud, there are certain tenets agencies should follow in order to be successful. Take for instance utilizing technology an agency has at hand. 

"Leveraging your existing tools can definitely help increase government openness and also minimize costs, so you don't have to go and make these additional investments in technology," said Patrick Bland, account executive of eDiscovery and information governance for DLT Solutions.

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