Records management gets a little attention and respect

Ed McCeney says Interior's reference model is a major piece of the records management puzzle.

Olivier Douliery

Ed McCeney is on a mission. He wants records management to become a hot topic in the eyes of federal employees. Mostly, he sees their eyes glaze over at its mention.

'Records management is the most powerful narcoleptic known to man,' said McCeney, the Interior Department's records manager.

But federal officials are beginning to recognize that it's crucial to every aspect of government business. And he believes the technology exists to make records management a strength for federal agencies.

Further, the National Archives and Records Administration and the Office of Management and Budget are developing policies to help make records management a part of everyday life in the government.

Agency records include all documents in paper and electronic form'such as e-mail, memos and reports'that must be stored and remain accessible in their original format. Agencies dispose of records they don't have to send to NARA.

The exponentially growing volume of government records cuts two ways: it makes effective records management both more difficult and more important. For instance, NARA expects that by 2013 it will have 1 billion personnel records from the Defense Department.

Agencies that manage their records effectively will be able to handle this glut and make them usable for years to come.

'Document management gets more attention, but records management is an afterthought,' McCeney said. 'But if we can present it to agency officials that records management can benefit everyone, we will transform how we do business.'

McCeney said Interior has a major piece of this puzzle. Agency enterprise architects drafted a data reference model for records management that could serve as an example for the rest of the government, he said.

New FEA layer

Interior's work on the model comes as NARA CIO Reynolds Cahoon and others are working to incorporate records management as a separate layer in the Federal Enterprise Architecture.
McCeney said he has received good reviews of Interior's model from Cahoon.

'Our [data model] encompasses more than 50 business lines, and we want to break them down further to detail the business functions that overlap,' McCeney said. 'Since records management covers all lines of business, if we can define each line-of-business records, we really will have accomplished something.'

In a sense, Interior is writing the first encyclopedia of records management for the government, he said. If another agency has a similar line of business, Interior has done much of the work for them.

Interior's model defines the data that makes up a record. McCeney said that could include limits on the amount of information in a record, a description of the data, or who created it and when.
The result would show the relationship between records, he said. And that relationship is an important element in IT business cases.

Cahoon, who spoke at a recent breakfast sponsored by FSI of McLean, Va., said that, because records management crosses all lines of business, it must be incorporated in IT project planning and development processes.

'There is a tremendous amount of work to do in writing guidance, regulations and creating standard practices,' Cahoon said. 'If records management is not embedded in the enterprise architecture, and capital planning and investment control processes, it will not stick.'

The biggest obstacle to integrating records management into the FEA is the staff turnover at OMB. But Cahoon said agencies recognize the challenge of records management and want to work more closely with NARA.

'We are working with the FEA team to create a metamodel that will model the physical processes of records management,' he said. 'The business process layer is the strongest place to embed records management.'

NARA is working with OMB to sharpen the questions about records management that agencies must answer for their IT business cases. The changes will not be in place before the fiscal 2006 business cases that are due in September, but most likely for the 2007 budget submission.

'There already is specific guidance for agencywide records management in the business case guidance,' said Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for IT and e-government. 'NARA has made recommendations on how to improve it.'

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above