For records preservation, Arkansas turns to the cloud


3 ways to ensure records management compliance

Records management in the public sector is undergoing rapid and exciting changes.  The National Archives and Records Administration has changed the game for federal agencies with the release of the Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative.

According to a NARA blog post, "FERMI aims to provide a government-wide, modern, cost-effective, standardized, and interoperable set of records management solutions providing common, core functionality to support records management services for Federal agencies."

This is exciting news in that federal agencies now have clear and simple electronic records management standards to follow and implement. This is important because  the standards implemented during the days of paper and filing cabinets were not designed to address the amount of data being created every day.

There are three important updates that agencies should be aware of to ensure records management compliance.

1. Follow universal electronic records management requirements

The Universal ERM requirements outline high-level requirements for records management systems, and agencies can use them as a checklist when researching solutions for compliance.  These new requirements are a big step towards modernization, in that they look at a variety of records formats including web records, social media as well as traditional documents and emails.

NARA is also developing detailed use cases for implementation to support these requirements so that agencies understand how the requirements should be implemented in practical terms. Use cases for email records have already been released, with others to follow as they are developed.

2. Use Special Item Number 51600

While NARA and the General Services Administration's Unified Shared Services Management Office worked together to develop the Universal ERM requirements, GSA's Integrated Workplace Acquisition Center incorporated these requirements into Multiple Award Schedule 36.

Additionally, Special Item Number 51600 has been created specifically for electronic records management systems. Under this SIN, contractors and vendors can certify that they meet the requirements of the standard, and agencies can purchase records management solutions confident they will be compliant.

Managing the lifecycle of electronic records that have been born digitally is important for agencies'  records management modernization efforts.

3. Mark your calendars: Deadlines for compliance

NARA released three deadlines for agencies' compliance.

The first of these was in 2016 when all agencies were required to manage all email in an electronic and accessible format.  

By the end of 2019 all electronic records that have been deemed to be permanent under a NARA disposition authority must  be managed electronically. Agencies that do not have a system in place for compliantly managing their electronic records have just over six months to meet this requirement. If organizations haven't started this process, they risk not being able to meet the deadline.

After 2022 NARA will no longer accept transfers of any kind in a non-electronic format. Until that deadline, agencies can transfer to NARA any legacy physical information they still hold, but after that date they will be responsible for  the cost and process to digitize records before they are transferred to the archive.

Failing to transfer physical information prior to the Dec. 31, 2022, cut-off could have significant financial impact to agencies, both from a digitization perspective, but also an ongoing storage and management perspective.

An important step forward

There is much happening in the federal records space. NARA's FERMI requirements give public-sector records managers the visibility to take the modernization challenge seriously, implementing real and lasting change for their agencies.

This exciting opportunity for change is not something to be taken lightly, but embraced, encouraged and executed!

About the Author

Alyssa Blackburn is an information strategy manager at AvePoint.

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