For records preservation, Arkansas turns to the cloud


4 ways to gain ground in the journey toward NARA compliance

In 2011, President Barack Obama signed a memorandum requiring federal agencies to manage both permanent and temporary email records in an electronic format by the end of 2016. Perhaps even more important, the memorandum also made it mandatory for agencies to offer electronic access to all permanent records by the end of 2019.

Federal agencies have remained confident in their ability to satisfy upcoming records management requirements since the memorandum went into effect.  A 2017 annual report from the National Archives and Records Administration stated that 97% of agencies said they felt good about their chances of managing all permanent records electronically.  But the same report found that just 22% of agencies had transferred eligible electronic records to NARA during 2017. In the following year, that number only rose to 33%.

To dive deeper into NARA’s findings regarding agency preparations for the electronic record management deadline, AvePoint launched its own readiness report.

Among the most prominent reasons for agencies’ lack of action is continued reliance on end users for classifying records. Although most agencies reported using both automated and manual processes, the data tells a different story. In fact, just 3% of agencies fully automated the classification of records while 83% still leaned on end users in some capacity.

The problem? End users aren’t always reliable. They want to do the right thing, but they often have other jobs to do, and managing records is not always at the top of their list. After all, they aren’t trained records managers. Nearly half of all agencies (47%) said they believe end users’ inability to stay up to date on policies and procedures as well as antiquated manual processes makes it difficult to follow record management standards.

Getting back on track

Well aware of the fact that many agencies are not as on track as they believe they are in meeting the 2019 deadline, NARA officials are looking closely at the problem and taking appropriate proactive actions. A wide range of potential roadblocks are being investigated, including a lack of IT systems, infrastructure, resources and funding.

As key issues and potential solutions are identified, agencies can get much-needed assistance in the form of a maturity model. Designed to address the most significant obstacles facing agencies, the model aims to put organizations back on the path to compliance with the looming 2019 deadline.

In the meantime, however, government agencies can also do their part to satisfy new records management provisions. Whether it’s working more closely with IT or leaving behind proprietary systems, a few simple steps can go a long way toward meeting the NARA mandate.

1. Reexamine record control processes. Agencies can set the stage for seamless electronic record management by first working with NARA to determine what type of information qualifies as a record. Once it’s clear which specific documents or information are considered records, agencies should minimize the  situations in which end users interpret which documents count as a record based on the wording and letter of the records schedule.

2. Collaborate with the agency’s IT department. Record management teams can find themselves reliant on the technical capabilities supplied or procured by the IT department. Record managers who partner with their IT teams early to better understand how to build the business case for new technology are often the most successful.

3. Leave behind proprietary systems. Nine out of 10 agencies use proprietary systems to create, transfer or store information. Although the use of such legacy systems remains popular, it may be keeping agencies from the advantages of modern electronic records management and digitally driven processes for records disposition. It’s time for agencies to consider moving from proprietary systems in favor of NARA-backed standards and procedures that make it easier to keep pace with the growing volume of electronic records.

4. Usher in digital record management solutions aligned with NARA guidelines.  Outdated records management processes, more appropriate for the file cabinet than the digital workplace era, are still prevalent at the federal level. I applaud all the agencies working diligently to transition from practices like printing emails to capture them as records. This transformation isn’t easy. With record management solutions, agencies can add automation, reduce their reliance on end users and ultimately shorten the time it takes to comply with record management standards.

As NARA officials look to pinpoint the main issues limiting compliance with record management mandates, agencies can better position themselves to meet the 2019 deadline. The NARA maturity model is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to more efficiently transferring eligible records. From leaving behind proprietary systems to installing automated record management solutions, agencies that make an effort to realign themselves with upcoming record management standards can successfully achieve compliance ahead of December 2019.

About the Author

John Peluso is the chief technology officer for AvePoint Public Sector.

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