The White House issued a memo Nov. 28, 2011 asking agencies to improve their archiving practices.
Adelaide O’Brien, IDC’s research director of smart government strategies, said the memo instructs agencies to transition to electronic records to save taxpayer dollars and to promote accountability and transparency.
Agencies were required to select a senior level executive to identify the agency’s current plans for improving or maintaining its records management program, identify any obstacles and identify policies or programs that would assist the agency’s efforts to improve records management through a plan of action.
According to Sue Trombley, Iron Mountain’s managing director of consulting, have an opportunity to build a roadmap to manage paper and electronic records – and to consider restructuring cumbersome retention schedules.
“A good first step is simplifying and streamlining retention categories and making it easy for government employees to comply,” Trombley said.
O’Brien said the changes to come in records management will prepare agencies to deal with the digital tsunami about to hit.
IDC is forecasting that the digital universe will be 35 zettabytes by 2020.
That will grow by a factor of 44 from the 1.8 zettabytes created last year, O’Brien said.
The magnitude of growth will force agencies to deal with information in new and different ways, which is why agencies should consider tools for better information searching and management capabilities, O’Brien said.
With plans due only a few weeks ago, O’Brien said she expects agencies to identify non-drastic needs such as additional resources in order to transform the current paper and filing cabinets model retaining records.
However, the White House directive provides agencies the opportunity to now get much needed assistance in simplifying processes and eliminating requirements that are paper intensive, O’Brien said.
Trombley expects agencies to be willing to look to the private sector for best practices when it comes to managing records.
Many agencies indicate they have no problem giving NARA records of historical value but would like more ability to manage their day-to-day temporary business records.
According to Trombley, the best way for agencies to proceed is to create a roadmap accounting for the resources, people and technology needed to achieve compliant records management.
Trombley said the private sector has benefited from collaboration when it comes to records management.
She said there should be communication and a common understanding of the requirements of each specific business area in order to succeed in meeting goals and objectives.
O’Brien suggests the government needs to not only understand, but also to illustrate to all government workers that this is an important job for the entire agency, not just records manager.
Trombley said this would create a top down approach to records management instead of a bottom up process.
She said that the process should not be over-engineered, so to make it easy for employees to comply with records management guidelines.
In addition to the budgetary constraints agencies face when it comes to records management, the government also faces a manpower limitation to get the job done.
O’Brien said agencies should look at deploying solutions that have some short deliverable cycles since budget and headcounts are very tight.
Trombley suggests agencies use risk profiles to figure out where to concentrate their efforts and find quick returns on investments.
The Office of Management and Budget and NARA are expected to put out directives by summer based on agency suggestions as well as a method for employees to determine what is a record.
Trombley said the government will include all records despite formats by considering content over format.
The government aims to improve the processes for employees to find information, which a recent IDC survey of government workers found often takes just under an hour a day for government workers to look for information the agency has.
IDC is advising IT solutions providers to understand the government and business processes and then bring their solutions to government that relate to their specific work and process flow.
“We advise both government and IT solution providers to try to integrate with existing government solutions in today’s budget climate,” O’Brien said. “Help agencies understand where their processes could be vulnerable and reduce cost through automating manual processes.”
The government will be better prepared for changes driven by the growth of information but also citizen’s demand for transparency, according to O’Brien.
“Leveraging technology to provide better access to information helps government serve citizens better and informs citizens about what is known and done by their government,” she said.