The past few years have seen many changes in the ways federal agencies are directed to maintain records, with a particular emphasis on digital records.
2012’s Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18) laid out a variety of deadlines for the implementation of forward-looking policies for federal records management. As of December 2016, all agencies were required to maintain email records digitally, replacing traditional (and inefficient) print-and-file techniques. The next major deadline comes in December of 2019, when this mandate extends to all permanent records. This is different from mere archiving in that it also requires the maintenance of metadata about the content that comprises the record. Given the time it generally takes federal agencies to procure and implement software solutions, it is important that these agencies finalize their plans as soon as possible.
Where have you already invested?
The need for federal agencies to maintain records electronically will create many new questions for small agencies in particular. Traditional enterprise content management (ECM) platforms introduce a variety of complex and costly needs, including specialized resources, a lengthy implementation, and training for users. In many cases, these solutions may also fail to comply with the “Cloud First Policy,” designed to ensure IT investment longevity.
On the other hand, most agencies work in the Microsoft ecosystem already. Users are familiar with SharePoint, Outlook, and the rest of the Office suite.
The easiest and lowest cost way for you to comply with M-12-18 (and drive improved collaboration in your agency) is to take advantage of your existing investment in Microsoft while adding third-party records management capabilities. You should be able to manage content in place across systems, transfer records between systems, and create JITC DoD 5015.2-certified solution. This approach is the lightest touch, and also improves the value of your agency’s existing technology and software investments.
Reduce complexity and simplify administration
For a records management plan to be most effective, your agency should attempt to maintain control and classify content from the moment it enters your agency’s systems. By automatically applying metadata at upload, rules-based classification engines can ensure that content is managed correctly and that the proper retention processes kick into effect at the moment a piece of content is declared a record.
With a platform-agnostic approach to policy, you can lower both cost and risk and improve your organization’s ability to respond to audits and discovery requests. By building those capabilities on a ubiquitous platform and extending them outward to other content sources, you will be able to reach across your agency to apply consistent policy instead of requiring the maintenance of additional systems designed to only store records.
Centralized records management is failing
Centralized records management does not work – specifically because it requires an organization to either maintain complex, redundant infrastructure, or to manage all of their records in a confusing, monolithic system. Rentention and classification rules need to be applied independent of and extend across all your content sources. Instead of trying to create centralized systems, agencies should be creating collaborative and controlled ecosystems. By taking this approach, agencies can succeed in bringing content to the communities they serve in addition to achieving compliance with M-12-18.
Section 1.2: “to the fullest extent possible”
Let’s now take a look back at Section 1.2 of M-12-18:
By December 31, 2019, all permanent electronic records in Federal agencies will be managed electronically to the fullest extent possible for eventual transfer and accessioning by NARA in an electronic format.
This goal can be achieved using the tools at your disposal, as long as you include the right add-ons. With your existing Microsoft infrastructure, including licensing, security, hardware, IT personnel, and trained users, you can transform your current environment into a well-managed and M-12-18-compliant content ecosystem. In addition to compliance, you’ll also achieve better visibility into aspects of program delivery and develop valuable insight into your records practices within hours of implementing a global policy tool. By building a modular solution that can accept new content sources, you will ensure that your records management program can respond to future needs. And as the definition of “fullest extent possible” may morph over time, a cloud-based approach is the safest.
By Jude O'Neill