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In August of 2012, the National Archives issued a directive to carry out a presidential directive to overhaul the records management policies of federal agencies. NARA (National Archive and Records Administration) issued goal A3.1 of the Presidential Records Management Directive (PRMD) and has published information about how to get involved.
There has been a lot of press about goal A3.1 of the PRMD. I spent some time reading it myself. I found much of the press to be confusing and decided to look more closely at the directives to get a better understanding. I came up with two points of confusion to discuss, those are email and records in general.
The first concern is Email. When reading through the news outlets (such as NextGov.com) it goes something like this, “PRMD requires agencies to store all email digitally by 2016”. I had to read that a couple times to make sure I didn’t miss something and realized the intent of the directive is really missing from the articles. What the directive from Barack Obama in November of 2011 actually says is, “By December 31, 2016, Federal agencies must manage all email records in an electronic format.” It goes on to say, “Email records must be retained in an appropriate electronic system that supports records management and litigation requirements (which may include preservation-inplace models), including the capability to identify, retrieve, and retain the records for as long as they are needed.”
When you read the first part and not the second there is some confusion because it seems too obvious an idea. To clarify, I believe it means federal agencies must use Email systems with records management capabilities.
The second concern is records in general. Again, when read through the news you’ll see “store records digitally by 2019.” This sounds like a great initiative. However, it is not what is directed by the PRMD. The directive is aimed at managing permanent electronic documents in an electronic manner.
To clarify, again, I believe it means that if a record is permanent and electronic, then it must stay electronic throughout its management life cycle (assuming workflow and retention) and be transferred electronically to NARA. Essentially, you can’t print the document and send it around for workflow and your retention schedules must be handled by an ERMS (Electronic Records Management System).
Now that we’ve cleared that up, back to building a Records Management product.