Your Agency and the Open Government Directive

An Oval Office mandate requires your office to make all of its processes clear and accessible to constituents. So how well are you responding to the challenge?

On day two of his presidency, President Obama vowed to create “an unprecedented level of openness in government.” His goal: Make government more nimble and responsive so that agencies can work more efficiently, collaborate with their peers and third parties, and provide the general public with top-notch “customer service.” The Office of Management and Budget added teeth to the President’s pledge in December 2009 by issuing the Open Government Directive (OGD). Since then, federal agencies have been restructuring their internal records management policies and retooling IT infrastructures to meet the challenge and become more transparent and efficient.

Getting a handle on records—particularly the organizing and converting of legacy paper—serves as the cornerstone of any open government strategy. But that’s just the beginning. The following questions address many other areas of concern to staffers responsible for their agency’s OGD compliance.

Q: What is the current state of OGD compliance?

A: Checking the White House’s Open Government Dashboard reveals that all departments of the federal government published an Open Government Plan in April 2010. And earlier this year, most of these departments received relatively high marks on a White House report card—with 18 agencies, including the Justice Department and the Treasury, earning all green (satisfactory) marks in 10 categories, including data integrity and flagship initiatives.

Q: What is the best practice for sharing paper-based information and records?

A: A study by the market research firm IDC, discussed in an IDC Government Web conference earlier this year, found that government responders would gain significant efficiencies in their job if they could access digital versions of paper documents. However, creating these digital assets is resource intensive—and budgets are shrinking. Still, an agency can manage the process effectively by taking an intelligent scanning approach to records management.

Q: What is “intelligent scanning”?

A: This method maintains a strategic, hybrid approach to document imaging by keeping infrequently requested records in hard-copy format and making images of them on an as-needed basis. However, more frequently requested documents are converted to digital format for the most rapid, efficient access. With this approach you choose how to store and convert records according to your budget and your need for the documents; it’s not a rigid all-or-nothing plan. This hybrid solution provides a federal agency with cost-effective and efficient access to information.

Q: How does such a “hybrid approach” help my agency meet Open Government mandates?

A: Fast information retrieval paves the way for transparency and collaboration throughout the government’s information infrastructure. What’s more, agencies can post high-value content to the Web with ease, so the general public can reap the advantages of self-service public-records access. Fast information retrieval also makes it easy for government agencies to collaborate internally, with other agencies and with the citizens they serve.

Q: What steps should an agency like ours take to improve its compliance report card?

A: Keep the “business proposition” in focus at all times. Use your precious budget dollars to:

  • Develop and maintain an information management policy that manages and protects documents critical for meeting your mission and serving the public—regardless of format (e.g., paper or digital) or location.
  • Spark a cross-agency initiative. For example, one agency reports: “During our research process, we met records management and Information Technology pros from other organizations who collaborated to create an information management solution. The records management team mapped out the storage and access of records; IT then executed that vision with its building of technology solutions that facilitated faster, easier and more efficient information exchange.” Lesson learned? It’s “all hands on deck” if you want to reach the goal of successful Open Government.
  • Train, train, train. When you provide comprehensive training, you equip employees with the tools for success. Training also promotes cost-saving efficiencies.
  • Foster accountability. Projects are more likely to succeed if your agency designates a single person or group to lead and take responsibility.
  • Invest in innovation. Many of the latest technological advances in the gathering, structuring, storing and accessing of information—such as electronic records management systems—can arm employees with the tools needed to ensure success by automating and streamlining processes.
  • Focus on compliance. The federal government has set very specific milestones and goals for its agencies—know them cold.

Q: Once our OGD plan is in place, what’s next?

A: Government must inspire more innovative records management plans. The recently reauthorized America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science) Act lets agencies create cash-prize competitions to encourage innovation and develop solutions from within government and private industry. Also:

  • In December 2010, the General Services Administration introduced an online program to solicit citizens’ input on designing “a next generation public engagement platform” that would give public officials a means of soliciting citizens’ answers to questions they post online.
  • The U.S. Air Force Research Lab joined forces with the Wright Brothers Institute to develop the Open Innovation Pavilion, an online innovation forum in which “more than a quarter-million of the world’s brightest minds” offer their best thinking in exchange for cash awards.

Change is happening—it’s just a matter of your organization being ready for it. Meeting the demands of the Open Government Directive means maintaining a firm sense of your agency’s goals and being aware of administrative and technological tools as they become available. By doing this, you can keep pace with your peers and achieve the President’s goal of a more transparent and accessible federal government.

Iron Mountain Masters the Paper Chase

For more than 50 years, Iron Mountain has served as a trusted government-agency partner. Today, we’re helping these organizations develop more efficient and cost-effective ways to meet the OGD’s complex demands, providing:

  • Guidance you can trust. Iron Mountain’s six-step standardized product methodology assesses your agency’s state of compliance readiness.

  • Auditable compliance. Our regional Federal Records Centers adhere to NARA and FEMA requirements, among other government standards.

  • Secure processes and protocols. Iron Mountain products and processes create a Chain-of-Custody unmatched in the industry. Additionally, we vet all staff through background checks, employee screenings and formalized training.

  • Proprietary, secure facilities. Iron Mountain’s network of NARA-compliant Federal Records Centers protects contents from fire, flood and other elements.

  • Ready access. A network of records facilities, streamlined methodology and well-trained staff provide agencies with rapid records access and guidance in meeting COOP and disaster-recovery requirements.

Have more questions about the OGD and other pertinent compliance topics? Read additional Knowledge Center coverage on these subjects, or contact Iron Mountain’s consulting services team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your information management challenges.

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