Modernizing Federal Information Governance How US Federal Government Agencies can Optimize IG

Topics: Federal Records and Information Management

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Do you wonder how successfully you are managing your agency’s information? Do you look to your peers for comparison and validation? This year, government executives gain a new window into what others in the federal sector are doing to manage their information assets effectively. Iron Mountain has underwritten the Information Governance Benchmarking Survey from Cohasset Associates. This is the 8th biannual study, and this year it is sponsored by ARMA and AIIM. This brief serves as analysis of the survey results.

The 2013 – 2014 Information Governance Benchmarking Survey for the U.S. Federal Government examines survey responses from government executives to provide benchmarking metrics on information lifecycle practices. It also compares U.S. Federal Government responses to the findings of the 1,300 people who took the survey, irrespective of industry, to give an indication of the maturity of Information Governance (IG) in a variety of industries.

Recommendations are provided for modernizing IG so that you can formulate internal action plans and develop communications about your program’s strengths and opportunities, with facts to support your strategy.


This brief is a companion piece to the 2013 – 2014 Information Governance Benchmarking Survey for the U.S. Federal Government. Written by Iron Mountain subject matter professionals who focus on government Records and Information Management (RIM), it provides our view of three “big takeaways” and nine potential “dial movers” for strengthening government RIM/IG. It also incorporates government sector trends, along with the challenges and opportunities that these present. Iron Mountain services many U.S. Federal Government organizations, and we share this experience as it relates to the findings.

Big Takeaway 1

RIM programs are established and supported in most agencies, although many ess ential implementation elements still haven’t been address ed.

92% of U.S. Federal Government survey participants with RIM responsibility report the existence of a records and information management program.

51% of respondents affirm the development of a comprehensive strategy to guide future RIM direction is underway.


Only 13% report a mature strategy.

Only 6% of respondents report the mature use of metrics to guide RIM program assessment and improvement.

Only 19% of the time is a cross-functional RIM governance structure identified as “mature,” indicating the execution of governance with cross-disciplinary balance and perspective is not easy.

Iron Mountain's Take:

Consistent policies, strong retention rules, and an ongoing training regimen form the essential foundation of any defensible records and information management program. This is the best way for agencies to deliver systematic, repeatable, and measurable implementation outcomes that can help address realities they face daily in managing growing volumes of information.

Potential Dial Movers

Measuring the success of your RIM efforts is crucial to raising awareness and garnering greater support for your agency’s IG program.

When you look at actions you can take to improve areas that may lag behind other agencies, along with areas in which the U.S. Federal Government lags behind other industries, you must look at actions that can deliver the most “bang for your buck.” We call these “dial movers.” Dial movers, when strengthened, often positively affect other program metrics. Actionable dial movers from Takeaway #1 include:

1 Realistically assess IG performance — Perform a thorough assessment of current policy-level requirements and your implementation results. This practice can serve as the baseline for your benchmarking moving forward. You must be realistic, comprehensive — include all information about paper and digital results, along with the full lifecycle — and differentiate between high-value versus ancillary information. Use the full assessment to identify strengths and recognize improvement opportunities. Comparing primary IG program components as they match or differ from modern best practices allows you to create a plan to address program gaps.

2 Management support remains a critical need — The levels of support experienced in the Federal Government from its top-level executives (52%) and from mid-level management (47%) are lower than those reported by all industry organizations surveyed. By comparison, in the survey of 1,300 RIM executives across all industry sectors, strong support was cited from 65% of executives and 61% of mid-level management. The results here indicate that a greater focus on building stronger management support for IG is warranted across federal agencies.

3 Refresh policies and communications — Strengthen alliances with other governance programs, simplify retention schedules, and in all cases, expand the program to address all information asset types.

4 Enhance training — According to the survey, over half (56%) of federal respondents report that employees “never really receive any RIM training.” Establishing regularly scheduled training for all employees that includes a strong emphasis on the benefits of IG to the organization will help improve your IG program.

5 Prepare to measure performance — Measuring the success of your RIM efforts is crucial to raising awareness and garnering greater support for your agency IG program. The benchmarking efforts you implement and metrics you generate will document progress toward your agency’s primary goals, provide crucial proof of the program’s benefits and deliver warning indicators when an implementation strategy isn’t achieving desired outcomes.

Three megatrends THAT are driving significant changes across the U.S. Federal Government

  1. The rapid growth and expansion of regulations, federal mandates and initiatives aimed at improving records management, are driving federal agencies to seek solutions that will help unify the management of physical and electronic records. The Presidential Directive on Managing Government Records, in combination with the Administration’s “Freeze the Footprint” mandate, FOIA reform, Open Government policies, and other information-centered initiatives such as the Open Data Policy, have put federal agencies at an information management “tipping point.”

  2. The staggering amount of data that flows through government organizations continues to grow, and must be collected, maintained, and eventually destroyed according to strictly regulated information lifecycle and preservation requirements.The explosive growth of data in all forms, combined with expanding efforts to modernize and analyze government information, including “big data,” is driving agencies and departments to seek new ways to gain greater value from legacy data and records. Information contained in legacy records can be used to reevaluate, seek out patterns, and search for relevant insights to better serve constituent needs.

    Unfortunately, agencies must juggle everexpanding record volumes with flat or shrinking budgets, while racing to meet mandates that require a fundamental shift in how they store, access, and manage records and information. They understand that unifying records management is not just about reorganizing and filing records. It is about enabling agencies to search, locate, and review information to make better and faster decisions. They recognize that records management empowers agencies to better achieve their core mission goals.

  3. Most federal agencies recognize digitizing everything is NOT a fiscally responsible or viable option. Instead, managing both paper and digital records in a unified framework makes the most sense, from an economic and practical perspective. Marrying the two types of records under a single information governance plan is considered crucial to meeting federally mandated goals. A unified approach to records management would also allow agencies to apply consistent policy management and enforcement, no matter where records are located, what format they are in, or where they were created.

    For now, the pressure to unify records management intensifies as the current Administration continues efforts to promote greater transparency and better information management. Key deadlines associated with the Presidential Directive have already begun. The longer agencies delay in getting started, the more difficult it will be to keep pace with continually evolving federal mandates.

Big Takeaway 2

Broader automation can streamline support of information disposition, including unstructured content and legal holds.

Only 39% of U.S. Federal Government survey participants affirm the automated deletion of email, instant messages, and electronic communications. But, 51% of the respondents report that they have automated the deletion of paper records stored offsite. Given the maturity of automated systems, it’s troubling that so few respondents say deletion processes are fully or partially automated.

Only 3% indicate that the current content/document management solutions in use have evolved to fully automate the disposition process.

67% of respondents strongly or mostly agree that over-preservation of information occurs due to how legal holds are written or applied.

On the bright side, when it comes to paper records, 88% of federal survey respondents agree their organization’s deletion/destruction practices work to render sensitive information unrecoverable, although responses for both electronic media (64%) and fixed media (59%), identify opportunities for agencies to better define information lifecycle controls.

Iron Mountain’s Take:

Over-preservation of information in legal hold processes remains an immense challenge. The implementation of effective information lifecycle controls will help to reduce risks and complexity for many federal agencies. Ultimately, greater automation and unification of all records retention processes represents one of the clearest ways federal agencies and departments can effectively modernize information governance.

Potential dial movers

6 Enhance and update retention schedules to enable automated deletion processes — The migration to a fully automated process that systematically performs consistent and repeatable records deletion relies on well-defined retention schedules. Because retention schedules ultimately dictate how automation rules are applied, establishing strong retention rules is a critical first step toward automated deletion. A vast majority (87%) of government respondents affirm the need to improve their organization’s retention schedules by developing uniformity across all operational functions.

7 Broader categories, or “bigger buckets” ease retention efforts — 60% of the respondents identified with using a current retention schedule that contains “between 250 and 499” or “500 or more” categories. At the same time, those same federal survey respondents would prefer a retention schedule format that contains between 25 and no more than 249 categories. Too many retention categories make it difficult and time consuming for users to align information with the proper category and retention requirements, not to mention making it almost impossible to effectively automate RIM.

Big Takeaway 3

The U.S. Federal Government most likely has RIM report to their Legal or IT departments, but greater coordination, collaboration, and integration between these functions are needed to achieve key IG goals.

30% of federal survey respondents affirmed a reporting relationship to information technology, which is significantly higher than the 18% reported by all industries surveyed. This is likely due to the impact of the Administration’s Presidential Directive on Managing Government Records and the Open Data Policy, which directed federal agencies to migrate to electronic records, thus requiring a closer relationship between RM and IT staffs.

50% of U.S. Federal Government respondents reported interdisciplinary affiliations with risk management, and 56% with internal audit.


Only 55%of those surveyed reported that they currently get the necessary support from IT despite that a third of respondents said they now report to IT.

Iron Mountain's Take:

While information governance may drive agency efforts, involvement from IT and coordination with the RM professionals within IT, along with support from top agency leaders is a prerequisite to attaining desired levels of automation. A strengthened alliance with IT would greatly aid modernization efforts.

Potential dial movers

8 Greater collaboration will help unify records management — The current level of support provided by IT (cited at 55%) should be strengthened. More active engagement between RM and IT translates to the opportunity for RIM to have a “voice at the IT planning table.” Without this emphasis, new content will be created, managed, and stored without proper information lifecycle controls, increasing the mass of “unattended” information the agency must deal with in the future. Also, greater collaboration among agency legal and IT teams will help make preservation practices more precise, less costly, and minimize excessive preservation.

9 Establish cross-functional cooperation — Gain knowledge of key compliance and risk management operations, and then tighten the integration across all information governance disciplines. It’s important to leverage synergies among all governance disciplines, such as compliance, risk management, and ethics.


As federal agencies continue the struggle to “do more with less,” the success of their ongoing RIM programs and initiatives shouldn’t require a complete renovation effort.

This brief was created to provide benchmark comparison data, insights, and information resources for government executives seeking to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their RIM/IG operations. It is also useful to help them better comply with federal regulations and to help lower the costs associated with ongoing information governance initiatives.

This brief identifies three “big takeaways” and nine potential “dial movers” from the Cohasset 2013 – 2014 Information Governance Benchmarking Survey and Industry report and the impact of three U.S. Federal Government megatrends.

As federal agencies continue the struggle to “do more with less,” the success of their ongoing RIM programs and initiatives shouldn’t require a complete renovation effort. Focused planning, implementation, measurement, and reporting of RIM initiatives and successes gained along the way will help create an effective roadmap to better information governance. It’s our hope that using information and insights from peers, coupled with guidance and support from internal and external partners, sustains you on your IG compliance journey.

Iron Mountain Authors

Tyler Morris
Director, Product Management, Iron Mountain Government Services

Tyler is a product manager for Iron Mountain’s Government business. He is responsible for determining Iron Mountain’s government sector growth strategy and developing solutions for Federal government customers. Prior to Iron Mountain, Tyler worked as a management consultant in Accenture’s corporate strategy practice focusing on Federal government clients. He has also managed large-scale IT system implementations for various health care providers and state governments. Tyler received his undergraduate degree from James Madison University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Maryland.

Lisa De Luca
Director, Product and Solution Marketing, Iron Mountain Government Services
Lisa is responsible for the marketing strategy of Iron Mountain products and solutions for the Government business. Prior to working at Iron Mountain, Lisa held various field and communications marketing positions in the industry for Cloud, IT Reseller, System Integrator, and Networking companies. She has over 20 years of marketing experience serving government and education customers in the public sector. Lisa is a graduate of Trinity University in Washington DC.

April Chen
Product Manager, Iron Mountain Government Services
April is a Product Manager in Iron Mountain’s Government business. She is responsible for Iron Mountain’s federal content management and document conversion solutions. She has managed several projects facilitating the success of thought leadership within an organization, including Iron Mountain’s Federal Information Asset Framework. Prior to Iron Mountain, she worked as a Consultant in revenue management and contracting for the healthcare industry. April graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and holds an MBA from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.