Published On December 20, 2021As the government continues its modernization efforts, agencies are working toward a fully digital records environment. NARA and OMB have helped with the initial steps by issuing M-19-21, but the journey for agencies is just beginning.
Right now, the federal government is in a pivotal moment for records and information management. As we near the deadline set forth by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in M-19-21: Transition to Electronic Records, all federal agencies must establish electronic recordkeeping by December 31, 2022. The goal is to modernize records and information management programs to enable agencies to refocus their staff on the mission, while improving efficiencies and saving costs. But the clock is ticking…
Enabling digital transformation
The journey to a fully electronic records environment is not easy, and many agencies are trying to determine how to meet the NARA deadline with limited time and resources. Add in the significant impact and delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic—an issue that, to date, has not resulted in an extension of the deadline—and the compliance challenge is even more real. So, what can agencies do now to help with the digital transformation process?
To determine the right path toward compliance, agencies need to think strategically. This includes exploring partnerships with commercial vendors that provide benefits such as support for self-assessment, strategic consultation, physical storage, destruction, and digitization. An effective path forward will help agencies become more efficient, save money, and create a foundation for continuous digital transformation. We break this journey into four key components:
Conducting a self-assessment: Agencies first need to understand what their overall records collection looks like so that they can establish a plan based on their priorities. This self-assessment needs to include an identification of specific retention requirements; an understanding of activity levels associated with each record type; a status check of current digitization progress; and knowledge of specific geographic requirements.
Considering storage options: Once an agency has gone through its self-assessment, it must understand the options it has for storing those records. Agencies are not limited to NARA for records storage; in fact, there are many circumstances where a commercial vendor is the right choice for certain record collections. Determining the pros and cons of each approach is a critical step in understanding price and service level options.
Reviewing digitization needs: The purpose of M-19-21 is to modernize government, but this transition is not always direct, transparent, or linear. As agencies move from physical documents to digital-born records, they need to establish an order for how and when they digitize older documents.
Determining disposition requirements: Once an agency has performed a full records inventory, they will have a clear picture of what they have and what they will keep, as well as identify records that are no longer needed. Agencies should use this as an opportunity to securely destroy records they no longer need in physical form, including older records, unnecessary records, and records with quality digital copies already in place.
As the government continues its modernization efforts, agencies are working toward a fully digital records environment. NARA and OMB have helped with the initial steps by issuing M-19-21, but the journey for agencies is just beginning. Working with a commercial partner can help agencies accelerate these digital transformation efforts as a less expensive, more flexible, and better-serviced option.
For additional information on M-19-21 compliance, including a more detailed whitepaper on alternative options, please visit our M-19-21 online hub.