The future of government is digital compliance: M-19-21 will determine how fast agencies get there

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As federal agencies continue on their journey to become a fully digital records environment, having a plan and reviewing storage options can help accelerate your path to digital compliance.

Melissa Carson
Melissa Carson
December 14, 20227 mins
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With the recent proposal of the M-19-21 deadline extension, now is not the time to push off a digitization project. For leaders whose progress is lagging—or whose agencies haven't started—now is the time to refocus on the effort and create a plan for digitization and data accessibility of records.

The pandemic slowed agency efforts to digitize paper records, while some of NARA's Federal Records Centers were closed for more than a year. In 2020, 98% of agencies reported that they were confident they would meet the December 31, 2022 deadline to manage permanent records electronically, yet only 66% responded positively in their 2021 reports to NARA. 

A large-scale project like this can seem daunting, but aligning with an experienced partner to incorporate records management and information governance best practices will help ensure your project's success. 

Start now. Have a plan. Finish strong.

Working under the duress of extreme urgency may seem overwhelming, but having a plan in place will alleviate stress and jumpstart progress.

Start with an assessment. It may sound simple, but a thorough inventory is the ideal setup for a successful digitization project. Have a records management expert review your facilities and help you catalog records by category and determine next steps. Here are the aspects of a proper assessment: 

  • Records retention requirements – know how long you need to keep all records

  • Access and activity – understand how often and in what way you will access records 

  • Digitization status – determine what records are physical, digital, or a combination

  • Geographic location – know your footprint

Consider all storage options

A thorough assessment will help you determine how to proceed with each type of record. After sorting records by type, the next step is to prioritize records and create a disposition plan. 

When it comes to storing records, agencies are not limited to NARA. In fact, there are many circumstances for which a third-party partner is the right choice for certain records collections. Depending on your circumstance you have options:

Optimal Storage Option

Record Type

NARA facility

Permanent or long-term records with short-term pre-accessions

NARA facility

Highly active temporary records

Iron Mountain facility

Low to moderately active or temporary records

Iron Mountain facility

Permanent or long-term records with long-term pre-accessions

Iron Mountain facility

Need to localize or centralize records

Iron Mountain facility

Vital records with specific access service levels

The biggest challenge our customers encounter is realizing their record types are commingled, making it difficult and time-consuming to determine what records should go where. 

What is the key to accelerating your digitization project? Have our team tackle the project for you. We unmingle the commingled and quickly sort your files, allowing you to make better decisions on how to manage your records. 

Choose wisely

When taking on a digitization project, it is imperative to be diligent and do it right the first time. We too often encounter agencies rushing an initiative, especially in the early critical phase of a project, which can result in:

  • Having to re-scan documents due to using low-quality machines in-house

  • Needing to "fix" scanned documents that were not tagged with metadata, rendering them unsearchable

  • Using significantly more resources than projected due to underestimating required effort, often because an organization opts for a DIY approach

Complying with the M-19-21 mandate is more than just digitizing records; it encompasses all phases of an end-to-end information lifecycle. Some records need to be stored, some digitized, and some destroyed. Working with an experienced partner across all the phases will help expedite the project and save time. 

We are an industry leader in the federal document-management sector and have the tools, technology, and experience in all areas of records management, including the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other advanced tools. For additional information on M-19-21 compliance, including a more detailed whitepaper on alternative options, please visit our online hub.

If your agency wants to do it right and be compliant in time to meet the deadline, we can help. Contact us today. 

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