Opportunities exist to become the first truly modernized administration
It’s a hectic time for the federal government as the transition from the Obama to the Trump administration is in full swing. One of the key areas that Congress, agencies and industry alike are keeping an eye on is how the new administration will handle the technology modernization requirements facing the government. However, one of the greatest opportunities for modernization improvements may not be readily apparent to all – a focus on modernizing the government’s records and information management practices.
Although overshadowed by news of the presidential transition, this is currently a busy time for federal records and information management. We have just passed the December 31 deadline specified in OMB’s 2012 Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18), which required federal agencies to manage all email records in an electronic format. In keeping with the reporting mandates of that directive, we have also just entered the records management reporting period. On March 17, agencies were required to submit their Records Management Self-Assessment (RMSA) and Federal Email Management Records reports, as well as their Senior Agency Official for Records Management (SAORM) reports. Although these will not be officially released until later in the year, they will provide valuable insight into the starting baseline from which the Trump administration will build. And, as is the case with the majority of issues that will affect the incoming administration, the primary challenge will be improving from that legacy baseline to a truly modern enterprise.
Modern Technology for Modern Management
One of the primary outgoing recommendations from the Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan was the emphasis on “changing governance, budgeting, financing, monitoring and policymaking practices to support continuous modernization.” Applying this advice to records management requires the government to take a more enterprise-focused approach than it has in the past, and relies on incorporating modern technologies into the overall records management program, including:
- Automation—Automation should play a major role in how agencies approach their information governance soon. Agencies need to examine how they can best utilize this technology to ensure that their information inventory is continuously kept up-to-date through automated governance and retention policies. The process of implementing automation capabilities requires agencies to assess and update their existing classification schemes and taxonomies, which in turn can lead to developing and managing more effective retention schedules with rules based on record type, jurisdiction or both. By accounting for where information resides, what format the information takes, how agencies are storing information, and how it is disposed of or preserved, agencies will lower their overall risk of underutilizing, losing or compromising information under their control.
- Analytics—Automation alone will make information inventories more searchable and manageable, but agencies can extract even more from their information by applying advanced analytics to these stores. Although the government has already achieved great success with analytics in the realm of fraud detection, healthcare and other focus areas, the technology has yet to make its full impact on the government in terms of records management. An enterprise approach to information analytics would greatly benefit every agency, allowing them to sift through information more easily with complete and consistent metadata tags, as well as better enabling the ability to analyze unstructured data.
- Training—Finally, agencies need to make sure that their employees understand the full scope and benefits of proper information management, given that they are the ones producing new records and information daily. Although modernized technology is crucial for moving the government forward, the end-user plays just as vital a role and must have an informed understanding of the technology and information assets at their disposal if they are going to maximize their efficiency and value. An informed end user is also an agency’s first line of defense for securing information. Therefore, proper training not only enables employees to extract value out of their data, it also reinforces the compliant handling of records and reduces risk.
The government needs to maintain the momentum started by the M-12-18 Directive, as it continues to focus on modernizing its records management program. The Trump administration has a real opportunity to flaunt its business acumen by identifying opportunities to build upon this progress, eliminating any wasteful legacy approaches to records management. Although the past administration has done admirable work in directing agencies away from legacy inefficiencies and towards modernized RIM approaches and processes, the new administration can cement its own legacy by delivering a completely modern and enterprise-focused government records and information management environment.