TransAccess-Meeting-NARA-Deadline-Benefits-TeamThe Office of Management and Budget and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) have mandated that federal agencies transition to managing all permanent records in electronic format by the end of 2019. This requirement is no small undertaking, and it means most agencies will expend significant energy and budget on the effort this year.

Is it worth it? Yes: most federal agencies will realize a series of benefits by transitioning to digital records. Here are the three most noteworthy benefits.

1: Find records easily

NARA itself writes that “automating records management will not only reduce the burden of records management responsibilities on individuals, but will make federal government records and information easier to access because they are more consistently managed.”

They’re not lying. According to researchers at Gartner, organizations lose an average of 4 weeks each year waiting on documents that have been misfiled, mislabeled, or otherwise lost. By creating and managing these documents electronically, they can be accessed far faster and more reliably than paper records. This is critical for federal agencies who must comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, as well as discovery relating to legal matters, and routine audits. These requests can be time-sensitive, and failure to meet them can result in punitive measures, legal action, and negative publicity. Electronic record-keeping makes this a snap.

2: Improve productivity

It’s unclear how much money agencies will save by transitioning to digital record-keeping, but one thing is certain: agencies will save time and improve efficiency. “We know that records management and digital government does not get cheaper. Technology is not cheaper — it’s usually just better,” Lisa Haralampus, the director of the records management and outreach at NARA, told the Federal News Network. “It usually decreases the burden on agency personnel who create records.”

In turn, that decreased burden enables personnel to spend less time on record-keeping and more time on their core duties. That how digitization projects, as a survey by the Association for Information and Image Management found, can improve staff productivity by almost 30%.

3: Cost savings

Still, there is money to be saved. NARA argues that electronic record-keeping “allows you to manage information as an asset, rather than a liability.” The idea is that paper documentation creates liabilities for the agency: costs associated with creating, storing, managing, and accessing those records; potential losses due to missing records; and potential legal action or other challenges by third-party organizations if manual record-keeping fails to meet statutory requirements. Instead, by migrating records into an electronic medium, records become resources that can be accessed and used at will without imposing such costs or risks.

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