Federal agencies are facing pressing document management mandates from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Specifically, NARA has been tasked with guiding federal agencies toward meeting the Managing Government Records Directive, using existing technology where feasible. That means they must be managing all permanent records in electronic format by the end of this year.
This is a monumental task that demands experience and expertise in several core areas, including both technology and records management. Working with a vendor can ease this burdensome task enormously, if they are knowledgeable in those areas. They can deliver assistance that will help make every day measurably easier on agency workers as they work to meet a tight end-of-year deadline.
But how can you identify the right vendor, and then what are appropriate expectations to hold for them?
Fundamentally, the vendor must have experience both working with federal agencies and with electronic records management. They should also offer existing tools that can be deployed immediately; they might customize their offerings to meet an agency’s specific needs, but they should not have to build new solutions from scratch. At this late date, a federal agency that opts for a newcomer, even if it is competitive in price or services, runs the risk of being unable to meet the deadline should the inexperienced vendor stumble or run into delays.
Ideally, look for a solution that also already interfaces directly with NARA’s Archives Record Center Information System (ARCIS), like TransAccess, as this will significantly simplify compliance. The solution should also offer end-to-end service that covers the entire records management lifecycle, rather than just piecemeal aspects of it.
Agencies also need to understand that compliance with the 2019 deadline requires more than just purchasing a new tool. It mandates an entire new strategy for handling all records. Your partners should be knowledgeable enough to provide guidance and help formulate a strategy not just to meet this year’s requirements but also to prepare for 2022, when NARA hopes to no longer accept non-electronic records at all.
Hiccups and obstacles are inevitable in any major initiative of this scale, so verify that your vendors take steps to plan for and mitigate relevant risks. For example, they must have some process to ensure the confidentiality and security of the records with which they work. Further, any cloud-based tools they use must also be certified for the intended application, e.g. using Amazon Web Services FEDRAMP-certified GovCloud.
On the bright side, all of this presents excellent opportunities for agencies to gain some serious operational efficiencies, reduce records-related expenses, and realize other benefits from transitioning to electronic records management. Your vendor should be positioned to help you make the most of these opportunities.
Still, it’s important to understand that no vendor can do everything. Full compliance with NARA’s requirements will require internal discussion among agency leaders, and – like any major change – the transition will require careful management to help agency staff adopt the new way of doing things. Vendors can assist with all of that, but the ultimate responsibility falls on the agencies themselves to make good decisions and follow through on them.
Peniel Solutions, LLC (PSL) is a Digital Transformation (DX) and Cloud Service Provider (CSP) company delivering Development, Security, and Operations (DevSecOps) solutions for the federal government. Please visit us at www.penielsolutions.com and www.TransAccessDM.com for more information.