With the new recently issued guidance from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) dictating that ALL records – including both permanent and temporary – be managed in electronic format by the end of 2022, does the concept of Unified Records Management (URM) still have a place in the world of government records management?
Yes! If anything, it’s a more useful concept than ever. URM is the idea that both electronic and physical/analog records should be managed from within the same system.
We’ve referenced this concept before, when we discussed what it means if your agency still needs to maintain analog records. In that article, we recommended that agencies use an integrated records management approach that can handle multiple types of records – including both electronic and analog – to give users a complete picture of their records management system and comprehensive access to all records regardless of where they live.
Doing so not only unifies management of different kinds of records, it greatly simplifies administration. URM makes it so that users can search, index, tag, catalogue, categorize, and request any type of record from within the same system.
It also brings the power of leading-edge functionality like automation to analog records. That’s important as the volume and rate of records generation continues to grow: Gartner has found that organizations lose an average of 4 weeks each year waiting on documents that have been misfiled, mislabeled, or otherwise lost – human errors that can be sidestepped if automated technologies can handle records management without direct human intervention required.
By contrast, using different systems to manage information in different forms increases the risk of misfiling or misplacing information. It also makes it more difficult to comply with legal and regulatory requirements, including Freedom of Information Act requests. Further, it complicates overall records management when users must apply more than one system and more than one set of procedures. That increases labor and errors while reducing productivity.
And federal agencies have to find some way to manage different types of records. Even once agencies comply with NARA’s directive to submit all new records in electronic format, most agencies continue to host enormous archives of pre-existing physical and analog records.
Many agencies will opt to digitize some of those physical records. That’s a good idea! But it’s also a major undertaking. Digitizing even just a single page can take 3-5 minutes to comprehensively scan, add metadata, and properly file or organize that page. Many federal agencies have archives that include hundreds of thousands or millions of pages of records.
Complicating matters, NARA’s updated guidelines that agencies with agency-run Records Storage Facilities transfer their physical records to approved Federal Records Centers or approved commercial records storage facilities.
The silver lining: this provides a good opportunity to agencies. As they update their internal systems, tools, policies, and procedures for creating, organizing, and submitting electronic records, they can also consider solutions that incorporate the ability to manage analog records at the same time. With a Unified Records Management system, everything is tagged and managed according to the same best practices, and everything can be found and requested through the same system.
PSL is a global outsource provider whose mission is to provide solutions that facilitate the movement of business-critical information between and among government agencies, business enterprises, and their partners. For more information, please visit https://www.penielsolutions.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.