Is Your Agency Ready for NARA’s Electronic Records Deadline?

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Add in the overall uncertainty around the M-19-21 directive and frequently moving goalposts, and it’s understandable how affected agencies may have fallen behind in executing a plan to achieve compliance. 

Nearly 30 months after the National Archives and Records Administration and Office of Management and Budget first detailed the governmentwide M-19-21 directive that guides how records are managed, the deadline for meeting said policy is rapidly approaching. 

Never fear, procrastinators: You still can meet that deadline with the help of a strong records management and content services provider. 

If you’ve already begun or completed your agency’s process of complying with M-19-21, we know you felt pain points others who are still in the early stages of the process soon will feel: 

  • An uphill battle to secure funding for solutions that will aid in compliance (though OMB is working to address this obstacle in its next budget cycle).
  • Staffing concerns: Not only right-sizing your staff to meet the demands of such a project, but training current employees on the latest records management technology.
  • Competing IT initiatives: Should we prioritize M-19-21 compliance and modernized records management, or cybersecurity? Or modernizing legacy systems? 

Add in the overall uncertainty around the M-19-21 directive and frequently moving goalposts, and it’s understandable how affected agencies may have fallen behind in executing a plan to achieve compliance. 

With that compliance deadline inching ever closer, content services providers who employ enterprisewide records management systems are well-equipped to help agencies with the next steps. Not only does implementing content services strategies accelerate the digitization of legacy records, but doing so provides incredible value to these organizations’ future processes—accelerating agencies’ digital transformation with increasing efficiency, accuracy and improved processes. 

A strategic records management plan allows agencies to:

  • Capture and access documents from anywhere.
  • Automate workflows and document routing to accelerate reviews and/or decisions.
  • Automate time-consuming tasks based on human data entry with robotic process automation and the deployment of bots to replace that human interaction.
  • Leverage low-code application development for faster solution delivery.
  • Integrate with core government systems, thereby extending the value of and easing concern over an agency’s initial investment in such deployments.

Start your implementation process with the important first step of change management: Representation across your agency is key to any such migration, so all parties’ interests are addressed and needs met. 

Who needs what, and when and where? 

Take, for example, a large Department of Defense agency that has largely completed its digital transformation and is since reaping the rewards. An internal review showed the agency was using 23—yes, 23!—disparate tasking and records systems, which initiated a consolidation effort from the agency’s leadership. The migration to that single system started with a collaborative effort involving agency administrators, CIO, IT teams and more stakeholders across the organization to determine needs and preferences, reflecting the importance of managing that internal organizational change.

Once implemented, 43,000 people used the single enterprise system that now enables the agency to electronically initiate and manage task workflows, synchronize records with taskings, create detailed reports and search across the enterprise for information. The application also provides access controls so organizations can manage security permissions.

Most importantly with respect to the NARA’s M-19-21 mandate, all documents are automatically declared records within the system, which manages the entire record lifecycle from creation through disposition in compliance with required schedules. The centralized repository also enables efficient responses to Freedom of Information Act requests.

By deploying a strategic content services plan, agencies meet new compliance standards in the near term and become far more efficient in the long term. Sounds like a win-win.

Troy Doller is director of federal government for Hyland.

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