NARA’s Plans to Ensure Agencies Have the Tools for Electronic Recordkeeping

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Agencies won’t have to figure it out themselves, a NARA official said.

To assist agencies on their journey to fully electronic recordkeeping, the National Archives and Records Administration is collaborating with the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration.

Lisa Haralampus, the director of the records management policy and outreach program in NARA’s Office of the Chief Records Officer, offered insight into the agencies’ efforts at a federal records conference in Washington Wednesday. She gave an overview of NARA’s recently founded Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative, or FERMI.

The initiative aims to address the core requirements all agencies need to support their records management programs and reach targets set in NARA’s 2018-2022 strategic plan.

“What FERMI is about is working to find solutions and services that agencies can use to meet these targets,” Haralampus said. To address agency concerns around how to procure goods and services to drive their efforts, as well as other records management best practices, Haralampus said NARA began working with OMB’s shared services entity.

“Why should every agency that has personnel records have to build their own electronic records tool to manage those personnel records, when we are all using the same shared service in the first place?” she said. “There are only 4 or 5 vendors that are providing this.”

Under FERMI, NARA also developed the Electronic Records Management Federal Integrated Business Framework and the Universal Electronic Records Management Requirements.

NARA consolidated more than 70 base requirements, drawn from analysis of all records management laws and regulations, all positions NARA has already produced as well as all international standards around records management. They are organized in one cohesive downloadable spreadsheet.

“A lot of agencies will say, ‘yes I can use this as my base and from there I can add to it,’” she said. “It’s always easier to have something to start with than starting from scratch.”

The requirements are high level, so FERMI also plans to lay out use cases, which can serve as a tool agencies can use when buying services to manage electronic records. So far, NARA has developed one use case around electronic messages, which includes email. It is still in a draft format and is currently being reviewed by OMB. Haralampus said it will likely be finalized in the next business quarter.  

Though the use case is still only a draft, it’s already been shared with the General Services Administration, for another branch of NARA’s initiative. Together with GSA, NARA has helped create a new Special Item Number, or SIN, 51 600 for Electronic Records Management.

Under the new SIN, vendors can self-certify that they comply with the established requirements and the baseline set of services.

The SIN should make it easier for agencies to acquire the solutions they need to manage their electronic records. Haralampus said 46 vendors have joined the initiative to date and NARA has also provided a draft of the first use case for vendors to use to create use case examples of their own tools.

“It’s a first-of-its-kind activity for GSA, so they are working to make it happen,” she said.