NARA building in, not bolting on e-records standards

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December 2019 doesn’t seem that far away anymore.

That’s the date, initially set in 2016, when agencies must manage all permanent records electronically with a goal of sending them to the National Archives and Records Administration in an electronic format.

Courtney Anderson, a senior electronic records policy analyst at NARA, said archives is helping agencies through its federal electronic records modernization initiative (FERMI) to meet the 2019 deadline.

“The goal of this initiative is to help agencies more easily obtain electronic records management services and solutions. We have been working on this since October 2015 and what we did when we started this is asked agencies what they need from us. What we heard a lot of is NARA does a good job of telling agencies what they need to do through our policies and guidance, but they need more help with the how, the practical tools for managing their electronic records,” Anderson said at a recent ACT-IAC event. “We have two paths that we’ve taken with FERMI. The first is working with GSA’s office of shared services and performance improvement on shared services and on the business standards council. We are the standard lead on the business council for electronic records management. We have written standards based on the federal integrated business framework to incorporate electronic records management into shared services.”

Anderson said by developing the e-records standards, agencies have fewer challenges to manage financial management, human resources or other administrative records.

This also means that as agencies move to shared services for HR or financial management or payroll, the electronic records standards also are incorporated into the systems.

“We worked with GSA when they went out with the solicitation for New Pay to include records management requirements into the technical requirements for that,” Anderson said. “We are trying to build it directly into the services so you don’t have to go get a separate tool.”

And that’s where the second path NARA and GSA are heading comes in. The two agencies created a Special Item Number (SIN) under Schedule 36 for electronics records management services and solutions where agencies can find specific tools if they need them.

GSA and NARA relied on experts to create requirements for the SIN.

“First, we started by going through all laws, regulations, guidance, policies and international standards related to electronic records management and put them into one document organized by the lifecycle of the record,” she said. “Then we had a requirements working group made up of a number of agencies from across the government. We had records officers who gave us a lot of input on these universal requirements and told us where we had any gaps as well.”

Anderson said NARA developed use cases for different records types to help agencies better apply the standards and tools.

These efforts have helped keep agencies on track to meet the December 2019 deadline. NARA reported in August that 97 percent of the agencies were confident that they will meet the deadline.

NARA also is working on two more uses cases to help agencies better manage their records. Anderson said one will focus on social media records, which is in the final stages of its NARA review, and another use case for websites.

“It’s making sure they are under records management control. If they determine what they put out on social media is a record, they need to find a way to capture it,” she said. “We are in the business standards council review process for the electronic messages use cases. So once that’s finished and we have the OMB review finished, then we will go forward with the social media so it will be sometime this winter we will have this out for comment.”

Over the next year, Anderson said NARA is focused on several areas, including expanding its work with GSA on Schedule 36 tools and services.

“Another big piece that NARA is working on is digitization standards to help meet the 2019 goal as well as NARA’s 2022 goal of no longer accepting paper permanent records from agencies,” she said. “What we plan on doing with that is incorporate that into Schedule 36 as well so that there will be vendors who can self-certify they meet NARA’s digitization standards as well.”

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