Among the many recommendations covered, two of the most potentially impactful topics contained in the report are to “rationalize the federal real property approach” and “transition to electronic government.” These two objectives are intertwined and, if properly integrated, will complement each other, leading to massive cost savings and efficiency gains. As such, the government currently has a window of opportunity to drastically improve its records and information standards.
As it stands now, many government agencies lag behind industry standards for records and information management. Agencies frequently over-rely on paper records, keep records well past the end of their information lifespan and store physical copies inefficiently, even spilling over into agency office space in some extreme cases. However, by focusing on records storage and digitization, agencies can rectify many of these problems and alleviate the cost burdens associated with them.
To do so, agencies will need to:
Reduce their total volume of physical records by digitizing paper records where feasible, and
Store whatever physical records are left over in a more accessible and cost-efficient manner.
Here’s how they can start that process:
Rally internal expertise
Often information storage and management is segmented among different departments — records managers control physical records, IT controls digital data and facilities, and real estate controls real property assets. Agencies should make it a priority to first identify and then consolidate their siloed expertise into an internal working group, which includes personnel like senior real property officers, senior agency officials for records management and other key stakeholders. This will begin to give them an idea of their real property and digital records needs.
Connect with external partners
Once agencies have identified their internal subject matter experts and have a rudimentary understanding of their current internal state, it is time to start considering how private sector best practices could improve optimization. As such, the agency working group should next seek to identify and connect with industry partners who could recommend private sector best practices that would be of maximum benefit to agencies.
The White House report echoes this recommendation in its “rationalize the federal real property approach” section, stating, “the federal government can do a better job strategically managing [its mixed real property] assets, including utilizing private sector best practices, to improve our communities, right-size the federal real property portfolio, and provide better value and services to the taxpayer.”
Conduct a comprehensive assessment
Once agencies have all their internal and external pieces in place, they are in position to comprehensively assess their total information lifecycle and information management program. During this, agencies should seek to:
Identify current National Archives and Records Administration inventory and better understand what records the agency controls, and which records can be more efficiently stored by being digitized or moved off-site.
Re-evaluate the impact of self-vended inventory on real property and information accessibility, and how off-site data centers or co-located physical storage could improve information accessibility, searchability and security.
Re-evaluate retention periods to ensure that they keep pace with the rate agencies are generating new government records, and are not incurring unnecessary costs that commonly arise when records do not meet compliance metrics or are stored indefinitely, far beyond their time-based or event-based need for retention.
Review agency workflows to determine where digital processes could beneficially impact the agency.
This process can facilitate agencies on the journey to a clean start for information management, providing a foundation for further crafting a program that aligns to their current space, staff and budget requirements. With these steps in place, agencies should have a good idea of the right mix of capabilities that will best move them forward. These capabilities may include solutions such as:
Compliant offsite storage,
Secure paper destruction,
Secure e-waste and IT asset disposition,
Workflow and policy improvements, and
The “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century” report has renewed the governmentwide push for an optimized real property portfolio and digital record stores, giving agencies a new opportunity to start fresh. Through a re-evaluation of current records and the information lifecycle, agencies will begin reaping significant benefits including reduced operating costs, improved efficiency and productivity, and an increased capacity for informed decision-making. These are surprisingly simple efficiency gains that cut straight to the core of the recent White House report, and should not be overlooked by agencies as they come under mounting pressure to streamline their organizations.
Tyler Morris is the director of product management for Iron Mountain Government Solutions.