Insight by Kodak Alaris

NARA’s three-legged stool to transform records management

NARA’s Laurence Brewer, the chief records officer for the U.S. Government and Lisa Haralampus, the director of records management policy and outreach, say the goal of processing and providing only electronic records must be infused across all mission and administrative efforts.

Records Management Goals

What we are hearing from agencies is they are making progress. What we are hearing around the common trends, themes and concerns is…the key issue we are struggling with as a government is around resources, both financial and human. We have to continue to work on how we will address that, working with CIOs and chief data officers and look for ways to leverage existing systems and existing solutions, and try to figure out where we can identify specific solutions that will create enterprisewide solutions for records management.

Workforce Changes

Sometimes the skills and retooling records professionals need is understanding in depth the types of tools that are being used to create records, information and data at their agencies to accomplish their missions. If you can’t talk about geographic information systems or if you don’t know the ins and outs of how email actually works, then you are at a disadvantage when you want to have a conversation about records management.

NARA’s Capstone Approach

What [NARA’s Capstone program] does is take the burden off of the user to manage the every email according to the content, and provides a more systematic and efficient way of managing emails.

Managing Records at the Strategic Level

We have an initiative called the Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative (FERMI). One of the things we explored successfully was our partnership with GSA. We are working with the Office of Shared Solutions and Performance Improvement where they work with a variety of agencies that are handling different portfolios like travel, grants or payroll. We have been trying to work with OSSPI to produce standards and requirements…in a way so those requirements can fit into those shared services offerings and we can bake records management in at the beginning.

Industry Analysis

We consider ourselves to be the 'how,' of how these initiatives and undertakings will get done, and we really see NARA as the 'what.'

In August, the National Archives and Records Administation will issues its annual report on how agencies are managing records electronically. The report likely will show continued, but slow progress for agencies as they try to meet the Dec. 31, 2022 goal of tranferring only electronic records to NARA.

The progress report, however, may not be the true metric to measure agency efforts.

Laurence Brewer, the chief records officer for the U.S. Government at NARA, said the goal that lies underneath the 18-month deadline is all about tranformation.

“This transformation that needs to happen because what we’re talking about is it’s not just managing records, we’re talking about redesigning processes. We’re talking about building out electronic workflows and really fundamentally changing how we work,” Brewer said on Ask the CIO, which was sponsored by Kodak Alaris. “In the mission critical programs of our agencies, we have to make sure that we factor in the records management to that transformation. And I think the framework [NARA is providing] is at a level that agencies can understand because it gives them an information governance approach where agencies are developing information resource management plans and data management plans. Our goal from the National Archives perspective is, how do we bake records management into those plans at that strategic level?”

Three-legged stool of transformation

Brewer said the transformation and strategic approaches to records management are dependent on the technology, the people and the understanding of senior executives about the value of these efforts.

“We always go into an agency when I’m meeting with senior officials, and, sure I could talk about law or I can talk about the regulations or I could talk about compliance, but typically we will frame the discussion is about the value that records management can bring to an agency in terms of improve decision making.  This is in terms of better search and finding the records that they need to make good decisions and really highlighting the value that you know using technology,” he said. “To support electronic records management not only internally within an agency for decision making, but in how we interact with the public, it’s critically important that they understand how electronic records management can better support interaction with public because, let’s be honest, people don’t want to have to write letters to the government. They don’t want to have to come into brick and mortar buildings to interact with their government. They use websites and through other electronic channels, and we have to have the electronic records to be able to support the way we work internally and externally with the public. In a way that’s the modern and progressive approach, and that’s really I think the argument when we are talking to CIOs and CTOs that resonates.”

The technology piece of the transformation usually happens first through something as simple as email.

As more and more agencies move their email to the cloud—as of March 2020 79% of all federal email is off premise according to the Office of Management and Budget—they are able to use internal capabilities to improve their record keeping.

“I think that’s what a lot of agencies are looking at. What can we do on an enterprisewide basis leveraging the tools that we have?” Brewer said. “If we can’t do that or we have an opportunity to procure something, what is the best way to go about doing that and can we gather the data that we need to be able to do it effectively.”

Lisa Haralampus, the director of records management policy and outreach also at NARA, said the Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative (FERMI) initiave is another piece to the puzzle.

Through a parntership with the General Services Administration, NARA ensuring records management is a part of all of the governmentwide shared services initiatives.

“We’ve been trying to work on a variety of ways to produce standards and requirements, which is what we know is a way for those requirements to fit in with shared services offerings so that we can help bake records management in the beginning. If you buy a shared services tool for human resources, you know that the requirements to maintain human resource records relating to separation for however many decades is necessary. It’s sort of built into that system. We’re also issuing universal electronic records management requirements, we’ve issued some use cases on managing electronic records for email social media records, and we’re now tailoring our use cases to reflect the lifecycle of records and information management.”

She added NARA also is working on data standards and business lifecycle capability documents for agenies to more easily ensure they are properly managing records.

NARA also is preparing agencies to use emerging technology to help manage records like robotic process automation (RPA).

“How can we learn from what the chief data officers and the data community knows? Well, I can tell you how the data works, and then it gets back to that same question that we’re always asking what’s the value,  how can I share it, how can I leverage it and how long do I keep it?” Haralampus said. “I think a lot of agencies are still working and developing and maturing their data programs, establishing the position and sort of figuring out how to how to fill it where it fits in their information governance. We’re seeing the conversation starting, but we haven’t yet seen any trends of organizational realignment or sort of like people are put in same organizational for your spheres. So we’re watching and sort of monitoring the space to see how records information and data gets institutionalized, or does it still say in its own separate silos and then we we work you know in as as always and collaborative environments to to share what we know.”

The third leg of this transformation stool is the people. Haralampus said both the records management officers and the employees who manage records as part of their broader job.

“NARA changed its training program in the past two years where once staff would come to our facilities and we trained thousands.It was very systemic,” she said. “So we’d like you to take you from you know nothing to you leave the course five days later, and you’ve got a real good overview. I think it’s representative of what we’re talking about with the transition to digital government that we said is there more we could do than just in-person training and that would be more effective? We need to rethink the whole approach by offering the training content online through a variety of tools so anybody can go and take the part and go into the training that they needed at that time.”

She said records management professionals need a more in-depth understanding of the types of tools that agencies are using to create records and the data their agencies are using to accomplish the mission.

Brewer added there is no shortage and desire for more training on electronic records management.

“What we have really focused on in the last couple of years is widening access to the content that we have developed about electronic records management to all of our agency customers and we’re always looking to where we might need to get ahead of the curve,” he said. “We’re always collecting that data and we’re always trying to make sure that the community that we work with the records officers are in a good place in terms of having what they need to be able to interact with their colleagues within their own agencies.”

Listen to the full show:

Featured speakers

  • Laurence Brewer

    Chief Records Officer for the U.S. Government, National Archives and Records Administration

  • Lisa Haralampus

    Director, Records Management Policy and Outreach, National Archives and Records Administration

  • Scott Swidersky

    Vice President, Enterprise Content Management, Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. and President, Quality Associates Inc. (QAI)

  • Jason Miller

    Executive Editor, Federal News Network

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