Insight by Kodak Alaris

Modernizing FADGI: How agencies can digitize federal records at scale

Agencies face a major year-end deadline to phase out paper as part of their records management procedures.

The National Archives and Records Administration, along with the Office of Management and Budget, are requiring agencies under M-19-21 to submit permanent records in an electronic format.

Agencies, as part of their mandate to digitize paper records, are expected to follow the standards under the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative.

FADGI outlines the steps organizations should take when...

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The Evolution of FADGI Standards

"It doesn’t matter whether the images came from a device from manufacturer A, B or C, or from agency X, Y or Z. All of those [records] coming into the archive and storage will be consistently good quality.”
- Matt Doolittle, the global portfolio manager for document scanners at Kodak Alaris

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The Challenges of Digitizing a Large Volume of Records

“You'll have very mature, well-controlled agencies that have professional archivists and document managers and know their processes, and are using modern technology. You'll find also, if you talk to enough people, there are some people that are not quite there.”
- Matt Doolittle, the global portfolio manager for document scanners at Kodak Alaris

Agencies face a major year-end deadline to phase out paper as part of their records management procedures.

The National Archives and Records Administration, along with the Office of Management and Budget, are requiring agencies under M-19-21 to submit permanent records in an electronic format.

Agencies, as part of their mandate to digitize paper records, are expected to follow the standards under the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative.

FADGI outlines the steps organizations should take when it comes to scanning, processing and cleaning up digital scans of hard-copy records.

Matt Doolittle, the global portfolio manager for document scanners at Kodak Alaris, said FADGI standards set a high baseline for image quality, which is critical for archival purposes.

“It doesn’t matter whether the images came from a device from manufacturer A, B or C, or from agency X, Y or Z. All of those [records] coming into the archive and storage will be consistently good quality, so that if we want to look at them again in 50 years or 100 years, we’ll have a good basis to start from,” Doolittle said.

To meet governmentwide goals under M-19-21, agencies are preparing to scan a large quantity of records.

“We might have been producing hundreds of images a day for some other projects, for some from very culturally significant documents. When we’re starting to look at normal business documents, we’re in the thousands or tens of thousands of documents a day that need to be digitized, meeting these high-quality FADGI standards. It’s an order of magnitude larger challenge, when you’re talking about doing that much volume and meeting these standards,” Doolittle said.

Agencies saw the last update to FADGI standards in September 2016, which focused on preserving cultural heritage materials. But another update is coming into focus.

Doolittle expects new FADGI guidance later this year that will focus on how agencies should digitize business documents.

“The traditional FADGI guidelines had all sorts of things for historically significant documents, which were being applied to paper that was printed on laser printers. It wasn’t really a great match,” he said. “In FADGI 2022, they’re adding modern textual records, which will help us as vendors create better products that can be used in the market and will help people that are scanning large volumes of paper to be able to do that in a way that’s appropriate for those kinds of documents.”

Doolittle said agencies that meet the goals of M-19-21 will save money by reducing paper storage costs. The mandate will also ensure a consistent level of image quality across all permanent federal records.

“What it’s really doing is it’s forcing all of the agencies to come up to a certain level of standard. It’s surprising when you when you talk to people, you find that many people are on different parts of the spectrum of document imaging. You’ll have very mature, well-controlled agencies that have professional archivists and document managers and know their processes, and are using modern technology. You’ll find also, if you talk to enough people, there are some people that are not quite there,” he said.

NARA and OMB, under M-19-21, are directing agencies to maintain a FADGI three-star level of preservation for permanent records.

“We know that the images that come off of that are going to be what we’re going to need to do really good extractions for optical character recognition. If we want to mine all of these documents for real meaning and data in the future, that’s where we’re going to need,” Doolittle said.

To ensure scanners are calibrated to capture a large volume of FADGI-compliant images, organizations typically run a target scan against the Device Identifier Composition Engine (DICE) standard at least daily, then run that scan through quality assurance software.

“It will evaluate every aspect of the components of that target and make sure that they meet the criteria that is defined in the FADGI guidelines. If all that’s good, it gives you a green checkmark that says go ahead and continue scanning for the day. Or it’ll tell you what aspect of the target is not being met. Then, you can either clean the scanner, which is usually the problem, or make other changes that you would need to get those images back in compliance and repeat the process,” Doolittle said.

Aside from having the right tools and technology, agencies need to ensure they have staff with the right training and subject matter expertise to ensure a smooth rollout of digitization efforts, he said.

“Document management professionals will help you be sure that you’re getting the standard applied correctly. Not all images need to be FADGI-3 compliant,” Doolittle added. “There are still plenty of types of work that you can scan in a more traditional imaging workflow. And if you do that work upfront, you’re going to save yourself a lot of time and expense and hassle later on.”

Although agencies are expected to reduce costs by reducing paper record storage, he said agencies should have a strategy in place to store large, uncompressed digital records.

“It’s important to be sure that you’ve got the storage you need, you’ve got the bandwidth in your network, and that the workflow that you’re sending it through can handle those size of images because we’ve never had this size of image and volume of data going through those back end systems before. Do the planning up ahead, and then be sure that you tested to be sure that it works when you actually go live.”

  • Matt Doolittle

    Global Portfolio Manager for Document Scanners, Kodak Alaris

  • Jory Heckman

    Reporter, Federal News Network