The explosion of records across the government, including those generated by emerging technologies and social media, is putting new pressures on federal information managers.
The primary challenge is managing the onslaught of records in a new environment, Alan Linden, a senior technology consultant at Electronic Image Designers, said Thursday at the annual FOSE convention in Washington, D.C.
“The volume of material now that is born digitally [is increasing] but of course paper records don’t go away,” he said in a session on the topic. “The challenge is how to manage in this mixed environment. We’re dealing with social, mobile and cloud. Records are being created in mobile environments. Organizations are trying to figure out how to deal with all the information.”
Agencies are also dealing with a rising mountain of records.
“The operative word today is Big Data,” Linden said. “We used to think terabytes were a lot of stuff, now we’ve got petabytes.”
As a result, agencies are developing records management (RM) strategies that embrace the cloud, collaboration and simplified processes, FOSE panelists said. The Census Bureau is simplifying its records management program by migrating to the cloud.
“We have technical who like to do stuff, but frankly that’s not our business and we should really be leveraging external platforms,” said Avi Bender, CTO at the bureau.
Census faces “a dire need” for enterprise content management,” Bender said. As a result, Census officials carefully researched their options concluded that “the fastest time to market” for a new RM program was to use a platform strategy and adopt a private cloud computing solution.
After developing a business case, they made the decision to use Microsoft SharePoint, a Web application platform, to manage, store and track electronic documents or images of paper documents. The application is capable of keeping track of the different versions created by different users. It also provides the benefit of a central location for storing and collaborating on documents.
“It’s very difficult to keep up with this technology, but I’m making the assumption that Microsoft, Google, Amazon and others are probably going to be in business for a while, so how about we let them figure this out and we can leverage the investments they’re making,” Bender said.
Bender said the takeaway from Census’ experience is: Simplify through standards and innovate through shared services.
At the Education Department, have also moved to an external platform for RM.
“We decided it was a better idea for us…to move to a contractor-owned, contractor-operated platform,” said Bucky Methfessel, senior counsel for information and technology at the department. “The platform for the entirety of the enterprise would be on one unified system that was owned and operated by a contractor.”
“The important thing is to capture data and put it in one place,” he said.
At the Government Accountability Office, officials are streamlining their records management program by deploying an integrated approach to governance across the entire agency, said
Catherine Teti, chief agency privacy officer at the GAO.
“We’ve have tried to align what we are doing in information management and governance with our business processes, so that nothing that we do from a records management standpoint stands apart or is independent or is an extra activity. We worked on ensuring our governance structure extends well beyond just records management–it goes across the entire organization.”
For example, records management officials at GAO have developed alliances with the information security staff and the information technology staffs–not just the internal IT organization but also with GAO’s IT audit teams assess IT practices across the federal space, Teti said.
“We wanted to make sure we’re bringing all of these interests under the same umbrella because they really do align together,” she said. “We have tried to get [records management] out of the stovepipe mode. Anyone who thinks you can operate in silos is living on another planet.”
“You are going to have to align yourself across disciplines and work collaboratively,” she advised the FOSE audience.
One striking example of this RM collaboration across GAO has been has been the “extreme simplification” of records information and disposition schedules, Teti said.
“We went from hundreds of file plans and retention schedules to three basic retention categories,” she said.