The Directive on the Management of Government Records aims to create a 21st century for the federal government to modernize records management policies and practices. The goal is to improve performance and promote transparency and accountability by better documenting agency actions and decisions. Under this mandate, federal agencies are required to maintain all permanent electronic records in a digital format by the end of 2019. According to a 2011 presidential note heads of all executive departments and agencies, “When records are well managed, agencies can use them to assess program impact, reduce duplication of effort, save money, and share knowledge within and between their organizations.”
The mandate makes sense. We live in a digital world, but managing increasingly complex digital data is a difficult task, not to mention the challenges of eliminating paper. Somewhere in a government agency, someone is pressing the print button right now, over and over and over. And someone else could scan that paper into an electronic system.
Each government agency processes nearly four petabytes – or 4 million gigabytes – of data. Ninety percent of this data is unstructured. It is found in paper documents, emails, social media posts, phone conversations, web pages, etc., and it keeps growing. It is estimated that 625,000 new pages per year are produced for every 100 government employees.
We call this rapid increase in unstructured data “data chaos,” and it is having a major impact on document management in government agencies. Compared to other industries like manufacturing, communications/media, banking, and healthcare, government ranks second in overall industry data volume and fourth in amount of data per industry. organization, according to 2016 estimates from the McKinsey Global Institute.
These four petabytes of data – medical records, physical mail, email, forms, etc. – must all be digital and integrated into case management systems by 2019. Will agencies just tick a box to meet the deadline for compliance with the directive? ? Or will they truly succeed in digital transformation and achieve meaningful results by delivering increased security, efficiency and compliance?
The ideal state is data harmony: an entire organization with synchronized strategy and execution of digitally transformed workflows, minimal impact of silos, and efficient platforms and connectors to make cross-departmental automation a reality.
Of course, the reality is somewhere between data chaos and data harmony. The scale and complexity of data that government agencies process requires an integrated approach that combines hardware, software, services and partners. When evaluating solutions, agencies are best served by an ecosystem approach that includes:
- Best-in-class scanners for capturing information from paper documents.
- Software packed with smart features, such as immediate identification of missing information in forms, accurate data extraction with minimal setup, and automated switching of scanner settings from job to job.
- Services to optimize and streamline processes from capture, configuration and training to repair and maintenance.
- Partner and developer communities to connect, configure, and build custom solutions. It is unlikely that a single service provider can manage all the components of a successful document management system. Partners are therefore essential to success.
By deploying this combination of hardware, software, services and partnerships, agencies can extract information from documents not only to tick the box for the Government Records Management Directive, but also to increase security, efficiency and document compliance.
Although security is the number one thing keeping government CIOs up at night, digital workflows are more secure than physical records in terms of retention, but also access permissions when properly configured. . As agencies design their document workflow architecture, they need to find the best locations and the best combination of devices that will meet their security needs.
For example, for documents containing sensitive personally identifiable information, agencies may consider a decentralized document capture architecture where files can be directly scanned and uploaded into the system from a desktop device rather than scanning documents from a centralized location which may be less secure. Efficient document capture is an important part of the security process, as it reduces the amount of paper that exists within agencies, helping to minimize the likelihood of someone walking out with confidential or sensitive documents, whether intentionally or not.
Leverage efficiencies, facilitate compliance
Digital-centric systems also drive efficiency by enabling speed and reliability not possible with manual processes.. Agencies can also gain insights through analytics enabled by a digital system. One of the major challenges government agencies face when it comes to records management is that there is a lot of redundant, outdated, and trivial (ROT) data among agency records. ROT occurs daily and continues to worsen as new documents are created, making it very difficult to separate good data from “useless” data. To address this problem, agencies need to ensure that their document capture process can support data analytics and structured data. The key to creating a successful digital-centric system is not just to electronically capture information from paper documents, but rather to create a way to extract value from data.
The words compliance and audit can worry even the most confident CIOs. With an ecosystem approach, agencies can apply retention and recovery policies with extreme precision. By taking a holistic approach to their document workflow, agencies can identify parts of the process that may be barriers to compliance, whether related to security or regulation.
Many government organizations are still a long way from achieving the “paperless office”, so it is essential that they have a plan in place to effectively process and manage paper to meet compliance requirements and policies.
The Government Records Management Directive is a catalyst for digital transformation, giving agencies the ability to create a strategic digital records system that transforms data chaos into actionable information. By leveraging new science to extract insights from documents, latest technologies to integrate them into business processes, enhanced by a community of partners and developers to deliver and support, agencies are making digital transformation a reality.