The recent records management mandate from President Obama is pushing government organizations to improve their records storage processes, and to do so quickly. As agencies work to switch from paper to digital record keeping, they need to re-evaluate what data is vital to their operations, and center their strategies around those records. Otherwise, the burden of handling the waves of information being created on a regular basis will quickly become overwhelming.
It is not uncommon among government agencies to have records on file dating back decades. This is admirable from a historical and, sometimes, operational perspective. However, much of that information is no longer valuable to the organization or necessary to keep.
Instead of simply saving everything or using a subjective measure of value, government organizations need to analyze why they keep different types of records. If they are stored for regulatory purposes, the processes that govern the retention policies will be completely different than a record that the agency believes is historically critical. Careful analysis of records will make it easier to figure out which records are vital for day-to-day operations, which are key from a security perspective, which need to be saved for history and which are valuable, but not necessarily vital.
Once agencies have this knowledge, they can better prioritize their records management program, ensuring that the right resources get to vital projects. For example, confidential employee data needs to be protected by robust access control policies, but also needs to be highly accessible. Conversely, sensitive historical financial data needs to be saved for future reference if a review is necessary, but does not need to be available on a day-to-day basis. The best methods for storing these two different types of data will vary because they affect operations differently. Understanding which records are vital and why they are so important will guide the overall records management strategies.
When considering the importance of different record formats, agencies need to have a clear understanding of the regulatory laws that impact them. This can be a complex subject area, but is essential to achieving sustainable records management success. For agencies that lack the expertise to wade through regulatory guidelines, subscribing to consulting services from a records management company can pay major dividends, easing the transition to new policies as detailed in the Obama Mandate without taking any regulatory risks.