- August 22, 2019
by Jackie Pan, Digital Marketing Coordinator
Records and archives are foundational to government, and as such must be managed well. In recent years a shift has been occurring to reform and modernize federal records management practices. According to the reorganization plan released by the White House in 2018, billions of dollars are spent by federal agencies to maintain paper records (Heckman 2018). To increase the efficacy of federal agencies, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is spearheading a transition to electronic government records management. This will affect every Federal employee in one way or another, so it’s important to understand how you can make the change work for you, not end up working harder for the change.
The Importance of Electronic Records Management
NARA and most other Federal agencies have historically managed analog records in separate systems and infrastructures, which is complex and costly. Paper-based systems heighten the risk of losing permanently valuable records, especially as the volume of records grows each year. An Executive Branch-wide effort is being carried out to eliminate paper records in favor of electronic recordkeeping, which will be more efficient and secure for the long-term. Not only would this digital transformation increase public access to information and reduce the cost and complications of managing analog records, but it also sets the stage for a 21-st century framework for government records management.
For such reasons, NARA gave a mandate that all Federal agencies must electronically manage, and eventually send to NARA, their permanent electronic records by the end of 2019. Although the date is rapidly approaching, a survey conducted by AvePoint Public Sector found that only 33% of respondents transferred all their eligible records to NARA in fiscal year 2018, leaving a majority of Federal agencies that are at risk of not meeting the deadline (Vincent 2019).
Record Keeping Requirements for Federal Agencies
As outlined in their 2018-2022 strategic plan, NARA’s transformation into a modern agency includes an initiative to make the government less dependent on paper records (NARA 2018). The Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative (FERMI) is intended to provide Federal agencies with government-wide records management solutions and services that are modern, standardized, and cost-effective. NARA put together the Universal ERM Requirements as a guide to system requirements, for government agencies to use as a starting point in the shift toward electronic records management.
Many of the mandatory requirements revolved around scanned documents, which must be converted to digital formats to meet NARA requirements, can be easily met. To ensure these records’ usability, they must be converted to usable formats and with the appropriate metadata. NARA specified the preferred file formats for Scanned Text records as TIFF, JP2, PNG, and PDF/A (our personal favorite – as PDF/A is the ISO standard for long-term digital preservation). Textual Data records are preferred to be transferred as ASCII Text, Unicode Text, ODF, PDF/A-1, or PDF A-2. Hardware and software system upgrades must also be carried out in a way that preserves the integrity of the electronic records. Ensure that you’ll be where you need to be in the transition from paper to digital – we’ve got you covered.
Optimize Your Federal Records Management Processes
In AvePoint Public Sector’s survey, 42% responded that their reasons for not transferring their records yet are too many records / a lot of work / manpower shortage, as well as an overreliance on manual processes (AvePoint Public Sector 2019). 83% of agencies still involve end users, who are unreliable and unaware of policies and practices. AvePoint’s CTO John Peluso said, “For agencies feeling overwhelmed with the growth of records in the digital era or how to improve their transfer of records to NARA, the single best thing they can do is automate the processes of classifying data and disposing records to an archival authority ” (AvePoint Public Sector 2019). By minimizing manual processes whenever possible, and putting in automated checks instead, keeping up with growing electronic records management is completely achievable.
Instead of manually converting individual documents, automated PDF/A conversion can be easily implemented to exponentially reduce the time spent on transforming your files. High-volume processing and compression, which Foxit’s solutions provide, saves on labor and storage costs and minimizes human error. With features to auto-tag PDFs and edit metadata as well, your documents can soon be on the road to greater compliance.
Need help managing your records up to federal standards? Quickly and efficiently meet NARA FERMI compliance standards with automated conversion to PDF/A for long-term digital preservation.
2018–2022 Strategic Plan. National Archives and Records Administration, Feb. 2018, www.archives.gov/files/about/plans-reports/strategic-plan/2018/strategic-plan-2018-2022.pdf.
Heckman, Jory. NARA: Most Agencies on-Track to Transition from Paper to Digital Records. Federal News Network, 29 Oct. 2018, federalnewsnetwork.com/agency-oversight/2018/08/nara-most-agencies-on-track-to-transition-from-paper-to-digital-records.
“New Survey Reveals Why Federal Agencies Aren’t Transferring Records to NARA.” Press Release, AvePoint Public Sector, www.avepoint.com/news/new-survey-reveals-why-federal-agencies-arent-transferring-records-to-nara.
Vincent, Brandi. “Survey: Only One-Third of Agencies Are Sending NARA Electronic Records.” Nextgov.com, Nextgov, 25 Apr. 2019, www.nextgov.com/it-modernization/2019/03/survey-only-one-third-agencies-are-sending-nara-electronic-records/155928.