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Presidential Memorandum Regarding Management of Government Records

Much has already been written in the media regarding President Obama’s Memorandum dated November 28, 2011 on managing government records and Executive Order 13589 dated November 9, 2011 which promoted efficient government spending.  However, in multiple meetings with various federal agencies since this memorandum and Executive Order were written in November very few agencies have defined a action plan for getting their arms around this challenge

Setting up an effective records management program in a large organization is tough.  If it were easy, more would have already done so and the Presidential Memorandum on this subject with reference to an Executive Order would not have been necessary.  President Obama and his administration are to be applauded for putting this all too often ignored challenge out there hoping to advance the effectiveness in which the government manages one of our nation’s most valuable assets “our information”.

Many say, this is just another unfunded federal mandate which is destined to go nowhere.   I for one am hoping those nay sayers are wrong.  However, to prove them wrong, meaningful planning must be done and effective steps of the plan successfully executed upon.

In order for federal government Records Officers, Chief Information Officers and General Counsels to be successful in leveraging this opportunity to launch there long floundering records management programs, beef up their e-discovery plans and demonstrate better responsiveness to open government; they must be prepared to develop an action plan to address the following activities (the following reflects only a few of the more important ones).

  1. Expose what it is costing their organization to do business without effective records management;
  2. Perform a prescriptive self assessment on their current records management program against a commonly accepted set of criteria, such as ARMA International’s GARP (Generally Accepted Records Principles);
  3. Develop a return-on-investment (ROI), business case and total-cost-of-ownership (TCO) based upon the information uncovered in the first two steps and develop an Executive level presentation which clearly and concisely articulates them for their agency’s Executives;
  4. Build out their organization’s information governance program based upon where they discover they are at today (following the self-assessment), not where you want to be.  Enhancements to their information governance program can and should take place as their program matures and execution is facilitated by automation when and where appropriate;
  5. Begin immediately to limit the publication and processing of hard copy documents and presume that information should progress though its lifecyle in electronic form, whenever practicable and permitted by law; and
  6. Employ a tool like contextual analytics / file Intelligence to analyze, index and categorize information in various high priority repositories throughout their agency (decision makers must know specifics about what it is they have, in order to make the right decisions about what to do with it.)  They must have this kind of detail in order to determine:
  • Is the information object a business record or not, if not can likely defensively depose of it;
  • If it is a business record, do they already have a copy of it, if we do, then there is no need to keep it and they can defensively dispose of the duplicate;
  • If the discovered business record is not a duplicate, has it already satisfied its retention requirements, if yes ,then they and can defensively be disposed of;

If the discovered business record is in an existing inadequately secured repository, they should take this opportunity to move this business record to a secure repository where it can be secured, so that no unauthorized personnel (including the owner of the record) can change or delete this record until which time it has satisfied its retention period.

Additional Media Resources:

White House looks to beef up management of electronic records

We Can’t Wait: Bringing Records Management into the Twenty-First Century

With gesture toward e-discovery, Obama orders government-wide records management reforms 

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One Response

  1. [...] of the federal government to define what they were going to do to improve their organization’s records management programs to ensure federal records were retained, preserved and protected for later discovery and response [...]

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