Digital Records Management for Governments – The Road to Digitization, Compliance, and Beyond
The importance of robust processes and high-level security in managing organizational records and data cannot be overstated, especially for government organizations. Governmental organizations require various security and access control functionalities in order to ensure compliance with corporate information security guidelines. Further, they require records managers to aggregate records from multiple channels while adhering to dynamic guidelines and compliances.
A records manager facilitates document acquisition from multiple sources while arranging them in a predefined, hierarchical file plan—indexing, archiving, searching, and maintaining the integrity of the records by not allowing any sort of modifications to documents, marked as records. They also work to define filing and retention rules to keep records active for a stipulated period, including rules for naming, storage, and hierarchy management, among others.
Such detail-driven and complex records management processes are nearly impossible when executed manually, especially with the sheer volume of incoming records within government organizations. Digitizing and automating the records management process is the key to sustaining a high quality of work, without sacrificing efficiency, security, or compliance.
Digital is No Longer Optional—It’s Imperative!
Take, for example, the custodian of national records and heritage need to digitize the operations of all government entities related to the archives to build a modern records management system. To successfully execute this vision across all the government agencies and entities with governmental stake, the custodian will have to define the regulatory guidelines and standards, to be adopted within a pre-determined time period.
For organizations like these, digitization is truly the only way forward. In an increasingly digital and technologically-forward world, they must be prepared to deal with documents and data in any format—be it analog or digital. Perhaps more importantly, governmental organizations, have a responsibility to maintain comprehensive and secure records, to easily manage those records as needed, and to remain on the cutting edge.
That means going digital.
Bumps in the Road to Digital
Digital places a variety of demands on government organizations, making it a challenge to fulfill requirements in time for compliance. Furthermore, adhering to a long-term vision requires organizations to look beyond compliance requirements, at the future impact of immediate steps.
Some of the specific challenges faced by governmental organizations include:
- Unique compliance items, each with its comprehensive requirements
- Managing electronic and physical records using the same platform
- Managing metadata continuously across any record’s lifecycle
- Maintaining information per the standard guidelines
- Balancing user experience against system complexity and compliance requirements
- Updating the system in the future based on new, and continuously changing, retention schedules
- Maintaining information security across various systems
Looking to the Horizon
While the goal for compliance is a short-term requirement, it is important to understand the long-term vision for digitizing records and correspondences by:
- Treating information as an asset and exercising tight control of the record’s end-to-end lifecycle, from creation to disposition (and archival), to ensure integrity and accountability
- Ensuring that processes, as well as end-products (records, documents, correspondences), are digital, for effective governance and visibility
- Making all records accessible, given the requisite authorizations, to immediate stakeholders, the broader community, and other departments and agencies
- Building a system that is not only sustainable and scalable, but also secure and compliant with the applicable standards
The Path to Digital
Record managers and policy administrators can define the lifecycle of physical and electronic records within their system. The system then facilitates, (1) the definition of rules for the tracking and movement of records across users and, (2) the setting of rules for record archival and final destruction. To progress down the path of digitizing their records management process, organizations must move through certain stages:
- Getting ready
- Define their strategic and operational plans
- Examine the organization’s records, inventory, and taxonomy
- Assess the policies and processes pertaining to records management
- Establish retention schedules and disposition requirements
- Making it happen
- Moving beyond compliance
- Embrace the future with extensible records management
- Leverage cutting-edge technologies
- Scale and build adoption capabilities
Speeding into the Future
Digitization of national and state records is a critical achievement. However, it is more apt to consider it a series of ongoing steps, rather than a concrete milestone. These steps will continue indefinitely to achieve an efficient, secure, connected, and cutting-edge government ecosystem.