The information landscape is constantly changing, especially for government. Federal records are no longer limited to file cabinets full of paper documents. They are now much more fluid, residing across a variety of platforms and technologies that the government utilizes to do business. From digital documents, to emails, to social media posts, to text messages – the scope of records is rapidly expanding. But does the government have a robust enough information management skillset to scale alongside that expansion?
Currently, worries are mounting that some agencies might not meet an upcoming December 31st, 2016 deadline set by the Managing Government Records Directive, which requires agencies to manage their email records in an electronic format. Further, they will be required to manage all permanent electronic records in an electronic format by the close of 2019. But with agencies still struggling to meet current goals, there is growing evidence that the government will not be in a tenable position to meet looming future information management requirements.
To correct their course, agencies will have to devote significant effort to overhauling their individual agency cultures, as well as their information and risk management frameworks. These frameworks are operational self-assessment tools that allow agencies to compare their performance against baseline controls, proactively address any gaps, and continuously quantify and demonstrate compliance.
Setting up a comprehensive, agency-wide framework is understandably a very daunting task, but doing so will ultimately increase the usability and value of government data. This is why agencies need to make sure that they are focusing on establishing a structured taxonomy within their management framework. Doing so will also enable analytics technology, improve decision-making and generally increase the agency’s Return on Information.
Once a suitable framework is in place, agencies must grapple with the perpetually ongoing struggle of ensuring that all employees are adhering to the set policies. Properly educating employees about their records management roles and responsibilities goes a long way towards achieving this goal. Further, increasing the amount of training available to employees will only benefit an agency’s information management program. Providing more training in various areas of expertise will help employees to understand when they are creating government records, as well as the responsibilities for preserving those records, securing government information against rising cyber attacks, and innovative ways to address common problems. All of these are critically important, since virtually every federal employee will be responsible for creating or handling government records as part of their day-to-day tasks.
Of course, all of the above recommendations hinge on having agency leadership that understands the need and motivations for an agency-wide culture shift when it comes to information management. Currently, agency information management professionals are the most likely to understand their agency’s information management capabilities and future goals. As such, they should be the vanguard for advancing their agency’s information management positioning to where it needs to be – but they can’t do it alone. They need both the understanding and support of senior agency leadership.