Even the most vigilant observer of records management trends could be forgiven for not noticing, but over the last year or so, a revolution has come to Federal agency records management.
This revolution has been a long time coming and the seeds of change were probably first planted more than seven years ago with the Obama administration’s release of the Presidential Memorandum on Managing Government Records, as well as the resulting NARA/OMB joint memorandum M-12-18, which provided both a strategy and a set of agency deadlines for complying with the Presidential Memorandum.
The Universal Electronic Records Management Requirements
But despite the Presidential Memorandum and M-12-18, things really didn’t heat up until earlier this year with NARA’s somewhat surprising release of their Universal Electronic Records Management Requirements (UERM), a simplified, broadly defined set of high-level program and functional requirements for managing electronic records at all Federal agencies.
The UERM requirements officially hit the streets in August and are the product of NARA’s new Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative (FERMI).
The FERMI initiative was launched earlier this year with two stated goals:
- To help agencies obtain electronic records management solutions and services fitting their needs through an improved procurement process
- To proactively address changing trends in electronic records management by setting policy for new solutions and services
Intended to support FERMI’s goals, there are a total of 94 UERM requirements. Each requirement is divided into one of two groups: ‘life cycle’ requirements or ‘transfer’ requirements. Each requirement is also designated as either a ‘Program’ requirement (meaning it is intended to help an agency create the proper environment for a successful electronic records management implementation) or a ‘System’ requirement (indicating it is a technical feature or function that an agency would need to implement a successful records management system).
Some UERM requirements are mandatory (marked as ‘Must Have’) and some requirements are considered preferred, but optional (marked as ‘Should Have’).
The life cycle requirements are divided into one of six information life cycle phases: Capture, Maintenance and Use, Disposal, Transfer, Metadata, and Reporting. Each transfer requirement applies to one or more record types, such as Electronic Messages, Social Media or Video.
Unlike previous records management solution certification processes, vendors will self-certify their records management solutions and services offerings against the UERM requirements. This self-certification will significantly reduce both the development cost of the solutions and the amount of time it takes to bring new offerings to the market.
Schedule 36 Changes
The National Archives is equally determined to support FERMI’s goal of making it as easy and cost efficient as possible for Federal agencies to procure and implement new records management systems and they have enlisted the General Services Administration to support their efforts.
Working with NARA, GSA’s Integrated Workplace Acquisition Center incorporated the UERM requirements into its existing Multiple Award Schedule 36 to better align the schedule to meet continuously evolving information life cycle management needs of Federal buyers.
According to GSA, agencies will benefit from procuring their records management solutions and services through the updated Schedule 36 because:
- Contractors will have certified their solutions and services against the UERM requirements, helping to ensure records are reliable, authentic, have integrity, remain usable, and include the necessary content, context and structure
- Contractors have already been vetted for technical, performance and fiscal responsibility
- Discounted pricing, terms and conditions are pre-negotiated
- Schedule orders count towards small business goals
In addition to the Schedule 36 changes, GSA’s Unified Shared Services Management (USSM) office teamed with NARA to help ensure the success of the UERM requirements.
Created in 2016, USSM’s mission is to drive agencies to reduce costs and eliminate redundancies by sharing investments in administrative services common across all agencies.
Traditionally, agencies have each spent millions of dollars building their own unique electronic records management solutions – even though every Federal agency has very similar information life cycle management requirements they must all meet.
The USSM is working with NARA to make similar UERM-compliant records management solutions accessible to all agencies through shared services. Implementation of these new shared services will result in broader agency cloud adoption, increased efficiency for agency records management, improved inter-agency information sharing and substantial cost savings.
Next Generation Federal Records Management
The significance of the NARA’s release of the UERM requirements, GSA’s efforts to streamline the records management procurement process, and the work of the Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative cannot be overstated. This is a clear message from the Federal government that the days of complex, burdensome, stand-alone records management ‘applications’ are finally over.
According to their draft strategic plan, NARA will no longer accept non-electronic permanent records after December 31, 2022. Meeting this requirement in little over five years will likely mean the greatest overhaul of Federal records management in a generation and agencies will have to leverage the most advanced technologies available today, including cognitive systems, content analytics, and big data solutions. Just the types of next generation records management technologies the UERM requirements are designed to support.