Key Opportunities in Electronic Records Management

By Jessica Parks, Analyst

Good news for those who have been trying to sell solutions that facilitate digital government. A little over 2 months ago, OMB and the National Archives (NARA) issued memo M-19-21, informing federal agencies that they must manage all permanent and temporary records electronically by 2022. While this memo is not out of the blue – it was built upon the previous M-18-12 directive – it does lay out a specific timeline for agencies to follow.

Here are a couple of key technologies playing a role in the government’s transition to fully electronic records and how you can approach potential customers.

Automation will likely play a big part and may even free up agencies to explore emerging technologies such as AI. As agencies face a large volume of records to digitize and then manage, technology that reduces the amount of manual work will be a plus. For example, CMS recently implemented a robotic process automation-based tool to review medical records for Medicare payments. In combination with AI and ML algorithms, this tool has drastically reduced the time it takes to find the necessary data, from about one hour per document to just one minute.

Additionally, in its 2018 report to NARA on records management, DOT expressed an interest in exploring the use of AI to manage documents once reliable COTS solutions are in place. This shows that as agencies face increasing pressure to migrate their records to electronic storage, they will look to COTS solutions in order to make the move as quickly and smoothly as possible – another insertion point for vendors.

When you talk to prospective customers regarding automation, emphasize where your solution offers specific process improvements. This applies not just to digitizing and managing records, but also to general inventory and workflow management. Consider what your solution can tell the agency about its records. What level of visibility do you offer? How does your solution make it easier and faster for customers to pull the records they need?

Paper records often require manual, time-intensive workflows, so a shift to electronic records also necessitates broader change in how those records are handled. Web-based workflow tools could be the answer here. Additionally, a recent NARA report found that most agencies have not sufficiently incorporated their records management into existing information systems. Focus on how your tool will integrate with an agency’s current systems.

Like elsewhere in government IT, cloud technology is playing an important role in the storage of electronic records. In M-19-21, NARA has asked that agencies close their storage facilities for paper records and transfer the records to federal or commercial facilities by 2022. While agencies will maintain some paper records, electronic storage will become even more important. Agencies such as the VA, DOI, USDA and HHS are already turning to cloud-based storage solutions for their electronic documents. Note that two key opportunities for insertion into these cloud systems are data security and identity access management. Agencies must keep their data safe in the cloud, and they have to ensure that there are multiple levels of secure access.

M-19-21 is simply the latest directive in the government’s transition to electronic records management. ERM is about more than just digitizing paper files – agencies must also develop processes around how those files are then stored, secured and accessed. Automation, cloud technology and data security solutions are the tools that will help them get there.

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The 6th Annual Government IT Sales Summit will be help November 21 in Reston, Virginia. Have you registered yet? Learn more here.

About Jessica Parks
Jessica Parks is an analyst with the Market Intelligence team at immixGroup, providing actionable analysis to help technology suppliers shorten their sales cycles. She holds a B.A. from the College of William and Mary and an M.A. in political science from UNC Chapel Hill.

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