Work for the government? If so, you have received a direct order from our commander-in-chief to get your records in order. Two weeks ago, President Obama gave federal agencies four months to come up with a plan to reform records management by moving to electronic records management systems. So what now?

Whether or not you are actually affected by this directive, it’s not a bad idea to revisit your records management program to learn how you can digitize records and create effective programs for managing information lifecycles.

What Needs to Be Done

According to the President’s memo, agency directors must follow a strict outline. Within 30 days, they must “ensure that the successful implementation of records management requirements,” allocate proper resources and put someone in charge of reviewing that requirements have been met.

Within 120 days, agency directors must report on their plans for “improving or maintaining its records management program,” identifying provisions, omissions and regulations that “currently pose an obstacle to the agency's adoption of sound, cost effective records management policies and practices,” and recognizing policies and programs that will assist the agency’s efforts to improve records management. The memo also spells out that agencies must address multiple elements of managing electronic records, including “email and social media, deploying cloud based services or storage solutions, and meeting other records challenges.”

After the reports have been submitted and reviewed, the Director of Office of Management and Budget and the Archivist, in coordination with the Associate Attorney General, will issue a directive for agency heads to take specific steps to reform and improve records management policies and practices within their agency.

Where to Start

We turned to Laserfiche, records management provider to the federal government, for advice about what to look for as government agencies search for viable solutions.

Build a Framework for Information Governance

According to Laserfiche, It’s not just about archiving documents, it’s also about minimizing security risks and complying with a variety of regulations from NARA, the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) and more. In other words it’s about building an information governance framework.

Compatibility is Key

Does your software effectively integrate with existing infrastructures and allows for secure information access in a variety of ways? This is a must, Laserfiche says. Agencies should assess which mission-critical apps are in use and which reside in the cloud and make sure that the software allows for both types of access.

A Transparent Process

When it comes to records management, both transparency and process are essential to making sure that things run smoothly as well as clearly. Agencies need to show how their information assets are being used at every point in its lifecycle and to align those assets with business value.

While nobody likes a mandate, especially from the President, digitizing records shouldn’t be a chore, but rather a cost-cutting solution designed to be efficient and accessible. Those words are not usually associated with government bureaucracy, but at this point, like most companies, if you’re not up-to-speed with the demands of today’s society, you’re not just inefficient, you'rd irrelevant.