The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) put out a mandate in 2019 requiring federal agencies to “transition to electronic documents” by December 31st, 2022. The NARA mandate has two main aims:
- To ensure that all Federal records are created, retained, and managed in electronic formats, with appropriate metadata; and
- To develop plans to close agency-operated storage facilities for paper and other analog records, and transfer those records to Federal Records Centers operated by NARA or commercial storage facilities.
In short, the government is getting out of the game of creating and storing physical records and mandating that all new records be electronic instead. This has ramifications not only for federal agencies, but for companies contracting with them, as well as agencies operating on state and local levels.
And while much has been done to comply with the mandate, some federal agencies have expressed doubts about being able to meet that deadline, especially when it comes to the digitization of records.
Why the Drive for Digitization of Records?
The NARA mandate is part of an overarching federal government strategy launched in 2012 to “Build a 21st century digital Government that delivers better digital services to the American people.” In plain English: Digitizing records makes access to federal information easier because records can be accessed online rather than in-person or by mail.
Digitization costs less, too. Currently, government agencies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to store and service paper records. This includes printing the documents, cataloging them, controlling access, and destroying documents when required. Warehousing and protecting paper documents alone is a major cost center.
Challenges Presented by the Mandate
Now that the deadline set by the NARA mandates is here, it is becoming clear to many agencies (and the companies that work for them) that moving to electronic formats is more challenging than it first seemed. Common challenges include:
Delicate non-electronic records. Many paper records are delicate, either due to their age or medium (or both). These require extra care and know-how to avoid damage during the digitization process.
Stretched budgets. The NARA mandate came without additional Congressional funding for things like extra staff or the purchase of advanced digitization technologies. This means that older, inadequate technologies are being used.
Insufficient staff. Digitizing non-electronic documents can be a time-consuming manual process. Staff shortages, especially in the face of COVID-19, can mean serious delays in the process.
Designing appropriate security. Electronic documents can be secure, sometimes more so than hardcopies. But any documentation system must be set up appropriately, with the right access controls, to guarantee that security.
The Solution: Modern Document Management Services
Spending stretched budgets on piecemeal technologies and processes creates more work than it saves. Fortunately, a modern document management service (DMS) can greatly streamline both digitization and the records management process.
A fully integrated suite of services for meeting the NARA mandate should include:
- Automated scanning and digitization of documents
- Easy recording of meta-data
- Rules for designing workflows around NARA records retention schedules
- Appropriate access controls (based on role, user group, location, etc.)
- Tools for making appropriate records available to the public, as mandated by law
- The ability to integrate with legacy systems
- A solid implementation methodology on the part of the vendor
- A proven plan for getting employees acclimated to the system
QFlow’s own integrated software platform, Q-Action, has all of these components, as well as the support of experts who can aid in implementation and training. We’ve found that this helps to ease the transition to a centralized system, and can make the overall digitization of records that much easier.
QFlow also has an Authority to Operate (ATO) already in place within several government agencies, ensuring that we satisfy regulatory and records management compliance.
To learn more about how QFlow’s Q-Action can help meet the NARA mandate, request a demo today.