I agreeto Idea Government is not a business
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Government is not a business

Government is not a business, because it has so many stakeholder needs to address; many of which are conflicting. For example, there is a whole element of public access that simply does not apply to the private sector - and conflicts between who wants access, and who doesn't. For that reason, facile claims that the federal government should operate like a private corporation fail to recognize the true scope and complexity of the challenges being faced.

Nor does NARA bashing help - to date, records management has not been a priority, and NARA's level of support and funding has reflected that. Now we have a president who has made this a priority - it is a legitimate question whether NARA has the capability to fully meet that challenge in the most effective manner. I don't think, however, that past issues necessarily should lead to forgone conclusions.

A couple of suggestions: NARA should focus on what NARA does best, and let the agencies focus on their own areas of expertise. I like the idea of a NARA run E-Records Center as a service to agencies: this creates a greater liklihood of consistency and economies of scale, and, if it can scale to the varying needs of its customer (both up and down, depending on stakeholder needs), it will encourage people to get into the system. And, such a system can be configured in such a way to avoid the cloud "boogy man".

We also need a better alignment between custodial needs and responsibilities. All too often we attempt to impose enterprise custodial duties on local custodians, who neither need the level of complexity imposed for their own business needs, nor have the skills or resources to meet those needs. NARA should focus on enterprise custodianship, and, to the greatest extent possible, give local enterprises greater flexibility in setting retentions, developing file plans, etc.... NARA then becomes the developer of the high level framework, the periodic auditor of local compliance, but leaves a lot of flexibility in the framework to meet specific local stakeholder needs.

Technology is fragmenting, developing, and expanding at a blinding pace. The policies and tools we develop will always lag behind this truth, nor should they be so onerous to stifle innovation and collaboration. By thinking in terms of a scaled framework of custodial responsibilities and needs, we can begin to align our approach in terms of technology, policy and human capital to benefit all stakeholders. People should want to practice good records management, not feel its been imposed upon them as a burden. Achieving this is the only way we can create the kind of stakeholder accountability government demands in an environment of rapid change and individual technological empowerment.

Submitted by dwight.d.wallis 2 years ago

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  1. The idea was posted
    2 years ago

Comments (4)

  1. In disagreeing I'm NOT saying that it IS a business, but that it needs to run more LIKE a business. If you've been in RM on the Federal side and been burdened with attempting to comply with the archaic practices in 36CFR, you'd better understand the criticism of NARA.

    Keep in mind that NARA only receives and maintains responsibility for PERMANENT Federal Records- which are estimated to be between 2-3% of all FR generated. They have no responsibility for the day-to-day custodianship of 97-98% of records, but they provide all the requirements?

    The vast majority of unstructured content and email, which comprise most of the records being generated in Federal Agencies and by their Contractors today, will NEVER become "Permanent" and will never make it to NARA. The systems used to mange them should be designed to meet the business needs of the custodians, as long as they can adequately manage content to meet required retention... the focus should NOT be on meeting 36CFR Part 1236 requirements.

    People should be ALLOWED to practice sound Records Management, not be burdened with complying with antiquated regulations that don't fit the manner in which information is used.

    2 years ago
    0 Agreed
    0 Disagreed
    1. dwight.d.wallis Idea Submitter

      We are disagreeing where?.....

      2 years ago
      0 Agreed
      0 Disagreed
  2. Dwight- I only disagreed with the post by title =) I think Government needs to run RM more like a business and make business type decisions if they're going to improve on how they run RM presently.

    2 years ago
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    0 Disagreed
  3. The concept of governence at the lowest level possible is a basic ideal of the US form of Government. Governance responsibilities are relegated to a higher level based only on the concept that they cannot effectively be handled at a lower level. As a Canadian, I appreciate this idea.

    When applied to the NARA/Agencies environment then it suggests that NARA has a role in the following areas:

    1. Proving enterprise level consistency in RM through their development of policy and standards (agencies can develop their own procedures that implement those standards and policy).

    2. Provide strategic information mgt (SIM) tools and train the trainer courses for use by the agencies (agencies will develop their own SIM plans and customized agency training as required).

    3. Provide a single source repository/archive for use by all agencies to encourage knowledge sharing and analytics (agencies will store/manage certain confidential/

    private/transitory information as desired).

    4. As per item #1 above, NARA will provide standard classification and retention guidelines to agencies to ensure consistency in the NARA single source repository (agencies can still use their own file naming systems below the secondary retention levels).

    5. NARA can provide an auditing function whose sole aim is to ensure that agencies are correctly anditing their agencies in a timely manner.

    6. Provide a coaching role for agencies (as opposed to a consulting role that may not ensure adequate transfer of knowledge and an intimate understanding of the particular RM infrastructure of each agency).

    I am sure that my RM collegues can contribute valued additions to this proposal.

    2 years ago
    0 Agreed
    0 Disagreed