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New Survey Reveals Why Federal Agencies Aren't Transferring Records to NARA

An overreliance on manual processes suggests agencies may be overconfident in their ability to comply with the upcoming electronic record mandate

ARLINGTON, Va., March 28, 2019 -- AvePoint Public Sector today announced the results of its "2019 NARA Readiness Report."

The report, conducted with custom research firm Market Connections, was a blind online survey of 150 federal government decisionmakers on topics related to the NARA 2019 electronic records deadline, agency readiness and top challenges.

Among the study's findings:

  • Agencies are very confident in their progress for meeting the 2019 M-12-18 NARA deadline to electronically manage all records, with only 3 percent rating their progress as "Poor" or "Very Poor." 93 percent are "Very Confident" or "Somewhat Confident" they are currently managing records to federal standards.
  • Yet, the vast majority of agencies aren't currently sending all of their eligible records to NARA. Only 33 percent transferred all eligible records to NARA in FY2018. This aligns with findings from NARA's Federal Agency Records Management 2017 Annual Report that found only 22 percent of agencies transferred eligible electronic records to NARA in 2017.

"We share the concern NARA expressed in their 2017 report that this is 'a core activity that is clearly not being done.' If agencies aren't sending records to NARA, then the agency's mission to strengthen democracy through public access to high-value government records is threatened," said Alyssa Blackburn, Director of Records and Information Management Strategy, AvePoint. "One of the central reasons we commissioned this report was to help discover the root causes of this problem and begin a dialogue on possible solutions."

Why Agencies Aren't Transferring Records to NARA

The 2019 NARA Readiness Report directly asks respondents their reasons for not transferring records to NARA for disposition. Findings showed:

  • Too many records / a lot of work / manpower shortage / difficult to manage—42 percent
  • Cost / Budget—16 percent
  • Work in progress—11 percent
  • Lack of appropriate oversight / mismanaged—7 percent
  • Compliance / data concerns—5 percent
  • Other responses / Confidential—27 percent

"This starts to shed some light on the issue as we know agencies have been asked to do more with less for years," said Blackburn. "But we also know that's not going to change anytime soon. We wanted to dive in deeper and ask questions that could help discover why records professionals find themselves overwhelmed."

The report further revealed that federal officials involved in the records process may be struggling to adapt to the digital era by an overreliance on manual processes. For example:

  • Virtually all agencies are still reliant on end users to classify records. While most agencies reported using a combination of automated and manual processes, only 3 percent only use automated classification for records, while 83 percent still involve end users.
  • But end users are unreliable. When asked about the challenges they faced while adhering to federal records managements standards, 47 percent cited end users' lack of awareness regarding policies and procedures, or outdated manual practices, as the top challenges.
  • Most respondents did not have total oversight across all systems that are generating electronic records used by their agency. 61 percent of respondents reported having "some oversight of a specific information system" versus 38 percent of respondents having "oversight across all information systems." 37 percent of respondents were "very familiar" with their agency's business system versus 45 percent being "somewhat familiar."
  • An overuse of unique, proprietary systems may indicate a lack of modernization and difficulty in establishing standard processes for records disposition. 91 percent use proprietary information systems to create, transfer or store information.

"For agencies feeling overwhelmed with the growth of records in the digital era or how to improve their transfer of records to NARA, the single best thing they can do is automate the processes of classifying data and disposing records to an archival authority," said John Peluso, Chief Technology Officer, AvePoint Public Sector. "We know end users aren't trained record managers and record managers aren't trained to be collaboration or IT system administrators. The most effective way to keep up with records management in the digital era is to minimize manual classification at every opportunity and put automated checks in place where manual classification is being used."

Full survey results can be accessed along with resources to help agencies at each step of the compliance process: https://www.avepoint.com/lp/nara-records-management.

About AvePoint Public Sector

AvePoint Public Sector is the leader in enabling collaboration by enhancing citizen engagement and services, reducing risk, and lowering cost for the Department of Defense, Civilian, National Security, State & Local governments, and System Integrator sectors. Headquartered in Arlington, VA, AvePoint Public Sector services more than 600 customers.

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