Despite all of the emerging technology and new breed of software-based records management (RM) solutions, the truth is – most records managers still manage paper records in offline repositories like file cabinets and paper ledgers.
This is especially true for federal agencies, which face many challenges when it comes to RM because of all the unique requirements with which they must comply.
All federal agencies must define and maintain an approved file plan for managing classified records and supporting the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, for example.
Records management capabilities within the Department of Defense (DoD) must not only comply with standards for RM applications set in DoD 5015.02, but must also be able to deliver content for all discovery requests. Additionally, RM systems must make it easy for records manager to quickly collect metadata, categorize and maintain official records.
At a recent technology conference, Virginia-based Strategic Operational Solutions (STOPSO) – shared how they have begun implementation of a full-scale records management solution for the Joint Chiefs of Staff based on Alfresco enterprise content management.
This distributed RM solution includes multiple connected repositories and is the only open source solution currently being used by the DoD that provides DoD 5015.02 certified and validated capability.
The agency needed a secure solution that could help them consolidate redundant systems, share common services across the enterprise to foster innovation, and improve collaboration and decision making by simplifying the process of accessing critical information.
STOPSO and the DoD chose Alfresco because it allows intellectual property and data rights to be maintained exclusively with the data owners and has the ability to easily and cost-effectively scale to a massive enterprise level.
The agency also wanted an open solution that could be deeply customized at every level of the organization.
Since implementation, the DoD has reported a cost savings of almost 40% related to operations and maintenance compared to their existing system.
You can view Brian Campo’s presentation here.
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Harris Grant has been creating extraordinary audio-visual environments since 1983. The company’s work encompasses the design of recording studios, cinemas, theatres and public buildings through to the installation of entertainment, control security and communication systems in some of the world’s most lavish super yachts. It also undertakes the creation of home theatres and recording studios for individuals.
For continued growth and exceptional customer service, Harris Grant’s long running, international projects would need the support of secure document management and collaboration technology to assist its teams of employees and specialists.
Here are nine reasons the company needed Alfresco:
- Competitive advantage. With customers spanning Eurasia, the Americas and Europe, Harris Grant competes for major clients on a global stage. This means exceptional customer service across geographically and technically diverse projects that encompass specialist architects, interior designers, technicians and integration specialists.
- International collaboration. Partners and employees need sustainable access to company and project documentation from any location, on any device. With some client projects lasting up to five years, reliability and scalability are key.
- Security. Controlled workflows ensure project integrity and deliver comprehensive visibility to project assignees.
- Seamless integration. Alfresco integrated seamlessly with the company’s existing systems such as its bespoke CRM platform.
- Agility. Harris Grant’s teams can be instantly flexed and scaled, with access rights being assigned and centrally managed by project leads.
- Easy access. Documents are versioned throughout a project’s lifecycle and metadata aids their easy retrieval from a central repository.
- Historical data. The company has a comprehensive archive of historical documentation that aids pre and post sales technical support.
- Streamlined service. Slicker processes mean improved project delivery and decreased cycle times.
- Professionalism. Alfresco allows Harris Grant to operate in a professional manner and interact with globally recognised brands in a highly effective way.
“As a small specialist company operating on the global stage, we need to be able to punch above our weight. Alfresco has made it possible for us to manage large, complex supply chains and participate with ease in global projects where interfacing with large corporations is a must,” explains Neil Grant, Managing Director at Harris Grant.
Why did the Department of Veteran’s Affairs choose Alfresco?
“Because we had a content problem,” Michael Ward, Alfresco implementation lead for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, told an audience at a recent technology conference. “In my experience, many sites have a content problem because they are often feature-driven and overlook dynamic content management.”
The agency struggled with its web portal, a myriad of self-service portals with various users and multiple levels of access that made it difficult for users to find the content they needed.
Among the VA’s many content issues was the fact that content embedded in HTML or code could not be tagged, categorized or queried. They needed a way to use taxonomies and metadata to find content based on business rules.
“We needed a way to get the content out of the mark-up and page structure and describe it as such that it could be retrieved based on business rules for the site,” said Ward.
Another issue was how content was actually delivered to the site.
“I once belonged to an organized where a single content change to a page required a two week delay until the next change control meeting,” said Ward. “For the VA, we have SLAs that require content to be delivered almost immediately. Accounting for cache resets, we can deliver content in some cases within 15 minutes of the change.”
When it comes to standards, Ward explained that overall, this is an issue for everyone – not just government agencies.
“I’ve seen websites fall into the vendor lock-in trap where when that vendor fell behind in terms of technology, the owner of the site was faced with major rewrites,” said Ward. “With the VA, we were faced with such a problem when our underlying portal required upgrading. Because we used the vendor’s APIs for content retrieval, the upgrade broke our code base specifically with how we used their proprietary CMS. Since then, we’ve adopted more of a separate layer whereby the standards give us an approach to reduce this risk.”
Ward also warned about the opportunity costs associated with content management and how organizations should not underestimate the key positions needed for supporting an enterprise content management system.
“In the case of the VA, there are subject matter experts needed in areas such as operations – with content delivery networks based on load balancing and smart switching to determine the best source for retrieving content,” said Ward. “You absolutely need expertise in business process modeling and the associated language for building complex workflows. Enterprise CMS systems need support as there are potentially content changes being requested all of the time.”
Ward said that Alfresco’s open source community was a big draw when considering a solution.
“I am a fan of open-source community editions, such as Alfresco Community, to get the ball rolling with at least a proof of concept,” he said. “The VA has acquired licensing for Alfresco, which provides for both support and a true clustered environment.”
Another common challenge when implementing a content management system is buy-in, Ward explained. Sometimes it is unclear to stakeholders more interested in a platform’s features that those features may require dynamic content and that use cases and processes must be in place to support content management of that feature.
“I often see this as an afterthought,” said Ward. “At the VA, with our use of Alfresco, our CMS team is often tasked with dynamic content management, so they are used to what it takes to get changes in place using Alfresco, but does the program as a whole understand the CMS process and what it takes to support those features? Under the hood in Alfresco, we’ve developed complex workflows, content taxonomies and models, delivery mechanisms and other tools. The CMS team must ensure there is buy in to support these tools in processes as a critical part to delivering features.”
To begin the implementation process, the VA first performed a content inventory, then established a taxonomy, modeled content and metadata, and created reusable templates.
While the initial Alfresco implementation was for the purpose of isolating a content management system but still publishing content for runtime retrieval, as time allowed the VA to inventory and begin building a new taxonomy and models, the agency began migrating content to Alfresco using Alfresco Share as a CMS.
Today, the VA uses Alfresco as its primary content repository. With Alfresco, users can interact with content in real-time, as well as – through workflows – approve and publish content from one region to the next either as part of an overall release or as needed.
“Probably the most important aspect to a winning combination is a clear set of processes for delivering content,” said Ward. “Can the users fast track content changes and preview them directly in the portal? Can developers rely on complex workflows which advance content from Integration to QA? Can content be changed within minutes or does it take hours or require a release? Lastly, do the business and technical teams collaborate to understand that an enterprise content management system consists of more than features with content shown on a wireframe?”
You can view Michael Ward’s presentation at: http://www.slideshare.net/alfresco/brian-campo-content-gov-slides-20140127
This blog post was written by Jill Singer, former CIO of the NRO and CIA.
“In my 27 years of federal service – as the CIO for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and deputy CIO for the CIA – I’ve watched the growth in federal records and the implementation of new executive orders and regulations aimed at improving records management across the federal space.
Litigation, review and release, tracing factual evidence for analysis, managing information from difficult environments, and the many authorized and unauthorized disclosures of classified and sensitive information… it all poses huge challenges.
Make no mistake: helping our nation protect information, while also protecting civil liberties and the privacy of our nation’s citizens, is a priority. As the amount of data continues to grow, the job just gets harder.
As I see it, federal records management success hinges on three main principals:
#1: Capture on Creation
The federal workforce creates content every second of every day in both formal and informal ways through e-mail, meeting requests, IM, voicemail, PowerPoint decks, meeting minutes, memorandums and more.
This content is stored all over the place – on local hard drives, mobile phones, corporate storage, shadow IT storage, and public and private clouds. For RM professionals, it’s a mess.
Solid systems and capabilities that facilitate capture on content creation and drive the creator to label information in a simple and non-intrusive way are absolutely critical for the long-term management of important content.
#2: Manage and Secure through the Workflow
Very little happens in federal government without being attached to a workflow. Employee time is a workflow that leads to paychecks, purchasing large and small goods is a workflow that leads to vendor payments and receipt of goods…even citizen services contain many workflows for social security payments, passport processing, visa approvals, small business loans and more.
The federal government operates in massive macro and micro workflow environments and it is critical to introduce solid records management to each and every workflow action to seamlessly capture changes, approvals, and actions throughout the entire process.
Workflow tools are also needed to maintain data integrity, individual privacy, and agency security. It’s simply not enough to have workflow tools which are fundamentally secure in a private environment. Federal agencies need confidence when exchanging data from a mobile, citizen platform to a private, agency platform.
# 3: Responsible Archival
In light of the recent Target, Neiman Marcus, and Michael’s security breech, congressional committees are demanding more accountability by retail institutions. Accountability for federal agencies is even stronger and rightfully so!
Fundamental to our form of government is trust. Trust of our people, trust by our federal workforce, and trust in our records and information is fundamental.
For example, as a result of our innate desire for freedom and equality, we need to ensure a responsible position with respect to archiving our national records. Rebuilding a scenario to study our successes and failures is necessary for the continued improvement of federal business.
Tools and technologies that make responsible records management and archival easier for everyone are absolute necessities and key to reducing manpower in archival, review, and release, is solid creation at the start.
The truth is no federal agency can survive with a single tool. Discovering and implementing technologies with easy interfaces, open APIs, and purposeful data exchange bases is likely to be required for any federal agency. Often this equates to open source tools, which are naturally built for easy expansion and integration with other tools. ”
About the Author
Ms. Jill Tummler Singer is an executive leader with 27 years of federal support in the areas of transformation, strategy, leadership, and technology. Throughout both her government service and industry experience, she deftly ensured that her customers had the information, technology, and infrastructure necessary to effectively execute their missions. As a Deep Water Point partner, Ms. Singer provides clients with this exceptional level of support.