Case Study eRecords

Automated Records Management in the Department of Energy (DOE)

Download Case Study –  Automated Records Management in the Department of Energy

Challenge

Define and create an unclassified electronic Records Management System in response to the Electronic Message Preservation Act (HR 1387) passed by the House of Representatives.

Highland Solution

Assign highly motivated, fully qualified records management and IT professionals to support the EERE personnel in their mission to develop and deploy a formal records management electronic auto-categorization system for their
email environment.

Results

    Performed comprehensive records inventory, updated file plans, and records retention schedules 

    Implemented a fully automated Records Management Program, including a centralized records repository

    Facilitated application of CMMi standards to EERE’s eRMS environment

    Reduced costs

Customer Profile

The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) supports development of and
facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy
technologies that strengthen US energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. DOE-EERE invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the
economy, protect the environment, and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Situation

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) policy is that for historical purposes a
document that represents a federal record, including an email, must be preserved and accessible for a specific period of time depending on the type of content it contains. These retention times are listed as a series of content categories in retention schedules. For decades federal agencies complied by creating a copy of the document along with metadata about it and sending it to NARA for archival.

 DOE-EERE’s IT Director initiated an effort to electronically capture, categorize, and store the various digital forms of EERE’s federal records, by implementing an electronic Records Management System (eRMS). The system would automatically categorize each record into the proper retention schedule (“auto-categorization”) using COTS products.  The intention was and continues to be to manage enterprise email, Microsoft Office documents, and PDF files. Highland was tasked with performing the in-depth analysis to asses which COTS products met the criteria for implementation, including but not limited to: accuracy of categorization, scalability, ease of use, cost, reporting and integration within the existing DOE infrastructure.  Highland was then tasked with implementing the system

 EERE’s initial focus was to address the capture of email since it was the most voluminous, fastest growing type of content, provided maximum benefit to EERE’s e‑discovery and FOIA request process, and addressed the change from official memos to email as the primary method to communicate ideas and directions among the majority of the EERE and their relevant contractor employees.

 Issues/Comments

The Office of Energy and Efficiency and Renewable Energy faced many obstacles in introducing an electronic Records Management System. At the time Highland implemented the automated records solution, the implementation of the internal records management policies and procedures was not being enforced, and there was no governance regarding electronic files, specifically email. Also, there was little support from upper management for rigorously instituting official records management functions. Unless the management and preservation of
records is an explicit part of an organization’s mission, the organization’s employees tended to regard the process of preserving records as an additional duty to be completed as time permits, which time rarely did.  For a successful records management program, Senior Management must emphasize the importance of, and track the progress of records management activities along the management chain of command. 

 Resolution

Highland’s approach to this project was to deploy an automated system that would require no effort for the end user. Motivating employees to preserve electronic records is difficult to do if employees must take time-consuming actions, specifically the process of contemplating the correct disposition category for the record and placing it there.  The EERE system makes the categorization of records an automated task performed behind the scene.

 The comprehensive electronic records management system begins by creating a copy of each email when it is sent and storing that copy in a separate repository.  The auto-categorization engine reviews the content of the email copy to determine whether it is not a federal record at all or if it is, which records category it belongs to.  The system then stores the email as a document in the appropriate category of a records repository database.  

 There are a number of COTS products that can execute these respective actions; the DOE-EERE production system uses:   

  • Microsoft Exchange, used by the
    DOE as the email platform
  • Microsoft SharePoint as the
    records management repository
  • Recommind’s Decisiv product as
    the auto-categorization engine
  • Microsoft SQLServer as the back-end
    for records storage

 

 System Performance and Benefits

This DOE EERE eRecords system is automatically categorizing approximately 650,000 emails a month at an average accuracy of 85%.  (The accuracy is checked monthly on a random sample by a Federal Records analyst.) Although there is a scarcity of data on the accuracy of humans categorizing records, the data that exist indicate human accuracy is quite a bit lower than 85%.  To the best of our knowledge few such systems have recently appeared in any other Federal civilian agency.  If so, this one was the first.

 The implementation of the eRecords system has been so successful that the Office of the Chief Information Officer
(OCIO) for the Department of Energy has expressed an intention to implement this system Department – wide. Other federal agencies have displayed interest as well. Most notably this includes the National Archives and Records
Administration (NARA) itself, which oversees Records Management activities for the federal government.

 Highland 

Founded in 1996, Highland Technology Services Inc. is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) that has been providing IT services for the Federal Government for over 21 years.  Highland has years of experience implementing and managing automated electronic records management services.   

Download Case Study –  Automated Records Management in the Department of Energy

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