By Jan Ferrari, Government Information Analyst
Is your government outsourcing any of its records and information management functions? Digital imaging, records storage, data warehousing and destruction are some of the functions that are being outsourced at present, but even managing or hosting records may be outsourced. This article offers some suggestions for outsourcing.
With completion of the new state digital imaging contract in March 2011, state agencies and local governments may choose from several imaging vendors that provide this service at various levels, depending on need. In order to meet best practices for imaging projects, we recommend including the specifications of The Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s Bulletin A (Microfilming Standards and Procedures) and Bulletin B (Electronic Records Standards and Procedures) in your contract or service level agreement. Problems with the quality of imaging and indexing may affect your government in the future – causing loss or corruption of data and possible litigation.
Records storage facilities should follow standards for storage of paper, film, and electronic media. The State Records Center follows these standards, as do some other storage vendors. Information on storage standards is available in the State Records Management Manual State Records Management Manual (See “Environmental Considerations”: HTML | PDF). For electronic storage, Bulletin B also includes a section on maintenance of electronic records storage media. Again, if you are outsourcing this function, it would reduce your risk to include standards in the contract or service level agreement with the vendor.
Data warehousing provides additional support if your government has large amounts of data or shares data with other entities. One aspect to remember is that as digital information becomes more accessible, it is also more easily accessible to those acting in litigation, as well as to hackers. Security measures, adequate backup and disaster recovery elements should be built into any contracts that may include management of confidential or sensitive data.
Recently, there is a movement to outsource even basic functions such as developing retention schedules and hosting electronic records to improve cost effectiveness or provide more control to electronic data. If your organization is considering outsourcing these functions, keep in mind that the Records Management Officer and the state or local government is still responsible for the proper management of records and the records management program itself. Before outsourcing any of these functions, review the standards and research your vendors to make the best business decisions for your program.