Washington state has been a thought leader on managing and maintaining digital records; after four years of planning, the groundbreaking Washington Digital Archives opened in June 2004. And the state's current Digital Vault initiative is creating a standard process for handling the explosion in electronic information.

Andy Hill, information services director for the Attorney General's Office (AGO), continues the state's trend of tackling this evolving issue. Hill made electronic records issues a priority when he joined the AGO in 2005. "One of those things was e-mail archiving," he said. "It seemed like the lowest-hanging fruit."

First, the AGO implemented tools that let attorneys and paralegals search attachments in addition to e-mail text. Because there's no limit on mailbox sizes, some inboxes hold gigs of data, Hill said, adding that a filing system developed prior to his arrival was little help.

"I was confident we were spending too much time looking for public records requests," he said. "We're knowledge workers; we're supposed to add value information, not spend time looking for it. That was the business driver."

The next step? Managing e-mails and documents.

"Now we have the opportunity to manage this data in a much more robust way - in a way that you can apply retention schedules to individual documents now," Hill said. "We're working with the secretary of state to figure out moving documents from our e-mail to our vault product, then eventually into the state archives."

Jessica Jones  |  Assistant Editor