"Can you find the information you need?" The pressure of citizen service requirements, litigation, the Federal Rules for Civil Procedure, the media, audits and activist organizations and individuals are forcing agencies to take a closer look at their answer to that question, as the failure to find information can have catastrophic results. Gregory Trosset, electronic records management program manager for King County, Wash., noted at the Best of California event in Sacramento earlier this month that the failure to produce requested documents could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in sanctions being levied against an agency.

But litigation and fines are not the only reasons for agencies to be able to find the data that they are supposed to have on hand. "The reality is that if you deal with citizens, you're often going to have to deal with paper. No matter how much we capture on the Web, no matter how much we do in the interview-style of data capture, citizens are often going to need paper," said Gary Rodgers, worldwide public sector for HP, at the same event.

When a citizen applies for some kind of a benefit, he or she normally has to go through a certification process and there is typically some kind of a case-management system that tracks that. The citizen brings his or her evidence of identity: birth certificate, driver's license, passport, a document from the agency -- these all need to be captured and stored in a secure repository which is tied to a database accessible to a caseworker who can take appropriate action.

Rodgers and Trosset urged agencies to be methodical about how they implement records management policies. "Having to go back and rebuild stuff is what blows your budget out," Rodgers said.

How does an agency go about defining a records management policy? And once the policy is defined, how does one go about implementing it? However an agency decides to proceed, "it is not a technology project. You need to have your records management folks involved. They need to take the lead," Trosset said.

King County, Washington


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