More Common Questions about NARA’s Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative (FERMI)

In this post, we are continuing to answer some of the common questions we’ve received about FERMI. This post focuses on questions about electronic records management approaches and how FERMI supports the transition to digital government. Please feel free to ask any additional questions here as a comment or email RMPolicy@nara.gov.

Here are some common questions we’ve heard:  

What types of approaches to records management can we take with systems?

NARA is frequently asked what type of system(s) agencies should acquire. NARA does not recommend a specific approach. Agencies are responsible for being in compliance with all relevant statutes, regulations, and guidance. Agencies can take various approaches to records management for different types of records. Agencies may not be taking the traditional approach of implementing a enterprise-wide system, but may be embedding records management functionality in various services, like email.

We describe various approaches agencies and vendors can use to implement ERM solutions and services in the draft Use Cases for Electronic Messages. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Traditional Electronic Records Management Systems (ERMS) – In this model, each agency hosts their own separate, stand-alone ERM system or solution. The agency procures a solution or service that is dedicated to ERM. This approach may be ideal for small to medium-sized agencies with a straightforward mission. For example, Inspectors General, or agencies with case management work.
  • Hosted Electronic Records Management as a Service (ERMaaS) – In this model, a hosted ERMS solution is implemented as a service by an agency or a vendor. It can then be shared with components or other agencies. If hosted by an agency, the hosting agency would handle management of the tool and the costs of implementation would be shared by those agencies using the service.
  • Embedded ERM – In this model, ERM functions are embedded in the existing business application that is a source of records. This option could provide higher-quality records and a much better user experience as users would not need to learn how to use a new system to manage records.
  • ERMaaS Microservices – In this model, records management functions are implemented as a single set of shared microservices to which business applications will connect to execute ERM functions. This option provides the benefits of embedded ERM combined with the centralization of a hosted solution.

How does it fit with NARA’s strategic plan and the Administration’s goals?

FERMI fits into NARA’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, because it focuses on Goal 2.4, which involves transitioning the Federal Government to a fully-electronic environment. One of FERMI’s initial products was the Universal ERM Requirements, a document designed to simplify electronic records management requirements for agencies. The advent of GSA Schedule 36 SIN 51 600 also works to streamline government-wide acquisitions of ERM services and solutions designed to meet NARA’s electronic records management regulations, policies, and guidance. In addition, Strategic Plan Goal 3.2, states “By December 31, 2022, NARA will, to the fullest extent possible, no longer accept transfers of permanent or temporary records in analog formats and will accept records only in electronic format and with appropriate metadata.” The new SIN provides the services and solutions needed to help minimize the burden to agencies by providing a mechanism for digitizing their analog records.

FERMI fits into NARA’s strategic goals, which in-turn directly supports the following Cross-Agency Priority Goals set forth by the Administration:

  • IT Modernization
  • Data, Accountability, and Transparency
  • Sharing Quality Services
  • Category Management – Leveraging Common Contracts and Best Practices

The goal to transition to an electronic government is a key part of OMB’s effort to modernize IT across the government. This goal is included in the 2018 Government Reform Plan and says NARA will no longer accept paper records from agencies after 2022. FERMI is a critical part of helping agencies reach that goal by providing easier access to ERM solutions and services to transition to a fully digital government.

NARA has long been an advocate of making sure records, data, and information are managed properly to meet agency missions. One of the administration’s priorities is Leveraging Data as a Strategic Asset. By aligning FERMI with this priority, NARA is ensuring agencies meet their statutory and regulatory obligations while creating more efficient and effective ways of  delivering services and carrying out their missions.

NARA and GSA’s Office of Shared Solutions and Performance Improvement Group’s (OSSPI) Business Standards Council (BSC) have worked together to ensure ERM requirements are included at the Shared Services level in new initiatives like NEW PAY. This is alleviating the burden on agencies to manage these records on their own when it can be done on a government-wide scale. By including these requirements, industry leaders who will be creating the technology know exactly what the government needs in terms of records management.

The new ERM SIN and NARA’s on-going work with GSA’s Schedule 36 team helps create a common contract for ERM and allows agencies to leverage the work already done by NARA and other agencies for ERM solutions. There will be less redundant efforts. NARA and GSA plan to include NARA requirements for digitization into Schedule 36 as well in order to further create common processes for ERM.

The FERMI website provides additional information for agencies and vendors. Please send any questions to RMPolicy@nara.gov. Also check back here for the latest on FERMI!

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