Federal Government Agencies Face Information Management Challenges, Too

by Barry Murphy

Many moons ago, one of my first projects as an analyst with Forrester Research was to find the answer to a seemingly simple question: what is the industry standard for storing new types of electronic information such as X-rays and other images?  The client was a government agency that needed to store these records long-term and anticipated potentially needing to produce them in court many years in the future.  fed image 2As such, the agency needed to know how to store and find these records.  The answer proved to be anything but simple – in reality, the answer was that there was no “standard” for storing this new type of content.  My investigation into the topic led me to find this new market called eDiscovery and the rest is history.

The experience was interesting because it was my first foray into working with the Federal government.  I went into the experience with the assumption that Federal agencies would somehow be more advanced in their information management efforts.  Records management, after all, was (and still is) very important in government.  But, government agencies are just like other organizations – struggling to keep up with exploding volumes of digital information, under the gun to respond to information requests (whether it is in response to Congressional inquiries, regulatory requests, or litigation), and dealing with the needs for more modern IT infrastructure elements like Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

The only difference between government agencies and other organizations is that agencies may be under even more stringent rules for complying with investigations and for dealing with digital information management.  President Obama’s Managing Government Records directive mandates that agencies manage electronic information as stringently as paper records have traditionally been managed.  Agencies are under even more of a microscope than corporations, yet face the same information management challenges.  Information assets are scattered across email, file systems, disparate SharePoint sites, and Cloud-based repositories.  In addition, some agencies adopt newer IT infrastructure elements such as virtualization and cloud computing to stay relevant.  For example, the Department of Energy deployed a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in order to enable worker mobility (Source: Zurier, Steve. Agencies Deploy VDI with an Eye Toward BYOD. Fed Tech Magazine, March 18, 2013). VDI allows agencies to implement initiatives like BYOD while maintaining top-notch security.

Keeping up with modern IT infrastructure, while simultaneously responding to thousands of information requests each year – whether it is in response to Congressional inquiries, regulatory requests, or litigation – is a challenge.  Before assuming that government agencies have the process under control, consider this: according to Deloitte’s Seventh Annual Benchmarking Study of Electronic Discovery Practices for Government Agencies, only 59% of respondents believed their agencies were effective in deploying eDiscovery capabilities compared to 73% in the previous year (Source: Deloitte’s Seventh Annual Benchmarking Study of Electronic Discovery Practices for Government Agencies, Spring 2013).

Why the drop in confidence?  Part of the reason is that traditional search and eDiscovery products fail to effectively support agencies’ IT environments in a way that creates a true solution.  Rather, traditional products have agencies creating centralized eDiscovery labs that require copying information from various systems to a central eDiscovery location.  This is both time-consuming and expensive.  To learn how to address information management challenges in federal agencies, click here to download a whitepaper that outlines the critical problem, its legal compliance implications, and compelling solutions that help agencies develop built-in search and eDiscovery capabilities that reduce costs and improve operational productivity.

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Filed under Information Management, Records Management

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