Does my agency need a Task Management system?

Simple tips to make the most of your year

The past year has introduced several new challenges to government agencies:  Remote working, changes in resource costs, staff differences, new modernization regulations, and a shift away from outdated technology have agencies looking toward new solutions to modernize the way that they do work.  Task Management Systems are a key part of those solutions because they improve accessibility, collaboration, transparency, and productivity. 

What is a Task Management System, and why does it matter? 

A Task Management System controls a task throughout its entire lifecycle.  It gives agencies the tools they need to plan, track, test, and report on the work their employees are doing.  It can help individual users tackle goals efficiently.  It can also help groups of users collaborate while working together to finish a project.   

In a Task Management System, employees have a digital workspace with visual accounts of every job and project that they must finish.  These jobs and projects can be sorted by due date, importance, who assigned them, and other criteria.  Users will always know exactly what needs to be done, when, and why it needs to be done in the first place. 


How can I tell if my agency needs a Task Management System?


Do I have paper-based checklist processes with Outlook for tracking tasks? 

Paper checklist may prove beneficial in our personal lives; but in many cases, assigning agency tasks with paper-based processes just isn’t enough.   Modern goals and projects often involve a much higher level of complexity than paper can support.   

Tracking tasks manually as an agency comes with a heightened compliance risk and reduced productivity. Task Management Systems provide data to easily audit tasks and workers’ productivity. They also provide a digital workspace for every worker to understand his or her workload for the foreseeable future.  When the job at hand changes, updates can be instantly applied to the task, making your workers more informed and efficient.

Do I use an Excel sheet to keep track of my tasks? 

It is difficult enough to organize a task spreadsheet while managing a job alone, but collaborating on a task spreadsheet can become a nightmare.  Spreadsheets don’t give teams the ability to comment or chat on shared projects.  Also, emailing around project information can lead to different team members updating different versions of the same document.  When data gets deleted, there is no way of knowing who did it, when, or why they did it in the first place. 

Task Management Systems allow users to communicate on any job or project.  Comments can be left, notes can be made, and team members can be notified when their input is needed.  There is a trail of every action taken within the system, so you will always know who did what and for what reason.   In a world full of alternative work schedules and remote teams where hallway discussions and check-ins can’t happen as often, Task Management Systems take up the slack.

Do we need to keep track of which tasks are the most important & which have the closest due dates? 

Depending on their size, government agencies can create and assign hundreds of tasks to thousands of workers every day.  When your average employee has over 100 things to keep track of, they need to be able to see what among those goals is the most important.  If your workers are struggling to meet goals and completing menial tasks over mission-critical ones, you may need a system in place to filter their workload.   Employees also need to know which tasks have more impending due dates so they can finish their work on time. 

Modern Task Management Solutions allow users to filter by tasks that are more important and by the upcoming due date.

Do we need to turn larger tasks into sub-tasks for different employees to complete? 

Subtasks are a great way to organize massive, complex projects into more manageable parts.  Depending on the methods that your agency is implementing to assign work, creating and tracking of those subtasks can be a challenge. 

It is not uncommon for the original task at hand to be modified.  Waiting for review, approval, or feedback from a 3rd party is separate from the original task, but also necessary for the project to move forward.  In a Task Management System, it is very easy to add subtasks to the original task and assign them to people within the agency.  Recurring subtasks can even be set to repeat, saving project managers time on routine management efforts.

Do we have a responsibility to control security? 

Government agencies need to be able to keep their mission-critical information away from prying eyes and under control.  Paper-based processes, Excel sheets, and even outdated management systems lack the security features necessary to fine-tune exactly who can see what data.   You also can’t revoke access to a downloaded Excel spreadsheet once it has been given. 

Task Management Systems take steps to ensure that agency projects, attachments, user data, and more are bulletproof.  When a task is created, different levels of access are set.  Every file attached to that task inherits the same security settings of the original item, disallowing the wrong people from seeing the wrong content.

Do we have a responsibility to create reports & dashboards? 

Many federal agencies are congressionally mandated to provide reports on tasks completed within the organization.  If your project manager has to gather information on task statuses, analyze it, create a report on it, and submit it to the higher-ups, critical man-hours are lost .  With the help of a Task Management system, reports can be quickly and even automatically generated in daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly increments.  These reporting tools let you focus on specific parts of your projects.  They also give you insight and knowledge about the agency’s activity.  

Do regulators require that we protect PII/BUI/CUI? 

To properly protect the confidentiality of personally identifiable information, items like the name and social security number of an individual must be redacted from certain documents.  Without the proper redaction tools, the black box put on top of those items may not actually be hiding the information.  This puts your agency at risk of non-compliance. Modern Task Management systems come with built-in redaction tools that replace every pixel within the identified sensitive information, preventing it from ever falling into the wrong hands.   

Feith for Task Management 

The world is changing, and so is the way that Federal agencies work.   Feith Task Manager leverages modern technology to allow you to structure your organization’s efforts, managing the large number of responsibilities at your agency so that work is completed on time, correctly, and in the correct order. With workforces in the tens of thousands, separated both geographically and organizationally, federal agencies have large volumes of tasks to track, delegate, and manage.  
If that task management is done on an ad-hoc basis in email or spreadsheets, work may fall behind, orders and instructions can be forgotten, and leadership will have limited insight into their department’s productivity.  
Feith Task Manager is a DoD 8180.01-certified COTS product, available On-Premises or on GovCloud, that gives agencies the tools they need to control the way work gets done. 
Categories Fun

8 New Year’s Resolutions for Records Managers

Simple tips to make the most of your year

Know your aim this year, have a goal, and set meaningful deadlines towards getting to that goal.  Here are eight New Years goals that we think are pretty good!


8.  Hitch ERM to your executive’s top metrics

What are the executives really focused on?  Identify those metrics and then tie Records Management initiatives to them.

Is your organization looking to reduce cyber risk? Great, that’s worth doing.  What if the primary goal is growth?  Digital modernization?  Improving workplace efficiency?  Managing costs?  With thought, it’s clear that Records Management and Information Governance matters to all these big initiatives.  Find out what matters to the executives most, and then let them know that what you do matters to that goal.


7.  Build on IT relationships

CIOs don’t always appreciate how essential Records Management is to the overall IT and Data strategy of an organization. 

Remind them that the archives you build and maintain are the largest long-term knowledge and information stores in the organization.  That gives the archive real value as a data source for analytics and knowledge management, and high risk as a target of cybercrime – stuff that all CIOs care a lot about.


6. Spend time with the “front line.”

While building new Information Management architecture, and applying it across the enterprise, it’s common to feel some kickback.

How can we lessen the kickback?  Find those ways that our plans don’t mesh well with how end-users do business!

If we want a successful ERM plan, we have to sit with the front line to see how those plans interact with the way users work in the real world.  It will broaden our perspectives, ensuring that plans match reality.


5.  Go back to the “Why”

Why do we do Records Management?  How about Information Governance?  Knowledge Management?  It may sound silly, but not everyone can answer that.  Is it to reduce risk or is it to comply with legislation?  Is it to ensure that it’s possible to find important information easily?  We need to know the reasons for what we do, and keep the big goals front and center.  Focusing on “the Why” will provide us with important guidance for moving forward. 

4.  Learn some SQL

Most of the data we interact with on a daily basis is stored in SQL Databases.  SQL (Structured Query Language) is the lingua franca of all data and information specialties. It’s the backbone of software that stores our worlds information and records.  If you know the SQL language, that gives you a superpower.  Now we can interact with information at the foundation.  It’s like seeing the Records Management matrix.

3.  Prioritize Disaster Recovery

Disaster Recovery (DR) is the enterprise-wide version of saving work. Have you ever forgotten to save a document you were writing and lost the entire thing when the program crashed?  How much did that hurt? 

Now imagine that happening to an entire company!  Yeah, that’s what it’s like when systems aren’t built for disaster proof recovery.

2.  Let someone else sweat the small stuff

An organization that never says no to a new project is an organization in trouble.  Someone needs to be the ‘bad guy’, focusing solely on the practical.  But, fortunately, that someone doesn’t have to be us. 

Instead, we can give ourselves room to explore ideas about the future of systems, processes, and departments.  It’s enough to come up with new ideas in the first place!  Let someone else sweat the small stuff for a while.

1.  Focus on Team

Most problems in Records Management aren’t technical.  They aren’t budgetary.  They aren’t even the number of hours in the day.  Scientists across industry have run the numbers, and most business problems are people problems. 

Make sure you focus on retaining the talent you’ve built and building up the talent you have.  

Nothing else you do will pay as large of dividends as focusing on your team!

Categories Fun

Records through the Ages: From Ur to Washington

Records in the Ancient World

You may think that Records Management is a concept that is relatively new to history, dating back only 200 or 300 years.  The truth, however, is that the history of Records Management begins almost 6,000 years ago with the invention of the archive.  In about 4,000 B.C. the first archive was created by the Sumerians.  They used cuneiform writing on clay tablets to record property ownership and commercial activity. 

Around a millennium later, the Egyptians expanded the uses of archives by creating and housing military records.  800 years later, a revolt spread throughout Egypt, leading to the eventual burning down of a records office.  The mob cited that it was “the custodian of hated property rights.,” marking it as the first time that records were noted as tools of political oppression.  The first mention of record retention occurs in Mesopotamia around this time as well.  Short retention records (bookkeeping records, letters) were gotten rid of after a certain period, while long retention records (legal documents) were stored in a more permanent housing.

Records in Classical Antiquity

While ancient Greece had several private archives for many years prior, it appears that the first case of a public archive occurred in Rome during the year 509 B.C.   Nearly 100 years later, Athens gives public access to their archives, which also include manuscripts and plays by Socrates and Euripides.

Alexander the Great was a fervent believer in the power of the written record.  During one of his conquests in the early 300’s B.C., the tent of his chancery had burnt down and all of his records within were lost.  He was so dismayed by this that he ordered his staff to reconstruct everything – even going as far as to obtain copies of documents throughout the Greek Empire.  The first historical example of a catalog is also created around this time.  Iraq was using number systems on the sides of their clay tablets, making them more easily retrievable. 

Records in Post-Classical History

Justinian I is most famous for unifying the Byzantine empire with his code of 529 A.D.  The code itself was written with the assistance of archived documents and emphasized the importance of archiving in a public place of deposit.  In Justinian’s Code, a transparent public archive is noted as guaranteeing integrity and authenticity.  

The Venerable Bede wrote the Ecclesiastical History of the English people in 731 A.D, drawing heavily from the archived records of England.  During this time the church took to unique methods of protecting their records from theft.  At the end of every document or manuscript, there was a curse or prayer added to ward off thieves. 

Venice and Florence created their city archives 200 years apart from each other in the 11th and 13th centuries.   Towards the end of the 12th century, England began to centralize all their government archives.  By the 13th century the Tower of London was storing England’s scrolls, even taking in all of Britain’s Chancery records The invention of the printing press in 1440 allowed for the creation of the first chronologically organized bibliography

Records in Modern History

Sir Thomas Bodley of England was a Records Management Rockstar.  He opened the library which created the first general catalog to ever be printed in Europe.  In 1620 his library made the first alphabetical author-title catalog.  His library’s final contribution to the world of Records Management was in the form of the first detailed catalog guidelines.

When Hernan Cortes conquered South America in the 1700’s, it was considered essential to destroy the conquered Inca’s record repositories.  Not only that, but Cortez also instated notaries to every conquered territory, who then sent their records back to Spain. 

During the French Revolution many archives were attacked or destroyed by angry mobs.  They reasoned that the records were a source of their oppression, perhaps because of their inaccessibility to the public.  In 1790, France created a new National Archive which was open to the public and held accountable by the Assembly.  Four years later, French National Archives were given jurisdiction over the records of government agencies, provinces, communes, churches, universities and noble families.  This made it the world’s first centrally controlled archive system. 

During the 1800’s, most countries in Europe used France as a model to develop their own centralized national archive systems.  Unlike the others, however, England was deliberating on what to do with their scattered private archives.  By 1838 England had passed the Public Records Act, merging all the records from ancient courts into a single location in Central London.   These centralized records allowed for the publication of historical documents such as the “Roll Series,” and “Calendars of State Papers.”

The United States were also well on their way to establishing a centralized archive by creating the Act of April 28, 1810.  The Act had removed all offices except those of the Department of State, War, and Navy from the building and created fireproof rooms for those departments to deposit their records. 

In 1877, when a fire destroyed part of the Interior Department building, President Hayes appointed a commission to investigate.  The commission found troves of paper that were no longer needed and only added to the combustibility of the building.  In 1888 Senator Francis Cockrell wrote the bill that brought us the Act called “An act to authorize and provide for the disposition of useless papers in the Executive Departments,”.

Records Over the Past 100 Years

By the 1930’s it was known that the paper production process led to rapid, acid-based decay.  American chemist William Barrow introduced the field of conservation to paper deacidification when he published an article on the acid paper problem.  In the United States, a national archive was finally established in 1934.  This was over 150 years since the declaration of independence was signed!

The River Arno in Florence Italy flooded in 1966, damaging and destroying millions of historical documents and works of art.  This great loss led to the development of restoration laboratories and new methods in records conservation.  In the 1970’s the United States began to store cataloged material in a machine-readable format.  This discovery started the age of digital record keeping, which continues to evolve to this day. 

Categories Fun

12 people you meet at every Records Management conference

1. The RM Newbie

You’ll find the newbie running around the entire conference trying to soak up information.  It isn’t actually possible to attend every presentation track and breakout session, but that’s not going to stop him or her from trying.  Hopefully they’ll stick around, because someone’s going to have to take care of this stuff in 30 years!

2. The Armchair Philosopher

Forever scratching his or her chin, the Philosopher sees every question in Records Management as a big philosophical one.  Asking them a simple question will easily result in a 3-hour thesis about how 19th-century theories of epistemology laid the foundation for modern knowledge management. We have a few of these at Feith Systems. (You all know who you are!)

3. The Physical Records Person

The physical records manager has been doing this since the 80’s. They’ve heard rumors of companies going paperless, and they just don’t buy it.  But that’s okay — if most people’s electronic systems were as well cataloged and organized as their boxes, we’d all be in pretty good shape.

4. The Nonchalant Techie

Never doubt that that the Nonchalant Techie can relate every event in life back to a technical problem and solution that they have the answer to. To him or her, all Records Management challenges can ultimately be solved with SharePoint, some SQL triggers, and a C# program they wrote this afternoon.  Still — you’ll be happy to have this person on your ERM project team when you need to do a big integration!

5. The Mega-Networker

The Mega-Networker is going to make friends. A lot of them.  The more connected, the better.  You ‘re going to get a friend request from them on LinkedIn before you even manage to shake their hand.  Did you know there was a Twitter hashtag for this GDPR round table?  They did!  But as silly as it may seem, these people make conferences work! They provide the social glue that builds networks of professionals.

6. The Party Animal

Usually seen the first night of any Records Management conference.  Usually strangely missing thereafter.  They come to the conference to spend a few nights away from the kids, having as much fun as possible.  Drinks all around!  Anyone want hit the karaoke bar after this? I am.

7. The Very Private Person

Always seen the second and third day of any given conference.  Suspiciously missing from the first.  Notable taste for Water and Excedrin. May be wearing sunglasses inside in the middle of the day.  Has a strange adverseness to both light and sound.  We’ve been there, Very Private Person.

8. The Early Adopter

This person was busy doing ERM back before ERM existed.  While many of us were still learning basic computing on Windows 3.1, they were trailblazing the industry. They’re pretty much the Michael Jordan of Records Management, and they aren’t afraid to say it.

9. The Vendors

These guys are PSYCHED about something.  It’s not clear what, but they’re ready to talk, that’s for sure!  Most likely dressed in matching, immaculate outfits. Interested in some cool schwag?  It’s free, all you have to do is give them your phone number, email address and departmental budget. 

[Disclaimer:  Feith is a vendor of Enterprise Records Management software.]

10. The RM Celebrity

They may have been a bit of a geek growing up, but now the whole RM world knows their name.  As the guru of this and the master of that, the RM celebrity is so talented that they’re often paid to be here.  They may still be a bit of a geek, but you know you’re going to their presentation later!

11. The Futurist

The futurist is seemingly up to date on virtually every breakthrough in the tech industry.  You can usually spot the futurist by their semi-ironic Block Chain T-Shirt.  Get ready, because they’re here to tell you how using a hefty helping of Machine Learning can change your life.  They may be right, but we think it’s a bit too early to call.

12. The Couple

One of them came for work, the other is a frugal tourist. They both get a nice company-paid hotel room.  While one of them is chatting you up about unifying your retention plans, the other is asking around for the best place for Vietnamese Pho.  Act fast to catch this pair, because after the second day they’ll be sightseeing!  Can you blame them?

Categories Fun

39 Great Records Management Resources from the National Archives

39 Great Records Management Resources from the National Archives

  1. · A How-To Guide for Completing NARA’s Records Management Self Assessment
  2. · Access Restrictions: Their Importance and Impact on the Transfer of Permanent Records
  3. · Capstone Email Management Implementation: Technical Perspective
  4. · Capstone Legal Briefing
  5. · Capstone: A New Approach to Managing Email Records
  6. · Capstone: A New Approach to Managing Email Records: NARA’s Internal Implementation
  7. · Capstone’s Managers’ Briefing
  8. · Chief FOIA Officers Council
  9. · Classified Records Transfer Checklist
  10. · Controlled Unclassified Information
  11. · Creating and Using File Plans
  12. · Discussion of Records Management Program Inspection Techniques
  13. · Electronic Records Management 101: From Planning to Deployment
  14. · ERA Schedule Records Bootcamp – Part 1
  15. · ERA Transferring Records Online Training
  16. · ERA Video FAQs (Scheduling and Transferring Records)-Part 2
  17. · Explanation of Frozen and Legal Holds as they Pertain to Permanent Records
  18. · Finding the Gaps: Locating and Reporting Unscheduled Records
  19. · Folder Title List: Transferring Your Permanent Paper Records
  20. · Guidance on Managing Social Media Records
  21. · Let’s Get Organized! Setting up your Electronic Files
  22. · Managing Content on Shared Drives
  23. · Records Management Guidance for Political Appointees
  24. · Records Management Training for Federal Agencies
  25. · Summer School for Records Coordinators, Conducting the Inventory: Session 3
  26. · Summer School for Records Coordinators, Next Steps and Followup: Session 4
  27. · Summer School for Records Coordinators, Planning the Inventory Session 2
  28. · Summer School for Records Coordinators, What is an Inventory? : Session 1
  29. · The Case for Records Management: Issues for Legal Counsel – Part 1
  30. · The Case for Records Management: Issues for Legal Counsel – Part 2
  31. · Transfer Guidance Revision Project: Identifying “Fit-for-Purpose” Formats
  32. · Using ERA for FRC Annual Move
  33. · Withdrawing Permanent Federal Records from an FRC
  34. · Word of the Week: File Plan
  35. · Word of the Week: Lifecycle
  36. · Word of the Week: Nonrecord
  37. · Word of the Week: Personal Papers
  38. · Word of the Week: Record
  39. · Word of the Week: Records Schedule
Categories Fun

The EU General Data Protection Regulations & Why it Matters

Let’s talk big picture…
The way we use Personal Identifying Information (PII) has vastly transformed the digital economy in recent years. Advancements in technology that captures, stores, organizes, and analyzes PII have made way for some pretty remarkable means of increasing efficiency and generating greater revenue. And who’s not a fan of that?

So how’s it changing?
Going into effect May 25th 2018, the EU’s new GDPR has serious implications for worldwide companies, so be sure to pay attention. These new regulations warrant that the rights of any individual residing in the European Union will be enforced, even if their data is being processed by companies outside the EU. The focus of the new regulation is to increase user rights as well as increase accountability for people storing or processing data.

If you’re looking for evidence that they mean business, just look at the fines. Up to 20 million euros or 4% of a company’s annual worldwide revenue, whichever is greater. By the way, once the new GDPR goes into effect, that will also include subsidiary companies and partners, even if a subsidiary was not directly involved in processing the data in question. The GDPR also makes it easier for individuals to bring private claims against organizations, including breaches that result in non-material damages. You heard right, individuals can receive compensation for emotional damages as well as financial. Sound a little daunting?

Start planning now…
There are several techniques that organizations can employ to remain in the good graces of the GDPR’s supervisory authorities. The big ones are Anonymization and Obfuscation. By removing PII from data sets, the process of anonymization renders the subject of the data anonymous.

Obfuscation ensures that existing data can’t be traced back to a specific individual. It’s a means of processing information that isolates certain identifying data and organizes it in separate places so that a person might be identified only by combining information from multiple locations.

Kind of a mouthful, huh?
Let’s break it down some more. The whole point of these tighter sanctions is to protect users from being specifically identified based on the information being gathered from their data. There’s no denying the value of the information and in fact one of the pillars of the EU’s Digital Single Market directive is to “[maximize] the growth potential of the digital economy.” The new GDPR is simply aiming to ensure that individuals, and organizations that store and process PII, are all on the same page and level playing field.

The light at the end of the tunnel…
If you’re in an industry dealing in PII (financial, medical, educational, employment) just to name a few, these new regulations make it more important than ever to have a strong Enterprise Content Management system with seamlessly integrated Records Management. Furthermore, having an open line of communication with your ECM system provider to communicate your changing needs will be an invaluable tool in navigating the changing landscape of data protection regulations.

These regulations aren’t so scary if you truly have control over exactly how your data is organized, who can access it, and when it gets disposed of. And if you don’t already have these capabilities, then you’re not getting the most use out of your data anyway.

Just think of these new sanctions as a great excuse to improve efficiency within your organization by adding structure to your data.

After all, the tighter you run your ship, the smoother the sailing.