By Oskar Rey
Municipal Research and Services Center
Managing public records has become an increasingly complex task for Washington government agencies. Electronic records technology, while it presents opportunities, is not a core area of expertise for many local governments. In 2016, the State Auditor’s Office (SAO) issued a performance audit on the effect of public records requests on state and local governments. That audit found that jurisdictions that invest in technology for managing public records are in a better position to meet the increasing demands of the Public Records Act (PRA) and records retention statutes.
The Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) has partnered with the SAO Center for Government Innovation (formerly known as the Performance Center) to give local governments information and resources for managing electronic public records. The PRA & Records Management Technology Guide (Guide) will help you understand the opportunities and challenges of preparing for, selecting, and using records management technology. Here are some of the highlights!
Technology procurement process
Deciding which technology solutions are right for your agency is extremely important, but some agencies might not be sure how to set up the process or what questions to ask. The Guide will help you:
- Decide whether your agency is ready for technology-based solutions, and provide factors to consider before you begin your procurement process
- Understand the different software options and decide whether your agency should procure customized, specialty, or multi-purpose software solutions
- Understand the various types of functions that records management technology provides, such as retention, redaction, archiving, record searches, etc.
- Develop evaluation criteria based on your agency’s specific needs and obtain product information from technology providers and other agencies using the software
Software provider profiles
In developing the Guide, MRSC surveyed Washington local agencies and obtained information on software currently being used for records management. MRSC developed profiles of many of the software providers currently being used by local government agencies that include the following:
- Whether a provider offers “multi-function” solutions intended to broadly address an agency’s record management needs or more specialized solutions that focus on specific tasks or types of records
- A color-coded system for quickly determining what types of functions are offered by each provider
- For each of the profiled providers, information on who its customers are
- Contact information for each provider as well as links to software reviews, where available
- Cost information and whether a free trial is available
- Information on software and system integration and deployment (cloud or in-house)
The Guide also contains a series of appendices to the provider profiles that contain tables that (1) detail which providers offer solutions in particular areas; (2) a list of software products used by each jurisdiction; and (3) a list of jurisdictions that use particular software products. Finally, the Guide contains an appendix that provides links to examples of requests for proposals. MRSC hopes this information will help governments communicate about getting the best possible software solutions for their needs.
Electronic Records Policy Tool Kit
MRSC also prepared an Electronic Records Policy Tool Kit (Tool Kit) to help agencies with the adoption of policies relating to electronic public records. MRSC reviewed policies that Washington local governments currently use and adapted language into a Tool Kit that other governments and agencies can use to adopt or update their electronic public records policies. The Tool Kit contains policy language for:
- Processing public records requests for electronic records
- Retaining email and other electronic records
- Text messaging
- Social media
- Copying charges for public records
- Tracking records requests and reporting PRA metrics (JLARC reporting)
Electronic records policies should be prepared in consultation with an agency’s legal counsel, but we hope that the Tool Kit provides a helpful starting point.
Download the Guide and Tool Kit
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions regarding these documents, please contact MRSC at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions about this topic or other local government issues, please use the Ask MRSC form or call MRSC at 206-625-1300 or 800-933-6772.