Records Managers

Strategic Directions: Flexible Scheduling


National Archives and Records Administration
Strategic Directions: Flexible Scheduling


January 2004


I.  INTRODUCTION/EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The purpose of this report is to present strategies for scheduling temporary records that will support the empowerment of Federal agencies to determine for themselves how to best manage their records and to streamline the records scheduling and appraisal process for agencies and NARA.

It is based on current NARA laws, regulations, and information provided to agency records officers. Additional resources include the SRA International study Report on Current Recordkeeping Practices within the Federal Government, December 2001; NARA's Strategic Directions for Federal Records Management, July 2003 (Strategic Directions); and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Federal Enterprise Architecture Business Reference Model, A Foundation for Government-wide Improvement (version 2, 2003).

As stated in Strategic Directions, NARA "will change its (scheduling and appraisal) process so that, except for permanent records, agencies can schedule records at any level of aggregation that meets their business needs." This is based on the understanding that Federal records scheduling and appraisal practices have become problematic. Current processes call for agencies and NARA to commit far too much effort in inventorying and scheduling many routine records. One of the results is that many records that are significant from the standpoint of rights, accountability, or archival value are not being scheduled, and consequently are at risk of not being retained for as long as they are needed. In addition, the vast majority of records retention schedules are out of date and inaccurate. A large majority of electronic records systems of archival value are not coming into archival custody. The more agencies shift to conducting their business electronically, the worse the records scheduling situation is likely to become if alternative strategies to records scheduling are not developed. The strategies presented here would encourage agencies to develop records schedules for disposable (temporary) program (mission-related) records at as high a level of aggregation as would meet their business needs. The schedules could cut across units of organizations (functional approach). The difference from the current approach would be that for temporary records, the unit to be scheduled would not necessarily be the records series, but all records relating to a work process, group of work processes, or a broad program area to which the same minimum length of retention would be applied.


II.  DEFINITIONS

Flexible Scheduling:  Provides for concrete disposition instructions that may be applied to groupings of information and/or categories of records. Flexibility is in defining record groupings.

Big Buckets:  The application of appraisal criteria to multiple similar or related groupings of information across one or multiple agencies to establish a uniform retention period.

Records Retention Bands:  These are disposition instructions that include minimum and maximum retention periods. Retention bands can be applied to individual or groups of record series/systems to establish consistent retention periods. Retention bands may be used with all four of the strategies that are presented below. The "Big Bucket" and banding concepts are not mutually exclusive, and together give agencies the retention flexibility they need to manage their records.


III.  STRATEGIES

Below is a list of the strategies NARA adopted after vetting them with agencies and members of the public. Agencies may adopt one or more of these strategies when they support agency business needs. The first two strategies rely heavily on the Federal Enterprise Architecture Business Reference Model (FEA BRM).

At the most general level, there are four strategies:

  • Records scheduling and appraisal based on Business Areas, Lines of Business, and Subfunctions within each business line as identified in the FEA BRM – scheduling and appraisal within each distinct business line
  • Records scheduling and appraisal based on Business Areas, Lines of Business, and Subfunctions across business lines as these are identified in the FEA BRM – scheduling and appraisal across intersecting/overlapping business lines
  • Records scheduling and appraisal based on the mission/program functions within each separate Federal department and/or agency
  • Records scheduling and appraisal based on groupings of like subject matters and/or work processes shared by agencies.

Strategy 1:  Records scheduling and appraisal are based on Business Areas, Lines of Business, and Subfunctions within each business line as identified in the FEA BRM – scheduling and appraisal within each distinct business line.

Under this strategy, large categories of records would be identified and analyzed based on the BRM. Only those records that strictly relate to a business line or to a subfunction of a business line would be examined across departments and agencies. For example, under the business line Recreation and Natural Resources, only records related strictly to conservation planning, land and monument management, and tourism management would be analyzed and scheduled. Records that are created as part of a related but different business lie or subfunction, such as environmental monitoring (a subfunction within the Environmental Management business line), would not be included in the analysis.

Strategy 2:  Records scheduling and appraisal are based on Business Areas, Lines of Business, and Subfunctions across business lines as these are identified in FEA BRM – scheduling and appraisal across intersecting/overlapping business lines.

The business line or subfunction would serve as a starting point, and the analysis would encompass related work processes (regardless of agency or department) that cross business lines and subfunctions. For example, the subfunction of Public Health Monitoring relates to the other subfunctions within the Public Health business line, and also relates to Medical Services, Scientific Research and Development, Consumer Products Quality Assurance, Environmental Monitoring, and Pollution Prevention and Control subfunctions in other business lines.

Strategy 3:  Records scheduling and appraisal based on the mission/program functions within each separate Federal department and/or agency. Records scheduling and appraisal will be based on the mission/program functions within each separate Federal department and/or agency.

This strategy is the closest to the existing scheduling process. Under this strategy, categories of records would be identified and analyzed based on their relationship to a department's or agency's broad mission areas or programmatic work processes. The records analysis under this strategy would not cut across agency lines, but rather would concentrate on the functions within a particular department or agency. The analysis would focus on identifying "big bucket" categories for each mission area based on the business needs of the agency.

Strategy 4:  Records scheduling and appraisal based on groupings of related subjects and/or work processes shared by agencies. The subjects would be mapped to specific processes or business functions.

This approach would entail analysis of records across department and agency lines based on related subjects or work processes. This approach would be appropriate when two or more agencies seek to coordinate their business and thus their scheduling activities within a particular subject area or group of work processes.


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