This article appears in the Fall 2017 digital issue of DOCUMENT Strategy. Subscribe.

Image by: sarawuth702, ©2017 Getty Images

There is a new specification on the block for managing electronic records. In August, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announced the release of the Universal Electronic Records Management Requirements to help identify high-level business needs for managing electronic records at federal agencies. These requirements are a part of their Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative (FERMI), which looks to improve electronic records management (ERM) services and solutions for government agencies. While these requirements focus on federal agencies, they can also benefit non-governmental organizations as well.

According to NARA, the Universal ERM Requirements help prioritize the procurement of records management tools and provide standards to manage electronic records. These requirements are a considerably simplified model compared to the DoD 5015 standard (which defines the functional requirements for a records management application) or the MoReq2 specification (a formal requirements specification for a generic electronic records management system).

In addition, the General Services Administration (GSA) is planning to refresh its Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) program under schedule 36 to incorporate changes to Special Item Number (SIN) 51 504 for records management, which is primarily used for physical records management services. They also developed a new SIN (51 600) for electronic records management solutions.

Understanding the Requirements

The Universal ERM Requirements include four components: the abstract, life cycle requirements, transfer format requirements, and a glossary, with a total of 94 requirements (69 life cycle requirements and 25 transfer format requirements). Each of the requirements form a matrix and use the following attributes.

Life cycle phase:
  • Capture refers to the idea of placing records under the control of records management for disposition and access purposes.
  • Maintenance and Use is the process of managing records through their most active stage.
  • Disposal is the period when records have met their retention period and no longer have business value to the organization.
  • Transfer refers to records that are identified as having historical value, are permanent records, and will be legally transferred to NARA for permanent storage.
  • Metadata are the identifiers that describe the context, content, and structure of the records.
  • Reporting is the ability to generate reports to allow for further analysis and to demonstrate effective controls and compliance.
Requirement type:
  • Program requirements affect or are considerations for an agency's records management program, which is implemented by an agency records officer. These requirements help create the proper environment for the successful implementation of an electronic records management system or solution.
  • System requirements describe the desired features and/or functions of an electronic records management system. These requirements help agencies select a system or solution that meets common standards of performance and activity.
  • Must have
  • Should have
  • NARA Bulletins
  • ISO 15489
  • Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
  • United States Code (USC)
  • Requirements Working Group

The Terms

We identify the applications, media type, or repositories applicable to the requirement for objects that meet the definition of federal records.
  • Desktop Applications: Office documents created by office management software that will be managed in the electronic records management system throughout their entire records life cycle.
  • Electronic Messages: Email messages, instant messages, chat messages, text messages, and voicemail messages.
  • Social Media: Messages generated through a social media application.
  • Cloud Services: Records that reside in a cloud environment hosted by a third-party service provider.
  • Websites: Web content records, which represent information presented on a website, and website administrative records, which provide evidence of the management and operations of the website.
  • Digital Media (Photo): This digital media refers to photograph records.
  • Digital Media (Audio): This digital media refers to audio records.
  • Digital Media (Video): This digital media refers to video records.
  • Databases: Databases refer to structured repositories of indexed information that allow information retrieval, analysis, and output.
  • Shared Drives: Shared drives refer to managed shared servers, which provide electronic storage space for authorized users to house federal records in supported file formats.
  • Engineering Drawings: Engineering drawings refer to technical drawings used to convey all the required information to allow a manufacturer to produce that component.
NARA is committed to supporting these requirements going forward and will update them to stay current with changes in technology, regulations, and guidance products.

Charmaine Brooks, CRM, is a Partner with IMERGE Consulting, Inc. and has 20-plus years of experience in the field of records and information management. Contact Charmaine at