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Are government regulators ready to handle more data?

Are government regulators ready to handle more data?

We all know trucking is being drawn inexorably into the digital era, regardless of whether truckers themselves want to go there or not.

Just look at the current spate of technological hurdles facing the industry: an electronic logging device (ELD) mandate with a Dec. 2017 implementation deadline; a bevy of new data-dependent rules for food transport, going into effect in March 2017; and the introduction of new automated commercial environment (ACE) systems. (And that’s the short list!)

Yet there’s a big question rarely being asked as trucking shifts into more digitized modes of data delivery: Are government regulators sufficiently prepared to handle higher volumes of electronic information?

You don’t have to look far to see that the U.S. government isn’t on good digital footing: our nation’s nuclear missile systems are still controlled by outdated floppy disks; the Chinese were able to hack into Office of Personnel Management (OPM) computer systems and steal the personal data of 21 million federal workers; even the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) can’t get the data properly aligned to support its proposed safety fitness rating program.

A new survey conducted by Market Connections on behalf of information storage firm Iron Mountain Incorporated sheds more light on this particular issue.

This blind online poll of 200 federal employees involved in day-to-day decisions and recommendations regarding records and data management found that while 46% believe managing all types of information assets, regardless of format, is a “priority for their field,” many feel unprepared to handle the future requirements of doing so.

The survey also asked those IT professionals what skills would be required – including specialized technical and soft skills – they believed could position them for future effectiveness and success.

More than half (56%) believe information security and access control will be in greatest demand from information management professionals, followed by data quality management (39%) and analytics capabilities – including data sourcing and integration (39%).

In addition, projects related to data privacy (34%), records and information management or “RIM” tasks (31%) and data analytics (30%) are in the greatest demand over the next three to five years.

“This survey provides an important view into the state of federal records and information management, both where the government is now in terms of capabilities and, more importantly, where agencies need to focus their information management practices in the future,” noted Michael Lewis, vice president and general manager of Iron Mountain’s government services division.

“The Managing Government Records Directive has set key deadlines for email in 2016 and permanent records in 2019 that have accelerated agency efforts to make sure they have full control over all their information,” he added. “However, these challenges will continue to grow if left unchecked, and RIM professionals will need to identify and close any gaps in their skill sets to handle these future information challenges.”

The survey identified key focus areas for the future in terms of federal government information technology (IT) and data management needs:

  • The need for improved risk management (34%) skills is most often cited as an area for improvement, followed by electronic records retention (24%) and RIM practices (24%)
  • Most desired skill sets – Risk management/security/data privacy (54%), analytics (42%) and content/records management (33%) are the most desired information management skill sets over the next three to five years
  • Information security (52%) is by far the technical skill in greatest demand, while innovative thinking (39%) came in as the soft skill in demand the most, with 15% noting they were very or extremely weak in fostering stakeholder buy-in and in delivering C-level and stakeholder communications
  • Ensuring compliance (32%), physical and IT records format management integration (26%) and information and data valuation assessment (24%) are the project management skills estimated to have the greatest impact on records management over the next 24 months

“The data indicates there are significant gaps between the skills records management professionals currently have and what they believe they will need in the future,” Lewis added.

As such, agencies should consider focusing on the following in order to close that gap:

  • Evangelize a more holistic approach to information management, and prepare to sell it internally;
  • Meet the demand for specialized skills with a focus on information security, quality management and analytics;
  • Focus on soft and technical skills in need of improvement, and understand why improvement is needed;
  • Leverage the knowledge and mentoring skills of older staff before they retire;
  • Provide professional development training in the formats employees most prefer;
  • Create a forum for the sharing of ideas and best practices.

It’s funny, though: if federal agencies need to all of that just to get up to speed so they can handle current data needs, will they be able to handle the higher volumes sure to follow all the digital-intensive rules now going into effect in trucking and other industries? That’s a question the feds better answer for themselves soon – and fast.

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