OTTAWA – Information managers need to take risks and incorporate a “”let’s just do it”” attitude if their department doesn’t receive enough attention or resources, experts told the Managing Government Information conference Wednesday.
Vale, president of Information Management and Economics Inc. and the conference chair, told the morning session of public sector delegates that information management, or IM, is too often swallowed up by IT interests — a problem that affects even law enforcement agencies like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Kerry Coulter, Officer in Charge, Information Management Branch, RCMP, explained that his department had approximately 600 IT employees, but only 88 are dedicated to IM. With only 10 per cent of information stored on drives and 90 per cent of information still remaining in paper format, the RCMP has a long way to go before it becomes a one-stop library source, he said.
Coulter said that IM has become a science and that governments should examine strategies before technical solutions are established in order to determine how it fits into the overall picture.
“”We handle the five W’s,”” said Coulter. “”The IT department handles the ‘how.'””
The differences between IM and IT may be the least of Coulter’s problems; he said the sheer amount of information collected by the RCMP is astounding and is running the risk of creating an information glut.
Too much information creates pathways for data to be lost, as well as parochialism, which forces a limit on the information universe, Coulter said. He believes that it becomes easier to recreate files than it is to find and fix existing problem files because of the glut.
“”If you don’t get it right at the beginning you will never get it right,”” he said. “”Our system is event-centric and errors are hard to correct once in that system.””
To combat the existing obstacles that governments are facing in implementing IM strategies, both Vale and Coulter agree that communication is the key to success.
“”We need to build bridges across communities,”” Vale said. “”Our planning sometimes overshadows doing. We need to implement and demonstrate our value through strategy and risk.””
For Coulter, implementation is about synchronization. The RCMP currently incorporates e-directories that allow for role-based access, integrated forms, and the facilitation of agency interoperability.
To aid in synchronization, Coulter said that archivists are involved in the application setup of the system from the beginning. Information is also coded, classified and has track and trace capabilities to allow for quick access.
“”We want to minimize the amount of records offices and filing rooms,”” Coulter said. “”W