Bright, enthusiastic and driven to bring information management to the fore in the minds of the nation’s leaders, Natalie Ceeney, the youthful ‘Keeper of the Records’ at The National Archives delivered an inspirational opening address to the delegates of the twenty-first Records Management in Government conference in Newcastle on the 4th of October, 2006.
In post for just under a year, Natalie has an expert’s grasp on how to take the profession from the basement to the boardroom and she spends 40% of her time beating a path to senior civil servants promoting the need for effective information management.
She outlined TNA’s new vision, which is simple, forward-thinking and three pronged:
Lead and transform information management in government
Guarantee the survival of today’s information for tomorrow
Bring history to life
It’s the first, and, to a lesser extent, the second, which will be of interest to records managers in the United Kingdom. They aim to shape the future of government information policy, from its creation to re-use and disposal. They will show leadership in helping the public sector manage information, and they intend to create a common information infrastructure.
Various tools will be used to promote this vision, including a revamped definition and role for the Departmental Records Officer, the creation of a Knowledge Council to work beside the Council of Information Officers, and by conducting Section 46 ‘Information Reviews’. These will involve TNA coming in and conducting interviews with staff throughout the organisation and poring over various strategic documents then presenting a covering letter the senior figure outlining the main information management issues the department is facing, then an executive summary followed by a discussion and action points.
It’s just this kind of external pressure that records managers in government need to bolster their case for more resources – something they invariably lack. It’s no good knowing we are right about needing that authority and backing to provide training, purchase software, and have sufficient staff to manage our organisation’s information effectively for the betterment of long-term business needs, we need that to be recognised by the budget holders in our organisations. The pressure that TNA can bring to bear will be enormously helpful in getting that recognition.
It’s brave of TNA to initiative this exercise, let’s see if they can rise to the challenge and get sufficient resources together to roll this out across government.
As for the focus of the conference, ‘Sharing to succeed’, and the notion of providing a ‘common infrastructure’, there was precious little debate over the development of open source EDRMS systems. It was admitted in one workshop that the Council of Information Officers consider the directive to have EDRMS in use in all government departments to have been a failure. A ??500,000,000 failure, actually. Ultimately, what we all need is an open source system, based on a common set of metadata tags, to ensure cheapness, reliability and customer customisation. I’ve been banging on about it since 2003 to the TNA but the response has been varied.
It’s a complicated issue, since all departments have varied needs, but they all need to transfer their electronic records back to TNA eventually in a ‘seamless’ manner. Only by leading on such a system can TNA hope for a common architecture that is recognised by the profession. Lets hope they take it forward, perhaps working with the Alfresco team and government programmers to develop their ECM into an advanced EDRMS.