Information Management Visions and Strategies: Aiming for Coherence
Given that the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) is looking to develop a new strategic vision for information management (IM) in the Government of Canada, it is important to consider that the same end goal remains: making sense of the available information resources in order that they be better used by employees and the public. This translates into the will to implement a policy that allows information to flow freely among all departments in order to provide better services to Canadians. Moreover, such a policy would also promote the idea of sharing information produced by public servants, in accordance with Open Government. Through collaborative efforts, new information can be generated which leads to better outcomes for the users of this information, including employees and the public.
Among the reasons why these directives on IM provided by TBS are constantly changed and updated is the fact that we want to incorporate the latest developments in our practices. The caveat here is that we need to be mindful not to neglect the current practices. This is why international standards on recordkeeping or digital preservation are system agnostic. No commitment to a specific technology should be undertaken; the technology should always support the fundamental principles laid out in a system agnostic model to ensure that it is not defining our information needs before our business needs.
Information, old or new, can only be shared if it is part of a coherent framework. When it cannot be situated in the context of a system or understood by the users, the flow of information stops, and communication breaks down. A coherent framework allows the creators and users of information to know not only that what they contribute can reach others, but also that the information will be part of a sustainable environment.
The trick is to conceptualise this system in collaboration with the user community to make sure that the structure that is provided will meet their needs. Too much pressure on the user to make them conform to the system’s requirements and they will not use it; too little effort puts the information object’s compliance at risk in the system and it threatens its cohesiveness.
Federal departments and agencies therefore need to adhere to a coherent set of practices, in order to encourage the dissemination of information, and, in turn, to provide better services. There is no mythical Golden Age of information we can turn to. We have to build it. And in order to make sure that information impacts our future positively, we need to create it, manage it and preserve it in a cohesive manner.