We have the answer.
The answer to how to effectively manage your digital information.
And the answer is in the questions.
It’s that easy.
OK, bear with me a moment. At its most basic level, managing digital information is about making the appropriate decisions as to what level of time, resource and cost you’re going to spend to ensure you have the right technology supporting the right information in delivering the right business requirements. Once you know what that is, you can apply the people you need to work together using the tools they need to deliver the outcomes you need. See? Easy. And that’s the message at the heart of our rather excellent Digital Continuity training course.
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So, last weekend I moved house. The word ‘stressful’ just doesn’t do it enough justice…
Anyone who has moved house will understand that when it comes to the logistics, size really does matter. Because my new home is smaller than the last, I had to ‘appraise’ my belongings to determine their value, and dispose of items accordingly.
As I sat there on a dusty floor with a bin bag, I realised that my home and working lives had suddenly collided…
The process of knowing what you have and how valuable it may be is fundamental to Information Management. Records ‘appraisal’ is a core part keeping an organisation running efficiently – without knowing what value your records hold, useless stuff will clog up your cupboards and servers, whilst useful information remains inaccessible and unexploited.
How did I know what to keep ahead of the big move? Today’s blog is about the types of value Government records and my ‘stuff’ at home may have in common:
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Much of the information stored in the workplace holds some information about who created it automatically stored in its metadata. In Office applications this is usually applied through Active Directory (AD) – the permissions and access tool. What AD often doesn’t know is a person’s job description or title and so over time the names of people associated with your content becomes meaningless.
Organograms (maps that display the structure of an organisation) show us who carries out the organisation’s functions, their formal relationships with others. This can provide a conceptual aid in the classification and discovery of content and data over time.
Using content analytics tools that offer text-mining and machine learning technology (artificial intelligence) we can identify, structure and enrich information, facts and events and enable top-level classification. These tools can support records managers, archivists, historians and social researchers as they explore and discover meaning in our information overload.
Organograms stored as data files (see data.gov.uk/organogram for a good example of this) and maintained over time as a living record of the organisation’s functions and who was responsible for carrying them out, can link these forgotten people to your business’ actual functions.
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Ask anyone in our department at The National Archives and they will say I’m never short of words… Okay, ask anyone out of half a dozen or more departments at The National Archives and they’ll pretty much agree too! Well, that was up to today I suppose. Perhaps it’s writer’s block, perhaps it’s just the natural wrapping up of my duties given that (note it down Wikipedia!) tomorrow, 7 September, is my last day at the organisation. It has been three years, three months and seven days since I started, a fresh-faced C++ developer from the Midlands. My humanities background was Digital Culture at Kings College London and, between you and me, I think I might have confused digitisation with digital preservation at my interview (they let me through the net though!)
In three years, I’ve seen quite a lot happen in the world of digital preservation. I thought my last blog post for The National Archives might be an opportunity to put a shout-out to some of the existing community projects and initiatives which have already done enormous amounts for the cause and look set to continue this trend for a long time.
Digital Preservation Coalition - Save the Bits
Digital Preservation Coalition
While I am sure I was introduced to the Digital Preservation Coalition long before this, in February 2010 Planets held one of its ‘The Planets Way’ training events in London. The first day of the event was in a conference format and, just after lunch, William Kilbride from the DPC took the opportunity to say a few words about the work they do. The statement he made to the room that resonated with me to this day, and a sentiment that can make us all smile in digital preservation, was (to paraphrase):
“Once you solve the problem of digital preservation, I can retire.”
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I think that was the quote we were looking for? Ok, maybe not but If I mention the word DROID you might figure the right one out!
Tenuous links over, in Digital Preservation today we’ve released a new version of the DROID (Digital Record and Object Identification) tool – version 6.1. We’ve spoken about the tool before when I blogged about the PRONOM and DROID user consultation we held at The National Archives last year. The day resulted in a consultation wiki where contribution is invited by all members of the public with an interest in a potential DROID 7. The wiki page lists requirements that users of the tool have for DROID 7 and all future versions.
DROID 6.1 User Interface
Jargon. Everybody loves a bit of jargon don’t they?
Whatever your job role you’ll no doubt have developed a set of letters, phrases or codes you use every day, perhaps without realising that someone outside of your circle wouldn’t have a clue what you’re talking about. It starts from an early age too – would anyone over the age of 25 know what ROFL, TBH or AYTMTB means?
Lost in a sea of jargon?
This blog is meant to be the start of an information management ‘jargon busting’ glossary. Hopefully it will highlight some of the confusion that can be caused by misunderstanding different terms, but it should also serve as a reminder that digital information needs to be labelled carefully if we’re going to find and understand its value in the future.
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…In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…’
Portrait of William Shakespeare. Catalogue reference: PRO 30/25/205
So starts Shakespeare’s classic tale, Romeo and Juliet. Most of us are familiar with this tale of star-crossed lovers and I want to use it as an analogy for another relationship between two key parts of every business that often struggle to work together.
With a little less drama, this is a relationship I see every day that has the potential to cause significant disruption to most organisations*. This can go unnoticed and unchecked for some time until it comes to reviewing / refreshing information management systems.
It is a long established and widely accepted fact that Information Management (IM) and Information Technology (IT) inevitably fall out and disagree on how information should be viewed and managed. A latter day Capulets and Montagues going to great lengths to obstruct one another in a battle for supremacy.
That may seem a touch dramatic, but in this blog post I hope to show you why it’s actually this serious and why, if left unchecked, it can expose organisations to any number of risks associated with not securing and managing information correctly.
Hardly a day goes by without some email, text message or document, found or lost, hitting the front pages and rocking the foundations of some of our largest institutions, government and the media.
Knowing what to keep is critical for an organisation’s compliance, business continuity and reputation, but do you sometimes wonder what is lurking on your backups?
What follows is a rough guide to one of these potentially unmapped territories in your information landscape – the backups created and maintained for business continuity and disaster and crisis management.
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Information management can be difficult to sell. It shouldn’t be – the benefits are very real and are there to be exploited. The truth is, however, that during busy periods it can be low on the list of priorities for those who are in sitting front of computers creating information.
So the question is, how do you instil a culture of good information management, and how do you reverse the bad habits which have crept in during the digital age? This is the conundrum facing information and records staff across every organisation and, having spoken to many across the UK Government, one answer comes up time after time: Senior buy-in.
Senior management support for information managers is crucially important because to change organisational culture they need influence.
So taking ‘influence’ as the theme for today’s blog, I’ve drawn out for you a few key messages from some of the most influential people in the world of politics, literature and pop culture. Some of these individuals are fictional creations, but hopefully you’ll agree that the messages they can carry are just as important.
‘It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.’ Sherlock Holmes – A Scandal in Bohemia, 1892
CERN announcement 4 July 2012
Searching for the Higgs Boson is not just a case of shooting particles around that collide somewhere under Switzerland (a lay person’s grasp of particle physics), CERN has to collect, analyse and manage all of the data this generates.
Big Data is a big thing just now. In the wake of the Government’s Open Data White Paper, Government departments have just published their Data Strategies, including their plans for Big Data - defined as: ‘data which is routinely collected and held by a department as part of its everyday activities’.