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The demand to manage the financials is the call coming from CIOs and senior accountants across the UK public sector. But recent research suggests that information professionals do not currently possess the skills or policy tools to respond.
With the halcyon days of 2003-04 when UK public bodies poured money into information projects are long gone. Instead the contraction in the UK economy is requiring new approaches to efficiency planning and delivery. This will be at the heart of any funding consideration during the next few years.
A striking example for the information profession arises from the USA where a former chair of Lehman Brothers, formerly one of the US leading banks, noted that: “it’s not the loss of personal wealth that causes the problem for me... it is the loss of influence”. And influence is key to success in any period. Ask yourself: can I influence my bosses if I don’t manage the financials?
A recent survey by DMMC showed that only 28 per cent of information projects managers have formal project management qualifications. What was worse for the industry is that only 14 per cent of all projects have reported cashable efficiency savings in last 36 months. This shocking evidence outlines the giant strides required to move forward during the dreaded credit crunch.
The national scene is also changing for the worse. The publication of the Audit Commission report ‘Crunch Time’ at the end of last year sets the scene for the UK public sector and the travails it faces during 2009-11. Doom and gloom in economy that will impact public services in the purse and in demand for services. The classic contradiction of less money but more demand is going to be a fact of life for all senior managers.
During this period specific information issues are beginning to bud. The ‘digital bulge’ caused by the diverse and exploding digital universe is going to ensure your organisation continues to endure a proliferation of information. Storage area networks and e-mail retention may yet become issues that cannot be dismissed as red herrings by the information industry, particularly within the UK public sector.
The reality of financial constraints will undoubtedly impact information professionals in a big way. The starting point for preparing to deal with this situation is to ask: Are you considered essential to core business yet? Does your organisation have an official Chief Information Officer? Can you produce better management and delivery using fewer resources?
The Records Management Society is preparing to help deal with the need for better delivery for information professionals. By focusing efforts on producing standards for evidence based planning and policy the RMS is hoping to extend the information professionals toolkit to ensure he/she can meet the range of new demands arising across the UK.
The aim of the RMS is to introduce new tools to realise benefits quickly and efficiently by the introduction of standards and services, making use of current best practice. This is being done with an eye on costs and budget planning for project managers in the information industry.
The starting point for the RMS is the improvement of the range of tools for members that integrate financial management into records management tools and techniques. To this end the RMS has produced a benefits model that allows professionals to forecast the types of strategic, operational and financial benefits arising from proposed projects. This should allow retrospective reviews to also assess the scale of benefits arising from information projects.
Understanding the links
A second tool is the new Blueprint for Developing Information Policy that helps information professionals understand the link between evidence, policy development and front line delivery. Drawing on national best practice the Blueprint aims to help raise standards and enable information professionals to manage the performance of policy implementations. This includes reporting on both quantitative and qualitative evidence arising from new policy initiatives.
The RMS hopes that planning now for the improvement in practices will insulate the information profession from the worst effects of the economic slump and allow the gains made within the UK public sector to be extended well into the next decade.