Friday, 7 November 2008

Why doesn’t the government realise our green credentials?

It’s hard to ignore the ever growing pressure on organisations, particularly those in the public sector, to reduce the carbon footprint of their IT infrastructure. This culminated recently in Greening Government ICT, a 20 page paper produced by the Cabinet Office to help government departments to play their role.

It’s a mine of useful information, ranging from the simple and obvious (‘shutdown PCs after office hours’) to the technical (‘specify low power consumption central processing units and high efficiency power units’).

Point 18 in Annex B appears to offer promise to records managers everywhere by mentioning a ‘data centre audit’ as a recommended step to be taken before then spoiling it by clarifying that this is about where your servers should be located in a room to increase air supply rather than referring to any form of information audit as we would recognise.

The ‘Areas for potential carbon reduction’ does at least mention ‘Remove unnecessary/duplicated data or information’ as an action (though as point 44 of 51 its hardly given high priority). Even more tellingly it has nothing listed under ‘possible implementation methods’. How depressing is that for records management? Apparently the Cabinet Office know of no possible technique for identifying what information stored within an organistion is ‘unnecessary’ and can, therefore, be safely deleted? Isn’t that exactly what records management, and appraisal in particular, have to offer: a proven methodology for identifying what information still has value and must be retained and which can be safely removed?

What a missed opportunity.


Paula Smith said...

Hi Steve,

Yes we have appraisal, yes we have scanning and EDRMS capability, yes we have e-forms, electronic workflows, the internet and difital archives.

We know that we can reduce the quantity of paper and ink and electricity and other consumables by using what we have properly and not wasting resources or our time.

But while government waste seems to be a hot topic I don't think the powers that be actually understand what they're talking about.

But why am I so surprised? Think back to the many efficiency reviews we have had, the so called e-government initiatives we have endured - Gershon etc. How many of them have really taken the time to understand the reality of the public sector and stop fawning over C level executives and simply repeating whatever the buzz phrase is at the time.

But don't we as records managers have a responsibility here too?

When complaining about lack of senior management understanding and commitemnt, a wise professor of mine asked, "is it their fault for not listening, or your fault for not choosing the right language"

Steve Bailey said...

Hi Paula,

I agree and definitely like your concluding quote. In a presentation I gave some time ago I had a slide with portraits of The Classical Greek writer, Ptolemy and Copernicus and asked the audience to guess what they had to do with records management.

The answer was that most of the time records management falls into making the same mistake as Ptolemy in assuming that the world revolves around records management in much the same way as he believed the universe revolved around the Earth. In reality, of course, we live in Copernicus's world where RM is only one of many competing agendas and is most certainly not at the centre of most senior manager's views of the world!

DaviMack said...

So the question becomes: how can we get them to understand the benefits RM provides to their business? Not just in terms of legal discovery, I mean.

Steve Bailey said...

I agree - the problem is that RM has pretty much lost the art of 'selling' RM based on its benefits. For the last decade (starting with DPA and then further entrenched by FOI) we have become too used to trying to bully managers and users into investing in RM based on fear - fear of getting taken to court, fear of the 'smoking gun', fear of falling foul of regulation/'legislation etc.

You could argue that this has been reasonably successful - after all the number of new RM posts created on the back of FOI is hard to argue with. But compliance-based arguments only ever get you to first base. They guarantee minimum investment and short attention and once the box appears to have been ticked interest soon moves elsewhere to something that seems to offer a more positive and tangible return on investment...

Paula Smith said...

So (to return to another discussion I have had recently) do we need to take back our terminology and become not the information police but records and information managers; the enablers

DaviMack said...

Flip that question around, Paula: if we do not take back our terminology and cease to be the information police, where does our practice end up? We're already marginalized by our reliance on the bludgeon of FOI/DPA/HIPAA/SOX to gain buy-in. We can only continue to dwindle, as consultancies "eat our lunch" by providing out-of-the-box software implementation which does "our job."

Ahh, doom & gloom. Doesn't taste too good.

There must be a way forward. I think somebody wrote a book which hinted at a way. Something about inclusion, leveraging the social networking world.