Kaizen Infosource LLC

What City Executives Need to Know About Information Management

With more work needing to be done today than ever before and the constant pressure to accomplish more with shrinking City budgets, why should any municipal executive care about devoting their limited resources to the management and care of City’s records and information? Taking on an executive level position for your City means being accountable for all facets of the work performed within your department or area of activity, and your records are the visible and measurable output of what your department is doing. Since your work is done on behalf of the public, the records are subject to applicable laws and regulations and – if they are not subject to a defined exception – must be made available upon request to the public. Being accountable for the records means knowing what these laws and regulations are and making sure that proper controls, rules, access rights, and protections are in place to ensure that the records are accurate and available to support efficient City operations and access, where appropriate, by the public.

Additionally, exercising good Information Management principles is good for City business. Managing records and information appropriately means that you are not spending time, money, technology, or other resources maintaining and searching through records and information that provide little or no value to the City, such as obsolete or duplicate records. Being a good record steward means that you are routinely engaged in evaluating how the City’s records and information are managed and that resources are targeted on information that serves both the needs of the City’s business activities and those of the public. It also means being in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. If you and your staff don’t know what these are, you run the risk of doing the wrong thing and potentially misspending resources to over or under manage information through ignorance. Staff will do the right thing if they know what is required. Don’t make them guess!

The core of good Information Management is establishing standardized rules and processes that make it easier to do the right thing. Employees only devise their own rules when the guidance that they need is missing. Having access to the right information, quickly and the first time, makes you and the City operate more effectively and respond more quickly to requests from regulators and members of the public.

Establishing an Information Governance program includes defining what a record is for the City, determining the categories of records that exist, who has responsibility for these records, and how long the records retain business value. Once these program elements haves been documented, it becomes easier to develop the right rules and processes to appropriately manage these records and, where possible, to use technology to automate the rules.

If you don’t know what categories of records your organization has, it is very likely that staff has difficulty finding the right information when they need it and will make personal decisions to keep extra copies. Like all information, those extra copies will require City resources to properly store, manage and protect. But, unlike the management of official City records, the resources devoted to managing extra copies are usually wasted.

Overspending means wasted City dollars – wasted on too many file cabinets and too many boxes for paper records, and too many servers and backup services for electronic information, as well as potentially paying for additional labor to do all of this non-value-added work.

Overspending can also mean spending more dollars than necessary when responding to public records requests and/or litigation discovery requirements – because it takes longer to find things when you have to sift through “junk” to find what is truly needed, which often results in also spending more on expensive legal time. Long before a potential lawsuit is filed, someone may “go exploring” by submitting public records requests to search for opportunities to file a case against a City. But, if a City has difficulty locating the requested documents, this can signal that records may not be in order, which can be misinterpreted as the City attempting to hide something. For a person or entity who wants to cast doubt on a City’s motives and imply that that the City is doing something wrong, poor responsiveness to a public records request can fan the flames of mistrust. It can be easier to cast doubt about City operations if the City’s records appear to be mismanaged or if old records whose value has past are being retained too long.

Effective management of City records is imperative to transparency of City government as well as to good decision-making and wise use of City resources. Having the right information, at the right time, is critical.

Start at the beginning – define what a record is and determine the different types of records that the City has. Then, systematize the list of types and assign a retention timeframe to each one. Data that does not meet the criteria to be categorized as a record may be kept for convenience and reference purposes, but it has no long-term value and should be discarded when no longer needed. Taking these steps will help the City to assign the appropriate resources to managing its records and relieve individual employees from either having to make ill-informed decisions on their own and likely be out of compliance.

About Kaizen InfoSource

Kaizen InfoSource is the premier records and information management and information technology consultancy in California, with headquarters in Los Angeles, and offices in Campbell, CA and Chattanooga, TN. Kaizen’s team of consultants has over 100 years for experience in providing strategic, practical approaches to designing business process solutions, utilizing technology and developing information governance which provides a measurable return-on-investment for its clients. Kaizen has extensive experience with working with both the private and government sectors.

For Further Information Contact:
Helen Streck
(805) 231-3026
hstreck@2kaizen.com
www.2kaizen.com