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Today most government IT departments are less in the data processing business than they are in the document- and records-management business. But while the information specialists struggle heroically to manage vast amounts of electronic records and pick up records management expertise, outside the IT shop much of management is trying to catch up with the new reality

Getting the Big Picture

So, for all its benefits, the RIM program has had a low profile until recently, and the importance of information management to the organization has enjoyed little prominence. In addition, managers who cut their corporate teeth in a paper-based environment have tended to see filing, or classification, as someone else's problem. York's answer has been to get managers to sit in on staff awareness sessions, giving them the big picture of records and information management.

"We are trying to brand this as management of information, which is a key corporate asset," Kelly says. "That's a really important distinction. And then clearly the bedrock of these systems is to have file classification systems and record retention schedules that meet user and legislative needs. You also need your records and information management staff to have new competencies."

The small RIM team had introduced training of front-line staff as part of its comprehensive records management program in late 2003, with a program devised by the RIM team and an information management specialist who lectures at the University of Toronto. However, Kelly says feedback highlighted the need to increase management awareness of RIM issues. Those management awareness sessions began early in 2005, conducted in unison with IT staff and underlining the "Why?" of RIM, including topics such as business needs, risk, legislative compliance and e-mail.

"We realized that we needed to do a major York Region awareness session geared to management," Kelly says. "Those managers need to lead, and their considerations are somewhat different from staff's: they care about why we need to do this, while staff care more about how to do it. We've been doing some research and we thought it was time to share it with management."

Clayson says the team was keen to motivate managers to classify their records according to the retention legislation by showing management how classification could lead to improved business efficiencies. Kelly and Clayson set up a sweeping program to train senior managers on the electronic records system and to complete a roll-out begun in pilot three years before. To get management on side, Kelly and his team have discovered there is value in telling information managers about the big picture. His presentations therefore explore the lessons learned and challenges associated with:

• global trends in records and information management

• specific organizational challenges in RIM

• developing a training and awareness program geared to both staff and management

• exploring legal and risk ramifications

• customizing the presentation to specific client requirements

• technology and RIM tools to improve efficiency and compliance

• managing e-mail and other electronic records

• protecting confidential documents.

"A 2002 study from a university here in Ontario indicated that only about 5 percent of executives, managers and professionals had received any records and information and management training. We see ourselves as meeting a need here for basic awareness of records and information management needs and principles," Kelly says. "Management typically feels that the 'How to Do' stuff is for support staff. What we needed to do to engage management was to tell them why we needed a records management program in the first place and why we needed to continue to protect our electronic records."

At the same time Kelly has been able to ease concerns about the amount of staff resources required to fulfil the RIM vision and provide some valuable return on investment. ("In terms of staff resources one of the key selling points of this system is that it is going to save them staff time, but you need to invest time to create time," he says.)

"Without management support - and that goes right up to council support for the eDOCS program over the past five years - we would be nowhere. Ultimately you need managers to use it and support it with their staff so their staff will actually implement it," Kelly says "Then the corporate culture needs to be one of sharing and progressiveness and we have that in York Region."

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