Chapter 2.7: Information management
Information Management (IM) is the process of directing and supporting the proper stewardship of information in an organization for the complete life cycle of the information. Following good IM practices is important for any type of organization, including statistical agencies.
The main benefits are the following:
- Identify, document and preserve corporate information assets
- Facilitate information retrieval, and increase work efficiencies
- Improve knowledge transfer and corporate memory
- Reduce the amount of information retained, and keep only what is of business value
- Reduce the risk of information loss (resulting from a lack of documentation, less-than-optimal practices, or changing technologies)
Historically, information management was decentralized at Statistics Canada. Individual programs managed and maintained their own information, according to various standards, in numerous locations across the agency. This meant that information resources were not being fully exploited and that the agency incurred unnecessary costs and inefficiencies. Consequently, it has become increasingly challenging to manage the volume of information that is created and shared. This phenomenon is not unique to statistical agencies: it affects most public institutions. That is why governments, in general, have launched major information management initiatives.
Statistics Canada's IM function is moving towards operating according to internationally recognized information management principles and practices, Government of Canada legislation, and management guidance provided by central agencies (namely the Treasury Board Secretariat). Statistics Canada has been progressively centralizing its information management, and has developed a strategy and a road map in support of this approach.
The Treasury Board Policy on Information Management defines general information management requirements for all information in the federal government. The objective of this policy is to ensure the efficient and effective management of information throughout its lifecycle. In Statistics Canada, this meant elaborating a policy on information management that established requirements for statistical data, supporting documentation, and administrative information. The main requirements of this policy are the following:
For the agency:
- Document decisions and the decision-making process for the purpose of supporting operations and accountability;
- Integrate information management requirements into the agency's activities;
- Share information throughout Statistics Canada while respecting security and privacy requirements; and
- Manage information to ensure its relevance, authenticity, quality and cost-effectiveness for as long as the information is required.
For IM specialists:
- Plan, develop, monitor and evaluate IM strategies, practices and procedures; and
- Provide guidance, training and awareness on IM.
For all employees:
- Follow IM procedures with respect to the management of their information; and
- Document activities and decisions of business value.
More specific requirements for the management of statistical data are provided in the Directive on the Management of Statistical Microdata Files and the Directive on the Management of Aggregate Statistics. These directives define the following:
- the length of time during which statistical data must be retained
- the documentation required to identify and describe the data.
Further information about statistical data management is provided in Chapters 4.3, 4.4 and 4.6, dedicated to access to metadata, access to microdata, and privacy and confidentiality, respectively.
Strategies, mechanisms and tools
Statistics Canada's vision and strategy for information management is to "manage all information it collects and holds in an efficient and secure manner, which supports continuing provision of and access to high quality statistical information relevant to Canadian needs, while respecting the confidentiality of its data providers."Endnote 1
In terms of governance, Statistics Canada has implemented the following mechanisms:
- The naming of the Information Management Senior Official (IMSO), who is a senior executive responsible for ensuring proper information management practices within the organization. At Statistics Canada, this role is given to an assistant chief statistician.
- The creation of the Information Management Committee, which coordinates the management of the agency's information assets, including its confidential statistical data holdings. The IM Committee is made up of directors from program areas and is chaired by an assistant chief statistician.
- The creation of an Information Management Division which supports the information management requirements of the organisation and supports the IM Committee. It provides advice on best practices and standards related to IM within the agency and coordinates the implementation of IM strategies and methods to better manage IM processes. For a few years, funding has been received to support an Information Management Secretariat (IMS). Its responsibilities include the development of information management (IM) strategies, policies and procedures.
- The development of a network of IM delegates, which serves as the primary link between the IM Secretariat and the program areas.
Statistics Canada provides a number of services and tools to facilitate information management:
Statistics Canada Library
Over the years, the library has acted as an IM repository of all final publications (paper and electronic publications). The library provides a wide range of services and resources that support the information and analytical activities of program and service areas in Statistics Canada. These are offered through the library website and include the library catalogue, bibliographic acquisitions, interlibrary loans, research services and electronic resources. The library provides training to employees, researchers and analysts in the use of electronic databases and resources, and compiles customized literature reviews.
Document Management Centre
The Document Management Centre (DMC) provides information management services relating to unstructured information within Statistics Canada. Services include receipt, classification, storage and retrieval of paper documents and electronic files. The DMC also provides advice and research services related to recorded information in its custody. The DMC serves as liaison between Statistics Canada and Library and Archives Canada for the preservation of historical documentation. As information management requirements are increasing, a new solution is examined to meet a large set of requirements.
E-mail Transformation Initiative
The Email Transformation Initiative (ETI) is a Government of Canada project to replace the email systems of 43 federal organizations with one common system. Government-wide, it will save money, increase email security, simplify the government employee directory and enhance service delivery to Canadians.
The ETI provides:
- a standardized personal email address that public service employees retain for their entire career with the federal government;
- a common email system that facilitates the coordination of meetings and communication between federal organizations;
- a secure and consistent email system that makes it easier for Canadians to contact government employees and access government programs and services; and,
- up-to-date technology that addresses and standardizes over 300 security requirements and provides greater privacy protection.
Awareness and training
Information management awareness among employees is all about identifying and managing Information Resources of Business Value (IRBV). IRBV meanspublished and unpublished materials (including email messages and attachments) created or acquired because they enable and document decision-making in support of programs, services and ongoing operations, and support departmental reporting, performance and accountability requirements. IRBV applies to three types of information: Email, Data and Other material.
Email, including its attachments:
- provides background on, or an explanation for an issue
- raises an issue and provides the solution to it
- provides official feedback, and
- grants official approval.
Emails are part of Statistics Canada's official records and employees are responsible for maintaining these official records.
Employees are expected to regularly clean their email box and keep only:
- Information still useful for project decision making, program operations or service delivery
- Final instructions or procedures
- Accounts of the Agency's business activities
- Decisions involving financial and legal matters
- Records of how and why specific decisions were made
- Emails containing information that should be part of the corporate memory
- Emails required for an active Access to Information and Privacy request
Brochures and fact sheets including best practices are available in the Intranet website to help employees manage their email box. Specific training sessions are offered including Managing your Email at Statistics Canada or Recordkeeping for public servants. Finally, a restriction on email and mailbox sizes has forced some behavior changes and helped identify new information management best practices.
Information about various services and mechanisms relating to information management of statistical data is provided in the following chapters of this compendium:
- Management of microdata access programs — Chapter 4.4
- Management of metadata access — Chapter 4.3
- Management of the website — Chapter 4.1
- Management of other specific information access programs, including disclosure control and record linkage — Chapter 4.6
Other published and unpublished IRBV material include:
- document decisions (e.g., minutes of meetings, approved project documentation, etc.)
- support programs, services and ongoing operations (e.g., feasibility studies, stakeholder reports, methodological reports, questionnaires, user guides, analysis reports, contracts, policies, service level agreements, work plans, etc.)
- support departmental reporting, performance and accountability requirements (e.g., financial reports, performance reports, Departmental Performance Reports, internal audit reports, etc.).
Until the implementation of the Government of Canada's official electronic document and records management system (GCDOCS), this material is expected to be saved in a corporate repository for electronic documents, such as the Document Management Centre, a shared drive or administrative and financial systems.
Key success factors
Communication to ensure awareness of employees' responsibilities is key to the development of a culture of managing information. Employees are continuously encouraged to understand and fulfil their IM responsibilities to support business outcomes.
Senior management's support and engagement are also critical to sustain the IM strategy and enhance general awareness of its importance. While there are tools to support an efficient management strategy, these tools are only relevant if they are used. Information management strategy usually requires a culture change that is difficult to maintain without management support.
Design thinking in the implementation of the information management tools is also important to ensure that processes are intuitive and not too burdensome to reinforce good behaviours.
Information management, vital as it is to the long-term functioning of a statistical agency, can be easily downgraded as an activity, because it may seem not to be essential to the production of current statistical output. Funding may need to be allocated to develop tools and structures to have an efficient information management strategy. However, the benefits in terms of efficiency may be difficult to accurately measure or they may materialise much later (through later cost avoidance for example). As information management is important but often not urgent, the proper balance must be maintained in the allocation of resources between ongoing operations and measures to preserve the intellectual capital and data holdings of the agency. This is a critical long-term survival issue.
Statistics Canada is implementing an Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) to replace the current Document Management Centre applications and to improve records management capabilities. The EDRMS is a standard information management tool provided to organizations within the Government of Canada. It is also developing new tools to modernise its current approaches to information management and search in a digital world.
- Endnote 1
Statistics Canada's Strategy for Information Management
Return to endnote 1 referrer
Statistics Canada (2010). Strategy for information management. Internal document. Accessible on demand.
Statistics Canada(2015). Directive on the Management of Statistical Microdata Files. Internal document. Accessible on demand.
Statistics Canada (2015). Directive on the Management of Aggregate Statistics. Internal document. Accessible on demand.
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