At the 5th RK Day hosted by Library and Archives Canada (LAC), speakers from LAC and the consulting firm OSTA (On Second Thought Advisory) gave an overview of the methodology including some background, why it’s being done, and some of the benefits. I’ve provided here a brief summary and some thoughts.
Disclaimer: Please note that this is a personal explanation and may sometimes involve interpretation based on my own understanding and experiences. This is not an authoritative guide in any way. Links used here are not necessarily the most detailed or most authoritative links, but are used here because most documentation is internal to the Government of Canada. As always, opinions expressed are my own.
Trends and Shifts
LAC speakers spoke much on the shifts and trends happening in and outside the government that helped to push forward this initiative:
- renewal and modernization of the office
- culture change to convergence of policy, technology, etc.
- rapid technology development
- increasing difficulty in finding and accessing (definitive version of) information
- reducing dependencies on paper
The initiative goes hand in hand with the policy that has been created. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) put into effect the Directive on Recordkeeping a couple of years ago mandating that all government departments need to be compliant by 2014.
The methodology is also to help departments align themselves with various frameworks and structures, such as:
LAC is also taking a new approach to recordkeeping with this methodology. A few key differences:
- New terminology: Information Resources (IR) to encompass everything instead of just records.
- Focus on value: Business Value (BV) and Enduring Value (EV, what is more or less equivalent to archival value) instead of by format or medium.
- Valuation is at time of creation not at the time of disposition or later.
- Prioritization at a high level based on existing plans and structures of the department means that it is risk informed.
- General valuation disposition tools (GVDT) that allow LAC to apply a disposition authority (RDA) to multiple institutions as a template with flexibility to ‘customize’ it for departments that need it. e.g. 60+ RDAs to 8? GVDTs to cover the same amount of IRs (don’t quote me on these numbers though).
The RK methodology focuses on using what the department already knows and has, and implementing everything based on existing knowledge, resources, and tools while filling in any gaps. So, if a department already has everything more or less in place, the project should take a relatively short time.
The methodology itself has 3 phases and 7 steps as shown in the diagram:
I’ll give a brief overview at a very high level just to give people an idea of what it’s all bout. There are a lot of documents, questionnaires, spreadsheets, etc. related to each stuff which they talked about at the presentation, but I won’t go through all of them here.
Phase 1 & Step 1: Planning
High level analysis is done at the department level to see where the department stands in terms of recordkeeping. There is an Initiation Survey, which is supposed to be a quick (approximately 15 yes/no type questions) assessment of the department’s current practices. A more in-depth Diagnostic Tool allows an analysis of the readiness and complexity of the project for the particular department as well as an initial evaluation of time and resources requirements. More questionnaires and reports build on these in looking at the current state of things, prioritization, building a project plan, and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with LAC.
Phase 2 & Steps 2-5: One Time Effort Phase
If the diagram confuses you at this stage, it is essentially supposed to show that the steps are non-linear as things go back and forth and an organization can be in multiple steps at once. Allow me to explain.
Step 2 mentions engagement and of course, the department will begin the project, and with LAC’s assistance, focus on the highest priorities. Communications and presentations will be made to the department. Along with awareness and training throughout this process, obviously, documents to help staff on identifying information resources that have value and what to do will be created.
Once into Step 3 (Data Collection Exercise), more in-depth questionnaires are done at the sector level focusing on value, controls, risk, and capacity. Particularly for large organizations, those working on the project will have to engage each sector to collect information, and depending on how quickly one sector is completed at this step, they may move forward to the next before another sector.
Step 4 build reports and essentially an inventory of repositories, records, information resources, and what controls are in place to manage the information. Supporting documentation is also created with rationale on how to identify what information resources are of business and/or enduring value.
Step 5 puts it all together into one spreadsheet (Recordkeeping Accountability Instrument) listing program sub activities and outcomes, whether it has (or likely to have) business and/or enduring value, which disposition authority applies and how, and who holds responsibility among other things like security and risk (but I have listed the essentials to give the general ideas). This spreadsheet would become a reference document for all staff, particularly those involved with information management (in any way, not necessarily in the IM branch only).
Other documents are also created at this stage to identify any gaps and actions to address these gaps. Recordkeeping roles are also identified and committed to by the department. Plans are also created for the final phase.
Phase 3 & Steps 6-7: Ongoing
Finally, the department is to maintain the reference materials and follow through on the action plan. Results are reported, information is managed, change is monitored, and things are revised as needed.
The Benefits to the Department
I think benefits to the department should be fairly obvious, but here are a few:
- compliance to the TBS Directive, Policy on Information Management, and LAC policies
- (almost definitely) compliance with internal policies on information and records management
- alignment with Management Accountability Framework (though I believe this is still in the works)
- decrease in storage and management of unnecessary information
- increase findability of authoritative information, including fulfilling Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) requests
- (likely) support of clean up and disposition of legacy records
There are others, mostly surrounding information and records management, and some which are more related to the archival side, such as preventing lost of information with enduring value.
Benefits to Government
Other than the myriad benefits related to information management within a department and compliance by all government departments, I believe that applying this methodology to the government as a whole has some added benefits. For the most part, these benefits stem from collaboration:
- reuse of documentation, tools, reports, etc. including training and awareness tools
- development and refinement of the methodology such that the process should go faster for those implementing the project later
- development of general disposition authorities (versus institution specific) means quicker roll out of authorities
Certainly for anyone in the Canadian government who was not already aware of all this would be most interested in the expected timeline.
Summer 2011 – Preparation
Initiation surveys have been sent out with the diagnostic tool available this month. Selected departments will be contacted to be early adopters and begin the project. LAC will also be training their staff and certifying consultants.
Fall 2011 – Phase 1 for GC
LAC will be getting all departments through phase 1 by the end of the year with early adopters moving into phase 2.
Winter 2012 – GC Wide Implementation
Projects will begin in clusters of institutions (presumably similar ones will be grouped together). LAC hopes to finish by June 2014 in order for all departments to be compliant with the directive by the ‘due date’.
Sounds very ambitious, but it also sounds like they thought it through. One can only see if it works out, I hope it does!
Some Thoughts and Reflections
The event itself was well organized for the most part. There was definitely a good turn out. I think there’s room for improvement for the next time they do something similar though.
Considering the audience and that most people will not have been exposed to the methodology before, I thought the presentation went into a bit too much detail at times, overwhelming some. Talking about the tools at a high level is great, but showing people unfamiliar with the project an actual spreadsheet struck me as something that would simply confuse people.
The presentations were also done in both English and French. I understand the importance of having the presentations in both languages, but considering that most people are bilingual, hearing each slide done first in English and then in French is repetitive to most. If the presenters are worried about presenting in someone’s primary language, is it not common practice to simply have two presentations, one in English and one in French separately? On the upside, I got to learn some of the French vocabulary related to the project, which I had not been previously exposed to.
Some things were simply logistical in nature, but I think made a difference:
- if you are going to advertise a twitter hashtag, make sure your presenter knows what it is (and advertise it before hand)
- if you have a twitter hashtag, have it projected somewhere so people can see the conversation
- either make people hold extra questions until later or allow more time for questions so as not to go overtime
- have the event in the afternoon so that people west of Ontario can participate at a reasonable time (it was a morning half day)
Nevertheless, overall, I think the presentations were well organized, and the presentations on presenting the rationale for the project and the timeline were definitely well done, giving people a good sense of why the initiative is happening and how LAC will lead the departments into compliance.
Attending the session really helped me get an overview of the methodology and to put my work into context. Having entered the RK Project in the middle of the pilot made it so that I had to do a lot of catch up work, and unfortunately, I will not see the department complete phase 2 either. The overview gave me the big picture of the project as well as informed me on the status with the rest of the government, which was great. I also go to report back to our team with the information that the presentations were done in both languages, which I think will be of use to us.