Information strategy in times of crisis

Today's solutions must support tomorrow's business

During a crisis, rapid access to trusted information, no matter where you're working, is vital for business as usual. As you swiftly transition to a digital workforce, can you maintain control over your organisation's distributed information ecosystem?

The coronavirus pandemic could be considered the most compelling motivation for digital government the world has ever seen. I think of it as the COVID Catalyst, driving transformation in the public sector like nothing before it. It has dramatically changed the ways agencies and councils work, almost overnight.

To enable remote working and maintain access to public services, organisations have rapidly rolled out new technologies and people have adopted new ways of working. But have we thought through the longer-term impact of these changes on our information governance capabilities?

Don’t let the decisions you make today undermine your information strategy

Access to trusted information is just as critical as access to devices, network and applications. Ministers and senior executives rely on it to make decisions that affect “lives and livelihoods”. Managers depend on it to efficiently manage staff and resources and front-line workers need it for service delivery. Information is also being published, to build community awareness and enable public debate.

Information governance is essential. Remote workers need browser-based access to your corporate single-source-of-truth rather than rely on insecure and unauthorised sharing of information through email or memory sticks. While routine is disrupted, even our champions of information governance can fall into bad habits that are difficult to unwind. Digital workflows and advanced collaboration tools with embedded information governance are key to reducing these longer term impacts on staff and your organisation.

Today’s solutions must also support the business of tomorrow

It’s likely we will never return to work at the office in the same old way and remote working will remain far more common than in pre-COVID times. So it’s reasonable to expect the systems and processes you're implementing now will be in use for quite some time. You need to feel confident they fulfill a sustainable role in your information ecosystem.

If staff don’t have access to the equipment or information they need, they may develop workarounds just to get the job done. This could involve making use of free apps and other shadow IT technologies to storing data on personal devices. These workarounds tend to undermine information management strategies and expose organisations to a variety of risks.

Even advanced solutions, implemented without consideration of the corporate information ecosystem, can leave you with version control and data integration issues. Information then becomes fragmented, preventing collaboration across teams and diminishing service quality.

CIOs should take a strategic approach to ensure today’s solutions will support tomorrow’s business needs. There is a real opportunity to design remote working solutions that are fit for the future and enable a digital shift that may have been more difficult to achieve without the influence of this crisis.

Today’s decisions and actions will be scrutinised in the future

Many of our activities will be re-examined in the months and years ahead. Inquiries into the recent bushfires and the Ruby Princess cruise ship are already in progress and show how authoritative records (or their absence) and processes for responding to requests can make or break careers.

Organisations will be accountable for the systems implemented during this turbulent period, including the consistent application of information governance controls that maintain privacy, prevent data breaches and unauthorised deletion of information.

Just as we are now relying on records of how SARS and Ebola were managed and research into vaccines, the records of our actions today will help us respond more effectively when the next deadly virus evolves.

A BBC article about the challenges of comparing data about COVID-19 cases, infection rates and fatalities, noted: “…until this outbreak is over it won't be possible to know for sure which countries have dealt with the virus better. That's when we can really learn the lessons for next time.”

But this will only be possible if the data and information are well-managed today.

Maintaining control across a distributed information ecosystem

Organisations have quickly adapted to new ways of working in a much more distributed environment. Key considerations for maintaining control are:

  • Provide secure, remote access to sources of trusted information.
  • Embed information governance into digital workflows and workspaces.
  • Design with the future in mind – don’t imagine you can or will clean it all up later.
  • Prepare to be accountable. Make sure you’ve got the records and processes in place to respond to inquiries.

Learn more about how this might apply to your organisation at our upcoming webinar, register below. Read more about how Objective Solutions enable remote working via the links below.