Information Management: Desperate Times Call For Desperate Messaging Techniques (RCAF Journal - WINTER 2015 - Volume 4, Issue 1)

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By Captain Liz Allard, CD

By the time you read this article, you may have heard from or about your wing or unit information management officer (IMO), and you may be asking yourself, “What bright light dreamed this up?” Since the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) made computers easily accessible to nearly every member, we have begun to flounder in an ever increasing sea of unorganized digital information. The unfortunate reality of our increased reliance on technology—which until now, has been without boundaries—is the decreasing capability of finding the right information in a timely manner. This has negative implications, both operational and legal. Enter the IMO.

            In response to the increasing information chaos, in 2009, the Treasury Board Secretariat issued direction to all departments instructing them to identify, protect, and manage information resources of business value. Record-keeping practices are to be documented and practised within the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces, and the deadline provided is March 2015. For whatever reason, the RCAF has found itself well behind the power curve in implementing the requirements of the Treasury Board’s directive. As the deadline fast approaches, newly appointed RCAF IMOs are finding themselves under the gun to take action. So how can you help?

To begin, everyone must understand that information management (IM) is about people and processes, not new computer hardware and software. The processes are what used to be called “staff duties,” and many of the more “experienced” among us remember the days of asking the orderly room clerk for the appropriate file number to assign to the memo we were writing. That requirement to use file numbers never went away; however, with the introduction and convenience of email, it was not rigidly enforced. Therefore, the first thing you can do to help your unit IMO is to adopt the published IM best practices (the new lingo for staff duties).

            Annually, it costs approximately $6 to maintain 1 gigabyte of shared network server space. While you may think that your little folder only represents $200 per year, multiply that by the thousands of little folders on the system, and it soon becomes apparent that the RCAF is spending a bucket of money to store dated, redundant, and non-work-related information. Therefore, the second thing you can do to assist your IMO is to audit your information stored on the network and archive it on to compact disc or delete what is considered old and/or redundant. Afterwards, restructure your unit’s folder architecture to better reflect your unit’s work.

            Finally, all members can educate themselves about the requirements and benefits of IM. There is a one-hour tutorial called “DND/CF Information Management” on the Defence Learning Network[1] that all members were directed to have completed by October of 2013. As of 2 Dec 2014, only 64 per cent of RCAF personnel had completed this training.

            The 60-million-dollar question that has likely crossed your mind about now is: “What is in it for me?” Once the RCAF IM state of affairs has been improved, you can expect to be able to more efficiently respond to requests made under the Access to Information Act and, more importantly, you will be able to support your leaders’ decision making by being able to provide the right information much more quickly.

            IM is not a passing fancy. Although its arrival is overdue, it is here to stay and we must embrace it in order for the RCAF to remain effective in our increasingly digital battlespace.


Captain Liz Allard, CD, a CC130 air combat systems officer, is currently stationed at the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre as the Information Management Officer. She has a degree in Political Science and has twice deployed to Haiti with Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team.

Abbreviations

DND―Department of National Defence

IM ―information management

IMO―information management officer

RCAF―Royal Canadian Air Force

Notes

[1]. Canada, Department of National Defence, Defence Learning Network, accessed February 11, 2015, http://dln-rad.mil.ca/Saba/Web/Main (requires login).   (return)

 

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