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Challenges Facing the Public Sector

August 6th, 2006

Governmental organisations worldwide are facing several challenges as administrative, executive and judicial bodies continue to evolve into an electronic work environment. Pushed by paperwork-reduction mandates, requirements to handle increased workloads with fewer personnel and the rapid adoption of electronic communication channels by taxpayers and citizens, governments are often on the forefront of adopting new approaches to electronic information management.

Many agencies worldwide are stepping back and looking at the way in which electronic transactions, documents and records are being captured, managed, secured and preserved.

Three Big Trends

Three significant trends are converging and are causing public-sector organisations to look carefully at their information management infrastructure: a widely anticipated knowledge worker turnover due to retirements; an acceleration of e-government initiatives; and a move toward an enterprise architecture are the key issues facing government at all levels and across jurisdictions. These three pressures are causing program owners, as well as IT and IM management, to assess how agencies need to be equipped to manage risk, achieve operational efficiencies and build an infrastructure that can handle the accelerating shift into an electronic workplace.

Several studies have been done over the last few years that look at the demographics of government knowledge workers. A recurring theme of a generational shift is common among these analyses: At the highest risk, as the wave of retirements hits over the next decade, is the loss of senior project and technical managers. Organisations that have recognised this impending turnover are asking questions about the preservation of institutional memory and the recordkeeping practices which must form the foundation of a knowledge retention, management and dissemination program. Understanding of how things get done…the informal chains of command… an understanding of how a process has evolved…the recognition of the human sources of knowledge on particular subject matters: this is corporate memory that is often ignored and is rarely communicated through formal programs.

The electronic knowledge assets that reside in email repositories, on users’ desktops and on network servers are often poorly captured during periods of staff turnover or agency reorganisation. Many government departments still have not established consistent programs for the capture, management and disposition of email and other forms of electronic communication. The ability to separate junk, spam and duplicates from items having long-term business, legal or historical value to the organisation is critical in order to preserve the knowledge contained in the data beyond the tenure of its creator.

Agencies that will successfully ride out the impending retirement wave are those who have recognised the risk of not capturing the processes and information. Once the risk has been identified and articulated, technology can be leveraged to build structured workflows and implement electronic document/record/email capture processes in order to protect the ongoing business of government.

Managing the Electronic Age

E-government, or government on-line initiatives have been underway for several years. Central and local government organisations have been offering an increasing range of services to businesses and residents through Web sites and citizen portals. Electronic communication between citizen and government is also increasing: the ability to submit applications, forms or to ask routine questions through email. The rapid adoption of email for both personal and business use by constituents is pushing government departments to review their approaches to the collection, management and preservation of this new form of communication and correspondence.

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