Making arrangements for the transfer of information, records and knowledge is a key part of any machinery of government change. However, all too often this aspect is not properly planned for, inadequately resourced and left until it is too late to do everything that needs to be done.
Listed below are the eight basic principles that should be followed for a successful transfer:
Reinforce Senior Management support
Ensure that senior management understand what needs to be done (including setting an appropriate budget) and the risks to the business if the transfer is not carried out successfully. Failure to transfer information and knowledge effectively between departments can make it impossible to maintain business continuity and can result in the loss of vital information, loss of functionality of digital information, inability to be transparent and accountable and meet legal obligations, inefficiency and substantial additional costs.
Plan in advance
Start planning for the transfer of information as soon as notification that the organisation/function is to be abolished or transfer has been received. Identify desired outcomes - especially the usability of information (or digital continuity requirements after transfer) and test progress against these.
Clarify who is responsible
Establish as early as possible who is going to do the work and form a joint Information Transition Team. Ensure that transferring and receiving bodies and any contractors employed in information related activities (for example, an IT service partner) have a clear understanding of their separate and joint roles and responsibilities.
Decide what to transfer
Decide what information needs to be transferred and to where, for example, information of continuing business or legal value will need to be identified and transferred to the department that is inheriting responsibility for the function(s). Information of archival value may be transferred to The National Archives. Consider information/records in all forms, for example, paper files, information within an electronic records management or email system, websites, intranets, shared drives, databases AND accompanying information such as finding aids, Information Asset Registers or retention/disposal information.
Make provision for the continuity of digital information
Define the usability requirements for information to be transferred, and test against them throughout the transfer process. The receiving organisation needs to ensure the information can be found, opened, used, understood and trusted as required and will need to ensure it receives both files and necessary contextual metadata and has the technology to enable the usability requirements to be met.
Ensure continued compliance with legislation and information security
Clarify responsibilities for Freedom of Information and Environmental Information requests and related complaints and appeals and ensure that handover or guidance notes are prepared. Comply with rules on information security when transferring information and records and conform to the Security Policy Framework for protectively marked material.
Capture knowledge and communicate to staff and stakeholders
Capture the knowledge of staff from the transferring organisation, particularly if they are not transferring with the function and make as much information as possible about the changes available to staff in both organisations. Plan communication with customers and end-users.
Take advantage of opportunities for savings and increased efficiency
Capitalise on opportunities to increase efficiency and make savings, for example, shared service options could be considered for storage/electronic systems, information that is not required could be deleted rather than transferred.