7DIG: Time needs more than philosophy

Filed under: Assets,Governance,Objectives,Outcomes,People,Process,Risk,Time — lenand @ 10:08 am
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The Time component of the seven dimensional information governance (7DIG) framework was of little practical interest.  The spatio-temporal paradigm may hold the philosophical high ground, but a treatise on Gantt charts would have been out of place.  Serendipity has revealed a practical product, which is free, and is based on a philosophy of teams doing the right thing at the right time.  It brings together the People who have to do the information governance with the Process that sets Objectives and uses Assets to achieve the desired Outcomes.  And it has a Risk register.

It is project based – ideal for setting up an Information Governance process and should be adaptable for continuous monitoring. Look at some of the features:

  1. People from any department or supplier
  2. Assets, such as an information asset register and documentation, as a sharable resources
  3. Objectives, as part of the textual description including a breakdown into areas of interest or phases of work
  4. Process description in the form of tasks, which can be repeatable, taking us through the identification to deletion cycle
  5. Outcomes by the way of documented completion of tasks and compliance with targets
  6. Time charts, calendars, milestones and the possibility to export to your favourite Gantt chart tools
  7. Risk register, very simple to input and understand but good enough in most Information Governance régimes

The openness is especially encouraging.  It is completely Web-based and viewable from your iPod, iPhone or iPad.  Even the name is encouraging – Teamwork.

Quarkside wondered why such a simple product has not popped up in the radar previously.  Maybe it has only been promoted within the systems development community – and not yet reached public sector ICT managers.  Another job for Socitm?



IG Time: the spatio-temporal paradigm

Filed under: Time — lenand @ 11:34 am
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Time is one dimension of the spatio-temporal paradigm – which has an underlying principle:

All Things exist in a universe of four dimensions, three of space and one of time.  

And a significant consequence:

All Things in the past and future can be defined, in addition to all Things in the present.

Adopting the 4D paradigm is useful in information management:

  • The state of a Thing can be defined by the time between a start event and an end event.
  • Things can have many states at any point in time.
  • Relationships can be defined between any Things, and such relationships also have time dimensions.

These can be applied in the domain of the 7 Dimensional Information Governance framework (7DIG).  The seventh dimension considered, Time, is thus more than a clock and more than planning.  Time is one dimension of the Space-Time continuum; three dimensions of space and one of time.  7DIG framework is a model of concepts and the relationships between those concepts.  It is an ‘ontology’.  The Framework has attempted to develop a shared vocabulary and definition of concepts.  Unfortunately these concepts have been called dimensions and sub-dimensions.  In retrospect, another set of words may have been better to avoid possible confusion.

The 7DIG Time dimension applies to all the other six dimensions of the 7DIG framework ie Objectives, Assets, People, Outcomes, Process and Risk.  Every single sub-dimension can have the question asked ‘When?’.

Many thanks to Matthew West for providing the academic background. Expect more postings on some practical aspects of Time in relation to information governance


A Framework for Frameworks

Filed under: Innovation,Outcomes,Politics,Process,Risk,Strategy,Time — lenand @ 4:24 pm
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Whilst reviewing a worthy document on leadership in ICT, it seemed to lack structure.  The contents were fine, but left an uneasy feeling that not everything had been covered.  Was the advice MECE?  This led to a Leadership Model, reminiscent of one used by Quarkside before (7DIG).  The seven primary dimensions were Direction, Stakeholders, Resources, Action, Outcomes, Time and Risk.

The Expanded Leadership Model is probably a reasonable Framework for many ICT organisations.

It triggered an idea of a Framework for Frameworks. A self-help tool that gives a structure for all MECE dimensions.  It starts with seven generic concepts.

  1. Context:  the business environment and constraints
  2. Subjects:  People who are involved in processes
  3. Verbs: Words that denote action by people, Process
  4. Objects:  Things that are resources to be consumed or created
  5. Outcomes: Desired results from the process actions
  6. Time:  When things are to be done
  7. Risk:  What can disrupt the Process – and how to manage risk

The diagram may help some people.  Let us know if it has helped you.

Let the organisation decide the next level down.  They know the trigger points and politics that will enable changed behaviour or transformation of processes.  For many purposes, this simple framework for frameworks should be more effective than McKinsey’s famous 7S framework for changing organisations.


Universal Credit: Doomed to failure

Filed under: Local Government,Politics,Process,Technology,Time — lenand @ 8:32 pm
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Whilst one must applaud the simplification of the UK’s complex system of benefits, there’s a growing body of informed opinion that the ICT system proposals are doomed to failure.  Just read this from Page 35 of the White Paper on Universal Credit.

Recipients who have earnings from employment will have those earnings automatically taken into account. We intend to use HM Revenue & Customs proposed real-time information system to identify earnings and to calculate the net Universal Credit payment due by applying the appropriate taper to the gross payment. This means that those recipients who receive earnings through Pay As You Earn will not need to inform us for payment purposes if the amount of their earnings change. Recipients will, though, still need to tell us about other changes to their circumstances which affect their entitlement to benefit, or the conditions they must meet.

To reassure the readers, there’s a diagram, too.  It looks so easy to design real-time systems, doesn’t it.  Universal Credit Real Time SystemThere are opportunities for confusion.  As reported earlier, the Cabinet Office were expecting elements to be operational by April 2012, including hundreds of local authority identity hubs.  The White Paper refers to pilots commencing in 2013 and complete roll-out by 2017.

The impact on local authorities (LAs) has been reviewed by CIPFA.  They say “There is very little recognition within the administrative proposals of the Government’s overall localism agenda and, although there has yet to be any final decision on the future role of LAs, there are few specific proposals for any involvement for LAs in the future arrangements for the assessment and delivery of the UC.”   Payment of Housing Benefit currently provides employment for thousands of LA staff.  Will these staff be transferred to DWP or be part of an outsourcing deal?

All in all, the size and complexity of the project are typical of some of the worst failures in large government computer projects.  If history is a guide, then expect the prophets of doom to be vindicated.


eID: Apps need Assertions

Filed under: Electoral,Policy,Strategy,Technology,Time — lenand @ 8:49 am
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eID in a federated environment has many complex governance aspects.  It does have a major impact in the applications which may use it.  Stian Sigvartsen has been running a blog for a couple of months on “Achieving a federated single view of the customer“.  The benefit of the postings is an exposure of some technical detail.  Take a look if you are that way inclined.

The broader message is that the human brain is the most cost effective processor of short lists of potential identity matches.  Matches are often obvious when combined with local knowledge and it is possible make assertions of identity with an indication of probability.  Records would show the eID of the asserter and a time stamp.  All assertions can be then incorporated into incrementally improving federated searches.  Audit trails would then be so much easier to follow.

These concepts need to be built into all identity registration schemes, such as Individual Voter Registration.



IG Outcomes: Focus on Benefits

Filed under: Objectives,Outcomes,People,Policy,Process,Strategy,Time — lenand @ 9:42 am
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Quarkside’s reason for promoting Information Governance (IG) processes is a belief that better public services are possible. Better Outcomes. Benefits.

Information Governance is the setting of Objectives to achieve measurable Outcomes by People using information Assets in a life cycle Process that considers the impact of both Risk and Time.

Improved service levels and efficiency can result if more effective use is made of documents and data that is amassed in archives, filing cabinets and computer data stores. The current budget reductions need innovative thinking to abstract more from historical data, sharing data and sharing data centres.

The portents are good. It is now possible to share data between local authorities and the NHS by linking the N3 and GCSX networks. The Information Governance requirements have been met. This removes a major constraint to implementing the recommendations of Lord Laming’s Enquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié.

Examples of outcomes can be found in the Scottish Government web site.  They are easy to understand and credibly linked to one another.  Information sharing partnerships could benefit from reviewing these and basing their own desired Outcomes upon them; children, crime, employment, health and enviroment all feature in the list of fifteen.

Outcomes, with good governance, should be comparable to the Objectives. The previous IG blog listed seven candidate secondary dimensions for Objectives. Let’s take them forward as an example of using the Framework; as questions that could appear in quality assurance of the results:

  • Policy: How far have we progressed towards the political vision and maximising value from the information assets? Are transformation targets being achieved?
  • Strategy: How many programmes have benefited from information sharing and improved knowledge management? Are the benefits being realised?
  • Law: Can we be assured that all laws, regulations and statutes have been followed?
  • Constraints: Have local conditions, culture and practice been factored into the Information Governance regime?
  • Scope: Have all target business area and organisational functions been included in the Information Governance processes?
  • Context: Has the impact on external and internal organisations met expectations?
  • Specifications: Has performance met the requirements and are control mechanisms in place? What is the evidence that information sharing has obeyed Information Assurance standards?

Secondary dimensions should be tailored to the organisation and its aspirations.  They need not be all embracing, but focussed on current and future priorities.

The political pressure for more shared services, in both central and local government, amplifies the requirement for shared Objectives and Outcomes.  Good Information Governance is necessary to build trust between partners.  Each partner has to be assured that other partners treat information with equal or greater respect, and this starts by aligning Objectives and desired Outcomes.  It should finish with an information assurance process that confirm that trust is deserved.

Identifying Outcomes and using them as a primary driver is not easy. The Local Government Improvement and Development agency (formerly IDeA) studied “Implementing outcomes based accountability in children’s services“.  Whereas People can easily accept the concepts, formal methods require a high level of training and adoption of common language.  This takes more time than People are prepared to invest.  Quarkside believes that Outcomes should be governed qualitatively, not quantitatively with manufactured measures that just feed bureaucrats.  Superficially at least, Scotland seems to have a more pragmatic approach.

Cultural considerations are so important for introducing change in Process, particularly in new information sharing partnerships. Culture is included in the People dimension of the 7DIG framework, to follow.


Objectives of IG

Filed under: Assets,Objectives,Outcomes,People,Process,Risk,Strategy,Time — lenand @ 11:41 am
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Information Governance is the setting of Objectives to achieve measurable Outcomes by People using information Assets in a life cycle Process that considers the impact of both Risk and Time.

That’s the one line definition that needs some expansion.  We have to start at at the beginning and decide why we need Information Governance (IG) in the first place.  That is the Objectives of IG.

Quarkside says that the primary objective of Information Governance is to use information, not to prevent its proper use.   Information, from any data source, represents the added value of some data processing activity.  Locking data away, without the ability to use it, only costs money; and may lose the opportunity for delivering additional benefits.

Having said that, information assets need to be held securely and lawfully with access provided to authorised people. In a public library, librarians acquire books, catalogue them and provide access as custodians of the collection.  The librarians have added value when citizens search the catalogue and make use of the service.  Citizens have their own Objectives about why they need to select a book. They obtain access to information Assets within the library governance structure.

Objectives are one of the primary dimensions of the 7 Dimensional Information Governance Framework (7DIG).  The seven primary dimensions (Objectives, Outcomes, People, Assets, Process, Risk and Time) are intended to be MECE (Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive).  A typical list of secondary dimensions may not be MECE, being dependent on the context and priorities of any specific IG framework.  For example, seven candidate secondary dimensions of Objectives could be:

  • Policy: direction from political leaders in a business area, providing the vision for maximising the value of information held;
  • Strategy: medium term initiatives and programmes leading to information sharing;
  • Law: over-riding principles, regulations and statutes that must be obeyed; the Data Protection Act, the Freedom of Information Act and lots more;
  • Constraints: local conditions, culture and practice that control Information Assurance (IA) and information sharing protocols;
  • Scope: range of business area and organisational functions impacted by the IG Process;
  • Context: external organisations and conditions interacting with the local IG regime;
  • Specifications: definition of things that need to be done, capable of measurement and quality assurance.

Secondary dimensions are just things to think about when establishing an IG Policy, Strategy and Framework. They should not become part of a tick box culture.   Corporate management needs to buy into them at the highest level.

The 7DIG Framework should focus on Outcomes and the value of using information, not purely the protection of information by an IA process. The next blog in the series will illustrate the importance of early consideration of the Outcomes desired by an organisation or partnership.


PASC 3: Learn from success, not just failure

The third of the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) 12 questions, asks:

3. Have past lessons from NAO and OGC reviews about unsuccessful IT programmes been learnt and applied?

Too many past and present failures demonstrate that People have not learnt how to manage complex programmes consistently. Internal programme management skills have not been developed sufficiently. Contracting out so much of the work is evidence of a lack of internal skills and abrogating much of the responsibility the big suppliers, who are not averse to earning extra income.

Prince2 was developed by OGC with public sector programmes and projects in mind. Prince2 clarifies the desired Outcomes and People responsible for controlling the Assets and Processes to reach measurable Outcomes on Time, with regard to Risk throughout. It is no accident that the Eurim information governance basic principles of information governance  have been adopted by Quarkside as a mantra. The use of Prince2 entirely supports the seven dimensions of information governance.   Another disappointing example is the amateurism of the Prime Minister’s Structural Reform Plans (SRPs). There’s no apparent Prince2 programme management regime. It looks like an unco-ordinated set of To Do lists and no evidence of a transparent risk register. The avoidance of standards is endemic. In the private sector it could be a career limiting offence.

Quality assurance and risk assessment must be performed by independent bodies, not the prime contractor. Even internal staff cannot be relied upon to expose failures of people who may be planning their career path – but collecting evidence will be hard.

Finally, the question is too narrow in the sense that it is possible to learn from success, not just failure.  I remember a quotation from a project management guru.  “A good project manager resolves problems, a better project manager avoids problems before they happen.” Paradoxically,  the career of the better, risk aware, project manager is worse – because the success is below the management radar.


7DIG: Information Governance defined

The good news is that it is easy to come up with definitions and frameworks for Information Governance. The bad news is that more definitions mystify than clarify. Let’s demonstrate with a couple, starting with Gartner:

“Information governance is the specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to encourage desirable behaviour in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archival and deletion of information. It includes the processes, roles, standards and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organization to achieve its goals.

That’s quite a mouthful for two sentences. Is it different from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) draft?

“Information governance is an umbrella term for a collection of distinct but overlapping disciplines. Reference to “information governance” in this policy shall mean reference to the following areas as well:

  • Access to information (Freedom of Information Act 2000 etc)
  • Confidentiality and data protection
  • Information security assurance
  • Information quality assurance
  • Records and document management”

‘I don’t know’ is my only honest answer. But does it matter? Putting Gartner and CQC words together is going to be unintelligible. They cover similar concepts in different ways, hoaned towards their normal client base. They are both correct in concept – but not interchangeable. A solution, worked out in Eurim, is a much simpler definition:

“Information Governance is the setting of Objectives to achieve valuable Outcomes by People using information Assets in a life cycle Process that considers the impact of both Risk and Time.”

Put into a list, just seven words can cover the whole domain:

  1. Objectives
  2. Outcomes
  3. People
  4. Assets
  5. Process
  6. Risk
  7. Time

This list is intended to be ‘Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive’, or MECE. Organisations can write their own guidelines to suit local conditions in a top-down hierarchy. It should not be set in stone; any new requirement, change of law, personnel or technology can be incorporated into a local framework. The easy definition is done; does such a simple set of words help people to adopt an effective, standard, way of working? Quarkside says ‘yes’, reasoning that people can test any issue with seven sets of simple questions:

  1. Why are we doing it and what are the constraints?
  2. What do we expect the benefits to be and how do we measure them?
  3. Who has to do what and who are the beneficiaries?
  4. What are the information assets we have, and are we controlling them?
  5. What is the entire process from inception, validation, storage and deletion?
  6. What are the main risks and what are the plans for reducing them?
  7. When should things happen, and is our level of maturity sufficient?

The questions themselves are not as important as structuring an approach that clarifies, rather than complicates, the issues. It is quality assurance of Information Governance that matters, not the precision of the definitions. Expect more quarks about each of the Seven Dimensions of Information Governance (7DIG). PS:  The choice of seven dimensions was not an accident, see “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two” propounded by Miller.

PPS:  For those who prefer diagrams, here is the 7DIG Framework, including some of the expanded levels.


Dithering in Cabinet Office? Who should lead ICT?

Bryan Glick seems to think that the Cabinet Office may not have decided on future of the government CIO role – will John Suffolk be the last central government CIO?

Forget the title.  Let’s see this as an opportunity for the humble sufferers of indecision and abrogation (aka abolishment, abolition, annihilation, annulment, cancellation, defeasance, invalidation, negation, nullification) of standards to get some leadership.  It can only be put right at this elevated level.  Martha Lane Fox knows it to be true.

Most importantly give us an ICT strategy that is fit for the country and fit for purpose.  The Cross Government Enterprise Architecture (XGEA), started in 2005, does not appear to have made any impact on anything.  Certainly nothing from what was expected on the way forward:

  • Work on a common infrastructure based on the open standards and proven interoperability implemented with commercial off the shelf products
  • Common standards to help facilitate reuse and sharing
  • Inclusion of Information Assurance into all aspects of design and build
  • Rationalising government data and voice networks
  • Adopting a consistent approach to identity management

Have these guys been earning fat salaries without delivering? Did Ian Watmore do any better when he was previously in the post?   Isn’t their primary purpose to take the Minister’s policy forward into some clear strategic priorities?  They should have all this sorted within three months, not five years. It looks like dithering to Quarkside.

We, that’s the public sector, seem to be wandering in the wilderness without a roadmap of where to go or what to take with us.  We need leaders that can show us a vision, lay down the law and lead us to the Promised Land.  Did somebody mention a recall for Moses?

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