In the library and information sector, many of the specialised courses that dealt with information management were provided for librarians and corporate information managers through niche providers within the profession. As technology has evolved, and as organisations have devolved information-related tasks, many employees now have to manage their information needs, access and usage, often without appropriate and relevant training. This may cause additional stress for the employee, reduced performance, a lower quality of outputs and a financial cost to the organisation.

As a result of these changes, the courses that were specialised, or niche, for information managers, are now standard courses that are provided for employees at all levels of an organisation regardless of their area of work. An example is “information audit” which was once a specialised area for information managers, but which is now relevant to those managing people using information, managing information budgets, responsible for information output quality (plans, reports, external communications etc), and for those responsible for capability management.

Managing the acquisition, evaluation and distribution of information within an organisation requires a high level of understanding to ensure that the right information is always available to those who need it, and that those who need it are capable of accessing it. An information audit examines information need and use at the business process level to identify and prioritise what information is needed for an organisation to meet its strategic objectives. It is a flexible but structured process that is designed to identify gaps, inconsistencies, duplications and quality shortfalls in information provision, as well as bottle-necks and inefficiencies in internal information transfer. It examines where the information comes from, how it is used, by whom and for what purpose. Knowing this can support the development of strategies for rationalising the cost of information purchased, for assurance that the information used is of an appropriate quality (current, complete, authoritative and fit for purpose) that meets compliance requirements, and that internal information transfers are as efficient as possible.

A successful audit requires a diverse range of skills and expertise within the audit team. Although an information audit has a framework and an established process, experience in the principles of project management and change management are critical to its success. Those conducting the audit must have well-honed evaluation, communication, presentation, business writing and negotiation skills. Provided those skills are embedded in the team, the audit process is an opportunity for team members to enhance their own skills by learning from the process and from others.

Article by Dr Sue Henczel, Author, Facilitator and Associate of Fundamental Training and Development

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