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Maritime Logistics Community News : Autumn 2013
20 MARITIME LOGISTICS COMMUNITY NEWSLETTER SUMMER 2012/AUTUMN 2013 BY LEUT MORGAN LOITERTON, RAN The Future 'Objective' of Defence Records Management At the 2012 Maritime Logistics Community Forum, Training Authority -- Supply and Health, CMDR Mick Slattery, identified a number of areas of concern affecting our community. Among these concerns was our collective handling of Defence records using the Objective tool (formerly DRMS); a casual observer could discern that our use of Objective is not ideal and needs improvement. The RAN and the greater ADF is an enormous organisation producing virtual reams of information across multiple functional areas. Aside from being a fighting force, it is, at its heart, a sizeable bureaucracy. Rules, regulations, instructions, policy, guidelines, legislation and orders underpin the everyday business of everything we do. Flowing from this comes minutes, reports, assessments, letters, briefs, e-mails, signals and myriad other documents. It stands to reason that we who are affected by this complex mass of paperwork need to be smart about the way we manage it now and for future reference. In December 2010, CN released a signal regarding the Navy Information Strategy (CN AUSTRALIA Z4P/WAA 170014Z DEC 10) stating that information management is critical to Navy's mission to fight and win in the maritime environment. The strategy has a three phase, three year lifecycle (ending June 2013) arranged along four broad work streams all aimed at improving the way in which Navy manages information. The Directorate of Navy Information Management (DNIM) administers the strategy. They are a very small group of individuals who collectively understand the criticality of effective information management. You can access a number of very helpful resources through their pages on the DRN Intranet. http://intranet.defence.gov.au/navyweb/sites/DNIM/ComWeb. asp?page=155953 The resources available include: • SOP and Policy (including how to 'clean up' your Objective folders); • The Navy Information Management Strategy 2010; and • Metrics on how Navy is tracking with its records management. It's the last of these resources that you may find the most interesting. It reports the number of 'loose documents' --- i.e. those records stored in Objective that do not comply with policy. The results may shock you but collectively, Navy has over six million records stored in Objective that are not compliant. DNIM updates the metrics each month and it can be seen which functional areas within Navy are improving --- and the vast majority that are not. There is the temptation here to bemoan our diminishing administrative corps but the reality is that this is very unlikely to improve and administration is the low hanging fruit that tends to be quickly picked in any cost cutting organisation. The issue is that the things requiring administration has not gone away and with the introduction of Objective, it can be argued that there are even more records to administer than we've ever had before. If there ever was a time that we needed a body of professional administrators it's now. Nobody can deny that we are operating in a time of constraint. The restraints placed on the Defence budget by the Government means that difficult decisions about manning must be made and this is an unenviable task that has to balance capability and capacity risks. But our inescapable reality is one of administrative burden and in the coming years, a focus on reintroducing administrative professionals would provide the support that, in CN's words, is critical. In the meantime, there are other things we can do to at least improve our information management: 1. Read the Navy Information Management Strategy. Although it has barely nine months left, it is well worth understanding the intent of the program. 2. Understand exactly what a 'record' is and when you should store it. All this information is succinctly defined in Chapter 3 of POLMAN 3 -- Defence Records Policy Manual. 3. Take ownership of your records management and get to know Objective better. Always store records so that others may find it 'logically' (i.e. in a place that makes sense with a title that is meaningful). Objective is a powerful tool which is mandated for use by all, but underused by most; read the SOP provided by DNIM. Importantly, set yourself a goal to address the problem and work towards improving Navy's records management metrics. These three things alone cannot completely improve our records management. The Information Management Strategy talks about producing a cadre of 'information management champions' which includes both uniformed and civilian staff. For Navy, the natural choice is the Writer Category. We in the Supply Community can develop our champions at each level of training to cover both the process work and management of Navy records. Our champions also need the support of all Supply Officers and our unit commanders. Bluntly, if the officer corps ignores the importance of what needs to be achieved, the efforts of information management champions will be seen as another stunt. Effective information management means that we can trust the information. Knowing how to manage records effectively allows us, our leaders, colleagues, replacements and subordinates to have confidence that the information we are accessing and using is the most pertinent. The frustration that often comes from using Objective can only partly be blamed on the tool itself and the network on which it is hosted --- the rest is our own doing.