Transferring information is a complex and demanding project, so it is vital that there is a clear plan and it is managed well. Your transition plan should include the following steps.
Start planning for the transfer of information as soon as there is a decision about any machinery of government changes.
You will need to:
- define outcomes and success measures
- assess and manage risks: to the security, completeness, availability and usability of information
- comply with legislation
- identify the required and available resources and capabilities
- ensure that the senior management of the transferring organisation, their parent department (if applicable) and the receiving organisation understand what is required, understand their legal obligations and responsibilities, and allocate appropriate resources
- refer to published guidance and best practice and contact other organisations that have undertaken similar work
- ensure the long term survival or availability of the information for future public use
- consider whether any legal instrument transferring public functions is the right way to handle information management issues. Primary or secondary legislation may already provide for the transfer of other types of property for example intellectual property
Define roles and responsibilities
The team responsible for the transfer of information should include officers from transferring and receiving organisations as well as relevant suppliers and should ensure they:
- identify and draw on relevant expertise within both the transferring and receiving organisations
- define who will do the tasks identified during the planning stage
- define joint and individual roles and responsibilities
- define ownership of the information at each stage of the process
Decide what to transfer
You will need to decide what information should be transferred (or loaned) and to where. Transfer all information of continuing business use to whoever is taking over that function, whether an agency, the parent department or another organisation. Transfer information of archival value to The National Archives and dispose of any information (using the appropriate disposal and retention guidance) that has no continuing business use and which is of no historical value.
Ensure you consider information in all formats and media such as:
- paper files, digital records
- emails, websites, intranets
- copies (publications, backups and so on)
- shared drives, databases
- tape or CD collections, photographs, film
It is important to capture the knowledge of staff from the original organisation, particularly if they are not transferring with the function. Ensure that arrangements for the management of websites and their content including datasets are made and that issues relating to copyright have been addressed.
The receiving organisation will need to continue to be able to find, open, work with and understand the information. This depends on the files themselves, their contextual and management metadata, and the technology that supports their use.
You will need to:
- define usability requirements for information to be transferred
- identify dependencies on supporting information or technology:
- metadata, indexes, documentation
- asset registers, audit records, retention schedules
- protective markings and access controls
- supporting technology and licences
- test against usability requirements throughout the transfer process
Comply with legislation
You will need to:
- identify all relevant legislation, such as the Data Protection Act (DPA), Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) and Public Records Act
- identify all relevant sensitivities within records being transferred for example under FOIA and DPA
- clarify responsibility for requests, complaints and appeals (FOIA and EIR) and prepare handover or guidance notes
- maintain compliance with data handling guidance and the Security Policy Framework throughout the process
- secure information assets for the public good by being aware of what information is subject to Crown copyright, and that such information is not passed beyond Crown control unless safeguards or assignments are in place
Deliver savings and efficiencies
Consider shared service options for data storage or information systems in order to capitalise on opportunities to increase efficiency and make savings.
Ensure that disposal policies are followed so that resources are not spent transferring information that is no longer required for business use or historical preservation.