Step 2: Find out what information you have

What does your organisation do?

You should start with a clear understanding of exactly what your organisation does. Pay particular attention to any core or statutory functions as these areas are likely to create/hold the most important information. Understanding the big picture will be of great help in understanding the value of your information.

What information do you have?

Finding out what information an organisation has is often referred to as an information survey or information audit. You need to work with business areas to identify what the unit does and the information that it creates, handles, receives and shares. You need to consider all types of information no matter what the format.

See more on ways of surveying your information.

Where is your information kept?

Find out what systems contain this information. Consider all digital sources, for example: Electronic Document and Records Management Systems (EDRM), Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Systems, collaboration systems, email systems, intranet, internet, case management systems, line of business systems, social media.

It is not enough to simply know what systems exist, you also need to understand:

  • the lifecycle of the technology – knowing when a system is coming to the end of its useful life will help you plan for upgrades or acquisition of new systems, migration of information between as necessary
  • interdependencies between systems – do any of your systems rely on other systems to function properly?

Your IT department should already have a record of this information so it is important to work closely with them on this.

This knowledge will help you make decisions about what technology you actually need to support your information.

Duplicate information

It is common for multiple copies of documents to be held within digital systems and often there is a good business reason for this. You should identify and dispose of any duplicates if they are of no business value. There are many tools that can help you to identify duplicate information including DROID  which is a free, open source piece of software that you can run over your information stores.

Documenting what you know

You should record what you have found out in a spreadsheet or database. Ensure that you have captured at least the following information, though you may want to include more:

  • type of information
  • information owner
  • how long the information should be kept for
  • disposal action such as ‘transfer to The National Archives’
  • why the information should be kept, for example, legal, regulatory or other reason for the disposal period and action
  • sensitivity/access restrictions
  • where the information is held

There are a number of templates such as disposal schedules, information asset registers and what to keep schedules that can be used for this purpose Your organisation is likely to use all or some of these. It may be sensible to record this information in one place but you should do what works best for your business needs. The important thing is that this information is recorded and kept up to date.

See tools below for templates that you could use or adapt to your own requirements.

Keeping it up to date

This is not a on-off task – organisations change and staff move on. It is important to appoint people to own the schedules and associated processes, which will need to be reviewed regularly and kept up to date. You might decide to review annually or at the point of change, for example, an organisational or technology change.


Information Asset Register template (XLS, 0.06Mb)