Step 3: Understand the value of your information

All actions in managing your information should be based on an understanding of the value that information brings to your organisation.

Types of value

Information that needs to be kept by law

Certain pieces of legislation set out types of information that should be kept and how long they should be kept for, for example, the Health and Safety at Work Act. Business units within your organisation are likely to have knowledge of legislative record keeping requirements.

Information that has ongoing business value

Information of business value is that which is needed to carry out business functions or to provide evidence of a business activity. It is essential to work with business units in deciding what should be kept for business purposes. They have real expertise in this area and should know what information they need to go about their daily work and how long they need it for.

Information that has re-use value

It is also important to consider whether your information might have value from a re-use perspective and publish accordingly. For example, government is being encouraged to publish as many of its datasets as possible and the information they contain can be used by people outside the organisation in innovative ways to create new digital applications (Apps).

It is difficult to predict what people might want to use your information for but working together with, for example, FOI and Press teams and gleaning the views of those who have a particular interest in the information your organisation creates can help give an insight into the information that is most in demand.

Information that is of historical value

Information of historical value is that which reflects the ‘what, why and how’ of government and should be selected for permanent preservation at The National Archives. This will include significant policy documents, records of significant decisions, documents about notable events, persons or public issues broadly encompassing:

  • The principal policies and actions of the UK central government and English and Welsh Governments
  • The structures and decision-making processes in government
  • The state’s interaction with the lives of its citizens
  • The state’s interaction with the physical environment

Decisions about the value of information should be based on the content and context rather than on format.

Using value to make decisions

Once you understand the value of your information you can start to make sensible decisions about how to manage it. For example:

  • If you have information that is of short term value you don’t want to be incurring the costs of keeping it beyond its useful life. Storage may be cheap (and that is debatable) but it is costly to maintain, preserve and provide access to that information over time.

For information of medium/long term value that is required to carry out or provide evidence of a business function or that is of historical value, you need to have the right policies, processes and systems in place to ensure that you can find, open, understand, trust and work with the information for as long as you need to.

Ensure staff understand the value of their information

You should ensure that staff across your organisation know what information they should be keeping, why and where. Some common methods of doing this are:

  • Ensuring that this is part of the induction training when people join the organisation and providing refresher training, workshops and drop in sessions to ensure that people retain this knowledge
  • Printed materials such as desk guides listing what information to keep, leaflets and posters
  • Using information representatives within the business to promote the message and help staff to do the right thing

For more information:

Advice on retention

Appraising your records

Business requirements for managing digital information and records (PDF, 200 KB)

General hints and tips for digitisation for business use (PDF, 19 KB)