6 August 2012

Email, what email

inside a computer hard disk: precision is vital
Whilst the components of a hard disk have to be manufactured to very fine tolerances inside a clean room the files that get stored on a hard disk or wiped or just not bothered about are down to the user who may well not have such built-in perfection.

A few months ago Mr Mustard asked about email policies. He did this for two reasons. Firstly because one senior officer keeps all their emails for ever (the cautious accountant type) and the other (the over promoted out of their depth type) didn't have the ones they sent just 60 days prior (not that Mr Mustard believed their answer).

The second reason is that the staff change often and so you can find yourself having written to someone who has left and your emails are simply left to rot most of the time. Mr Mustard thought there must be policies on this type of thing as, after all, email has been around since 1971 and in common use for about 20 years. That is, however, far too soon for Barnet Council to have cobbled together a policy on such matters; ask again in about 2050.

So, retention policy i.e. how long should emails be stored for?

I am writing to inform you that the information you requested is not held by London Borough of Barnet.

Presently the council has no defined e-mail retention policy. This has recently been identified as a weakness (do try not to laugh at how utterly rubbish the council are, they are messing about with our money) by the council’s Information Governance Council, and is currently being addressed within the Information Governance Programme. The London Borough of Barnet do not presently have a comprehensive e-mail archiving system, users are currently using E-mail archives stored in Outlook personal folders (PSTs). This situation is not considered satisfactory. (Anyone would think that Jeff Lustig had written this answer. It's the sort of joke he likes - masterful understatement - as in really meaning "This situation is due to criminally negligent behaviour").

An email archiving solution that provides effective data tagging, and allows retention and sharing to be well controlled is being actively investigated. (currently emails are not controlled at all)

Currently the live outlook e-mail backups are stored for 12 months (aah, might have to ask someone to look in those)

There is currently no corporate policy on how emails are dealt with for staff leaving the council. Line managers have a responsibility to determine the operational dependencies on leavers email, and can request ongoing access to leavers email for an appropriate period. What this means for the public is that you can email a member of staff who has left, wait weeks for a reply and then find out that the staff member has left. There should be a policy in which emails are either forwarded to another staff member and you get an out-of-office reply giving you their contact details or the relevant manager should monitor the inbox and forward messages around the team as required or even deal with some of them. Would that be what a customer centric council would do. Doubtless emails sent to staff who have left are ignored when statistics are compiled.

Richard Cornelius has recently written that he has been converted to the One Barnet programme, a programme in which £1bn of business will be outsourced for the next decade. The same people running the One Barnet programme, the current senior management team are presiding over an administration that doesn't even properly manage the basics: we have 

offices being occupied without leases, 
over £1m being spent on unlicensed security, 
data centres that were at risk of rats gnawing through cables, 
a £70,000 fine for data loss, 
interim managers at the thick of the Town Hall Tax Dodging, 
a loss of about £1.5m to the pension fund when Connaught went bust because they hadn't got the agreed bond in place 

and now we find that the council can't even keep emails properly which is the 2012 equivalent of putting pieces of paper neatly into files, something that old school town hall clerks were really good at.

However, this is One Barnet where management are too busy with aspirational savings to deal with necessary routine. I wouldn't be in too much of a rush Cllr Richard Cornelius to put your faith in the serial failures that take such poor decisions. Are you sure you know what you are doing?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

1 comment:

  1. It's an open door to corruption, is it not?

    But then, we knew about corruption already.


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