Sunday 25 November 2007

Data Protection - Time to get serious

Patrick Lambe of Straits Knowledge has given a 'hat-tip' to me in his post entitled - "Big Mistakes and Failures of Knowledge Articulation". We had had an email conversation about the loss of customer data at HM Revenue and Customs in the UK.

One of the modules I am taking for my MSc is "Legal Issues in Knowledge Management". We have been looking at the Data Protection Directive, and have covered many case studies relating to data leaks and how data is stored in relation to the guidelines as layed out in the legislation.

The link I referred Patrick to was on the BBC's website. They have a nice page casing some of the major data leaks at the HMRC in the last 12 months. Patrick describes some of the reasons given for the possible failures at HMRC as reported by ex-officials:
  • the work at HMRC has been compartmentalised so nobody has an overview of (or commitment to) the whole process
  • many of the more experienced managers have left
  • many of the front line jobs have been automated or merged with other roles
  • many managers have been moved to new roles
  • a constant pressure to cut costs has hit morale (people don’t care)

Two of these points interest me most, and they both relate to two of the core principles of knowledge management.

Knowledge Capture/Retention - "Many of the more experienced managers have left". This happens in all organisations. If effective procedures were present at the HMRC for the capture and retention of the knowledge of these more experienced managers, then maybe this risk would be reduced as the new less experienced managers could refer to and re-use the knowledge of their predecessors.

Knowledge Sharing - "Many managers have been moved to new roles". Of those managers who are still with the organisation, but are working in new roles, the culture in the HMRC suggests that they do not have access to the relevant expert knowledge which they need to quickly learn the competencies required for their new roles.

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