Finding the information

Based on the data requirements identified earlier in the process, partners should undertake an information audit. This will ensure that relevant information needed by the project can be found easily.

The exercise can also be used to determine whether they already hold data that could act as a proxy measure. This will save the time and effort of collecting client information that might already be stored by partners.

Details will need to cover:

  • What information is collected and from which source(s)
  • Where and how recorded information is stored
  • What the information is used for and how it passes between systems to end users
  • Who is responsible for the information at both an operational and a strategic level

The Information and Records Management Society have produced a useful document to guide you through the process of an information audit. It is available from their website at this link.

Define the scope of the audit

The pre-agreed information requirements of the project should help to define the scope of the audit.

There may be particular types of information which an organisation does not wish to examine, such as aggregated data or invalidated data. Some information may also have legal restrictions or limitations and should therefore not be included.

Partners should attempt to gain a broad understanding of the situation, rather than try to analyse every single piece of information. Keeping the audit simple will give a clearer understanding of the task and help to avoid scope creep, which could compromise the exercise.

The most productive way of discovering the main systems and information flows is to talk directly to the people who manage them. Find out what managers are responsible for specifically, what information and systems managers depend on and who is responsible for those systems. It is also helpful to speak directly to the daily users of these systems as they may be aware of issues which are relevant to the audit.

Given that a key reason for undertaking this audit is to source the information required for the project, it is essential to document findings. This will form the basis of future data sharing and should consist of:

  • A list of datasets and owners
  • Details of organisational information flows including:
    1. Methods
    2. Formats
    3. Frequencies
    4. Special requirements
  • A list of the information contained in each dataset

To fully understand where information comes from and the way information flows work, it could be useful to produce a data flow diagram.

The example below may be useful:
Data flow diagram for antenatal and postnatal contact details (PDF)