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Friday, February 10, 2012

TRAC: A4.4: Managing investments and risk

A4.4 Repository has ongoing commitment to analyze and report on risk, benefit, investment, and expenditure (including assets, licenses, and liabilities).

The repository must commit to at least these categories of analysis and reporting, and maintain an appropriate balance between them. The repository should be able to demonstrate that it has identified and documented these categories, and actively manages them, including identifying and responding to risks, describing and leveraging benefits, specifying and balancing investments, and anticipating and preparing for expenditures.

Evidence: Risk management documents that identify perceived and potential threats and planned or implemented responses (a risk register); technology infrastructure investment planning documents; cost benefit analyses; financial investment documents and portfolios; requirements for and examples of licenses, contracts, and asset management; evidence of revision based on risk.

I don't think we spend enough time and focus at ICPSR paying attention to this sort of analysis.  I think this is true for all areas, including my own technology area.

I think the reasons we don't do this more are not unique to ICPSR.  People are too busy working on the next deliverable to ship, and are so caught up in the fray, there isn't time to step back, take a breath, and look at the big picture.  Technology assets are parceled out to a variety of grants and contracts, each with wildly different purposes, tasks, and deliverables.  And so while the management team can ensure that there is some consistency in design, development, and operating environment, it can feel daunting to try to figure our the Future World for such a disparate set of activities.

The culture, too, is very geared to nailing down the next grant or contract, and so there is usually a process for fitting the new work into the overall framework of the organization rather than seeking out specific projects that will fit an already identified in a plan.  That said, if the goal is very broad ("build muscle with video assets") then there is indeed an effort to find those projects that help meet that goal.

It may be the case that it is time again for ICPSR to take a crank on a very forward-looking mission statement and strategic plan.  And maybe a follow-on to such an activity would be deploying a process that regularly (quarterly?  monthly?) revisits those documents to measure risk, benefit, investment, and expenditure rather than activity, accomplishments, and the like.

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