First impressions as Head of Information Management

An interview with Magnus Bruun Rasmussen
31 December 2020
Magnus and the team of truck drivers in Erbil, Northern Iraq, 2014. Photo: Magnus Bruun Rasmussen

In September 2020, Magnus became Head of the Information Management team in Rome. After four months in the job, we seized the New Year as an opportunity to interview him about his work and background.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to take on this role with the Logistics Cluster?

My nationality is Danish, and I come with a mixed bag of WFP and private sector experience. I actually first came across the Logistics Cluster in 2012, when I was an intern with the WFP Somalia office in Nairobi. Our paths have crossed several times since, including Iraq 2014, and I’ve always enjoyed seeing the work of the Cluster in action. Having been a bit in and out of WFP I spent some years in the private sector, working with software companies and tech start-ups, but in the past three years I have worked with WFP on Climate and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) activities and institutional capacity strengthening. So why the Logistics Cluster, you might ask? Is there a cooler place to work would be my answer, and then combining it with digital solutions and information management, that just makes for a great match! I have joined a team with so many officers with extensive logistics experience, so being able to bring in some of my diverse experience is just amazing.

 

Loading of humanitarian aid at 4 a.m. in Erbil, Northern Iraq, 2014. Photo: Magnus Bruun Rasmussen

Loading of humanitarian aid in Erbil, Northern Iraq, 2014. Photo: Magnus Bruun Rasmussen

 

Having been with the Logistics Cluster for four months now, what are your first thoughts and observations?

The institutional experience is at a level I have not encountered before. This team talks about complex emergencies like I discuss the weather with my mother. The critical difference is that they know what they are talking about! Personally, I have very few meteorological insights! Another striking observation is the passion for the work they all do - they all love it. I guess that’s also why they do it so well.  With such devotion also comes flexibility and commitment, which has made it “easy” to join the Logistics Cluster on both a professional and personal level. On an organisational level I quickly realised that I have lot to learn in terms of the role of the Logistics Cluster and our mandate, it is honestly much more complicated than I had imagined. All in all, I’m just impressed by my colleagues and how they handle their responsibilities and their workload daily.

 

Why Information Management?

There are so many layers to this line of work. A key role of the HQ information management team is of course the daily support to the 16 Cluster and Sector operations, but beyond that there is so much more to this workstream. As with many other organisations’, information management is a cross cutting workstream. This enables us to play a key role in everything from preparedness projects, to operational analysis and digital development projects. Within the Cluster information management offers so many opportunities, so in this regard I don’t think you need to have a specific academic profile. You need to want to tell the success stories of our teams around the world and have the ability to analyse the reasons for failure, because failure is part of the game. Failure is never fun, but as we are often first movers it’s something we experience from time to time, we learn from it and then we move on. Coming back to the question, why information management? I would answer: because we capture and tell stories and that’s something I truly enjoy! And if people don’t understand the story we are telling, then we are not doing it well enough.

 

Magnus in Kenya, 2019. Photo: Magnus Bruun Rasmussen

Magnus in Kenya, 2019. Photo: Magnus Bruun Rasmussen

 

Where do you see the information management for the Logistics Cluster going in 2021?

Information management for the Logistics Cluster has been fundamental to capture, report and catalogue key logistics information, events and operations. We have also been good at collecting all sort of data from all our operations, but our ability and strategic decision to convert this into tangible information solutions has been somewhat limited. What I wish to see is that we can transform the huge amount of data we collect on a daily basis into solutions that makes it easier to make the right decision. We must strive to deliver detailed and accurate information to the right people at the right time, thus enabling them to make the informed decision in a timely manner. This task in itself will be a huge undertaking and challenge the way we have previously collected and analysed data. The next big step is then how we make it easier to disseminate our findings to those who need it. The idea or vision to use a grand term, is to establish an approach where all the information we gather from partners and other sources, in the shortest amount of time, is transformed into an analytic solution that can be used to enable and support operations. For this to be a reality we need to start moving away from the idea of information products and move to the concept of information solutions. This work had already started long before I joined, and Martin Keitsch and the preparedness team will launch the first of such solutions in January: it’s called Log:IE and its great. I will let him do all the explaining once they are ready.

Now let’s get through the last days of 2020, and as colleagues told me today “2021 is going to be great and we are going to do great things”