Finance declares end of TRIM era, wants a new way forward for government records

The Department of Finance is moving further ahead on its plan to introduce an entirely new Whole of Government (WofG) Digital Records Platform for the Australian federal government, replacing the predominant standard currently in place being HPE TRIM. Finance is specifically keen to explore a solution that will automate the capture and classification of records.

A report commissioned from consulting firm ThinkPlace interviewed 12 departments and agencies and concluded there is widespread dissatisfaction with TRIM or alternatives which are “not meeting the needs of users in terms of its usefulness and usability”

The report analysed 23 tasks undertaken by users within TRIM (16), SharePoint (4) and Objective (3). It found that the typical user was frustrated by the large amount of manual effort involved in managing recordkeeping.

It also notes, “There is widespread and persistent use of paper-based processes. 8 out of 26 processes described by users involved at least one significant step involving hard copy.

“The implementation of Records Management as a Service (RMaaS) will be successful and transformative if it is useful (users want to use it) and usable (users can use it). RMaaS must deliver on both of these for it to be used,” the report concludes.

Some of its findings were:

  • On average, in a single process people use between 2 and 3 systems to complete common work tasks.
  • The configuration and customisation of EDRMS vary significantly across government.
  • Different types of systems, such as email, EDRMS, case management and financial systems, generally are not linked or have limited interoperability
  • users expect that manual intervention will often be required because of their role as a public official and the nature of their work. When manual effort is required, users expect that it will be a seamless part of their everyday workflow. EDRMS does not currently deliver this experience

 

A Feasability Study published by Finance in May 2016 found that current records management practices are not sustainable due to the rapid growth of government data. The Study focused on EDRMS that manage an agency’s unstructured data.

The Study found that “Agencies have been working digitally since the early 1990s, but it is only recently that they have begun to systematically manage this information digitally. In the transition from paper-based filing to full digital record keeping, many agencies purchased an EDRMS as these systems manage information in a way that ensures that it remains authentic, accessible, useable and understandable for as long as it is needed.

“This Feasibility Study undertook a survey of [63 of 80 surveyed agencies that have an EDRMS] … which found that EDRMS implementations in government are not being used efficiently and effectively, and many agencies have not harnessed the productivity gains that digital record keeping offers.

“In many cases, EDRMS are being used as paper filing systems or as storage repositories and not as the sophisticated information management tools that they are. This is because many agencies haven’t yet investigated how to use the technology to its full potential. With total data storage growing across government at a tremendous rate, it is important that agencies keep only that information that is of value and use technology to identify and dispose of low value information.

“Without prioritising records management, government is facing a bloat of records of unknown value, while paying a premium price for systems designed to avoid such an outcome. Underused EDRMS in some agencies has led to inefficient records management. Within government this can not only lead to difficulties transferring records between agencies, but can affect government’s ability to ensure accountability of decisions.

“These gains will not be fully realised until there is a cultural shift within agencies and the general user better understands that capturing valuable information “on the go” when it is being created can offer significant productivity savings, compared to the old paper based way of filing “after the fact”.”

A new Position Paper declares that “The APS (Australian Public Service) is keen to move away from the paper paradigm and legacy solutions that fulfil the needs of a records manager, but are not designed for the general user. Evidence suggests that traditional records management practices that require users to undertake electronic filing in a separate records management system are not working.

“This results in mismanagement of government information, which poses a risk to government business, e.g. loss of evidentiary material from email and lost productivity or high costs associated with discoverability of poorly managed information.

“The vision for digital records and information management is one where all members of the APS can find, store and use information easily - where records of value will be categorised, indexed, managed and disposed of in accordance with Australian Government recordkeeping obligations.

“Finance will deliver a Platform to become the basis for a WofG system of information management. The solution will use technologies such as cognitive computing, keyword extraction and auto-indexing to ensure that all information is automatically captured and categorised, indexed, managed and disposed of with minimal interaction by the end user. Initially, the solution will manage only unstructured data.”

Following a Request for Information process in early 2016, Finance determined that the market was not yet ready to provide a service capable of automating the record capture and lifecycle tasks. However, it now feels that technology may have advanced sufficiently to provide a successful solution.

It is now specifically seeking information from vendors who may have innovated or enhanced their records management offerings in the last 18 months, and wants the solution to be cloud based as either Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).

The new solution must also be capable of processing all records in its first year from pilot agencies, scaling to all government records in unstructured systems by Year Five.

The Position Paper does note that the planned Whole Of Government RMaaS “will be available to Corporate agencies to use, but will not be mandated for use.”

The Department of Finance has scheduled an Industry Briefing to be held in Canberra at 2.30 to 4pm, 4 September 2017.  (The venue is the 50MC Theatre at 50 Marcus Clark Street, Canberra City. Webcast facilities will also be available.  Register for the event at digitalrecordstransformation@finance.gov.au)

There will also be a subsequent Market Day where Finance will accept 5-10 minute presentations on alternative recordkeeping products.

 

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