Finance calls time on the “traditional” EDRMS

A three-year campaign by the Department of Finance to revolutionise Commonwealth government record-keeping has evolved into a new tendering process that will require shortlisted vendors to spend up to 4 days each delivering online Proof of Concept (POC) workshops.

To reach that stage, bidders will need to demonstrate their ability to manage records held within Office 365, case management systems and a wide range of other repositories, including finance and human resource management business systems.

A joint tender issued for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman is expected to provide a template many more to follow for other Commonwealth government agencies. The bids will be assessed by a Multi-Disciplinary Procurement Team (MDPT) that will include staff from both the agency and the Department of Finance.

The tender documents specifically state that neither agency is “seeking a traditional Electronic Document and Records Management System.”

Instead, what is sought is an “innovative solution that makes use of contemporary technology,” and that ”provides automated tagging and classification through analysis of new and existing content.”

For the expense of providing the online POC workshops, compensation of bidders has been set at $A1,000 (ex GST) per day for up to four days) per team member, for up to 5 team members.  This is considered by industry to be well below the line for solutions experts that are typically billed out at $A2000+ a day.

It also appears the new tendering process will require participating agencies to pay the POC Workshop costs, which until now have been covered by the Digital Transformation Initiative project team and not by procuring agencies.

The AAT has approximately 1100 users with information presently managed in a range of different business systems, including Aurion and SAP, and Office365. The Ombudsman has 360 staff and has its key business systems include Aurion and Tech One, the Resolve complaints management system and Objective EDRMS.

According to tender documents, the record management system does not need to integrate with business systems, “however the response should identify any capability to integrate with these systems.”

The AAT’s initial focus will be on managing 200GB of records currently stored SharePoint 2016 on-premise (many of which will be migrated to SharePoint Online). All Ombudsman data is located on-premise, however cloud is under consideration. 

The POC requirement has been singled out a significant opportunity cost for local solution providers competing against multinational vendors.

“The process could lead to more innovative solutions, but it may also mean less choice for government. It is costly for industry, especially Australian SMEs, as they have to outlay the cost of allocating resources to meet these new processes, such as a four day proof of concept,” was one observation.

“This is especially hard for SMEs, as they have to pull valuable resources from billable work to deliver to the requirements. Ultimately it may mean Australian SMEs simply can’t afford to be involved, or at least will be more often inclined to decline invitations to participate. This will mean less choice for Government, less work for Australian companies, and expensive solutions offered by large multi-nationals.”

“Combined with all of the prework that will be needed, many vendors will find it a stretch to be doing these every few weeks as new opportunities are released. This model also really doesn’t lend itself to more traditional systems, that require a lot of infrastructure to host them, which takes time (and good operational support) to set up and manage,” observed another.

Another expressed concern that “the Initiative appears to be encouraging organisations to seek a technology “magic bullet” for record-keeping. The unpalatable truth – for some – is that no autoclassification algorithm can solve poor business processes, lax governance and accountability, or a fundamental failure to understand the organisational costs and benefits of record-keeping.”