Digital transformation underway at the DTA

Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), established in 2016 to promote digitisation of government services, is set to undertake a digital journey of its own as part of the Commonwealth Digital Records Transformation Initiative (DRTI).

A tender announced by the DTA on July 1 joins a list of similar RFTs issued recently by  four other Commonwealth agencies: the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman (Ombudsman), Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

The DTA with over 200 fulltime staff in Canberra is seeking an “innovative Software As A Service (SAAS) records management solution in order to improve their information management environment and practices and address their records management problems.”

“It operates its main corporate environment in a cloud-only Azure environment with primary tools within the Mirosoft365 product and as such the solution would be expected to be optimised for this identity management and security environment.”

While the DTA states in its latest annual report that “We set an example for other agencies in how we deliver our internal ICT services and products,” it appears each of the five tenders issued under the Digital Records Transformation Initiative (DRTI) will be decided separately and the DTA will not play any lead role.

In common with all other agencies, the RFT includes a list of user scenarios that must be addressed by solutions providers, who will also have to undergo separate live online Proof of Concept (POC) workshops for each agency if they are successfully shortlisted. Each agency is offering to pay separate compensation to shortlisted vendors for undertaking the POC workshops,

Each of the RFTs includes a requirement for automation of records capture and classification through use of Machine Learning or other AI technology.

The DTA also ask for “a single governance approach through which records managers see and manage records across multiple systems that facilitates consistent, effective and strategic records management decisions.”

It notes, “Record classification is traditionally problematic as it often requires significant user intervention when users may not consistently understand how and when to assign relevant categorisation and also relies on users centralising information outside of its’ normal business system in order for it to be managed.”

One point that is emphasised in all the Digital Records Transformation Initiative (DRTI) tenders is that the agencies are “not seeking a traditional Electronic Document and Records Management System.”

Some industry experts are skeptical whether the revolution being championed by the DRTI will be able to deliver the desired outcomes.

“The approach of managing-in-place based on records identification using autoclassification is a good concept in principle, but will not result in the ability to discover who knew what and when. That is, the manage-in-place concept is only as good as the ability to link a story together with good metadata, which is normally pretty thin in most organisations!

“So the evidence chain is not easy to discover with manage-in-place solutions, given the information still resides in independent silos. To overcome this, you need an excellent search mechanism, which is emphasised in the tender documents, but search mechanisms have proven over and over again that they are expensive and time-consuming to implement.

“Not only that, search is only as good as the metadata and contextual information available, and as I said before this is usually pretty poor! So in the end you’re spending a lot of money to get very little result.”