ITSRR puts data back on track

from DM Magazine July-August 2009

An Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) implemented at NSW's Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator (ITSRR) is one positive outcome of a tragic moment in NSW rail history.

Record-keeping is not generally seen as a life or death affair. However the the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Waterfall Rail Accident found otherwise, concluded that poor document management at the State Rail Authority (SRA) and inadequate regulatory supervision contributed to the tragic loss of life on the morning of 31 January 2003.

The Waterfall tragedy occurred when a train driver suffered a heart attack causing the Tangara peak hour train to derail. The accident resulted in the death of seven people on board, including the train driver.

A Commission of Inquiry was established in the aftermath of the accident, in January 2004. Its conclusions were scathing in their criticism of the State Rail Authority (now RailCorp).

Commissioner Peter McInerney noted that while "document control procedures exist in some local areas, there was no effective, integrated document control policy for State Rail and document control was not practised within the organisation at any disciplined level."

The NSW Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator (ITSRR) had only just come into being when the Commission of Inquiry was begun. ITSRR has three key roles: administering rail safety legislation, advising the government on the reliability of all publicly funded transport services within NSW; and coordinating safety regulation with the other two regulators of publicly funded transport: NSW Maritime (ferries) and the Ministry of Transport (buses).

At inception, ITSRR inherited a considerable quantity of paper records from which the agency was asked to produce documents for the Waterfall Commission of Inquiry.

The Final Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Waterfall Rail Accident was released on 17 January 2005. It concluded that effective document control is a critical element of a rail operator’s safety management system and made several related recommendations including that:

- RailCorp establish a comprehensive safety document management system that provided for the distribution of electronic versions of safety documentation to relevant staff

- ITSRR establish an electronic document control system to enable effective and reliable information to be gathered for monitoring the safety of the NSW rail system.

- ITSRR should have permanent access to the RailCorp intranet.

ITSRR had selected Objective as the EDMS vendor in 2004 and within 15 months it had been integrated with with core business functions providing automated document control with an audit trail and version control. There are presently between 90-100 users of the document management system

Chief Technology Officer Kevin Noakes said: “The need for an EDMS was identified early on because the organisation wanted the ability to provide certainty and speed in locating, sharing and accessing all their information.”

“ITSRR required a business tool that provided everyone access to a single repository that manages electronic and physical documents. It had to enable quick and easy access to information, encourage information sharing and improve our business processes simultaneously.”

Prior to Objective, ITSRR managed documents through shared network drives and paper filing systems organised according to function or subject area.

“Objective was selected because it was a solution that integrates well with our business and technology requirements. Objective also provided a highly experienced project team who had proven successful project deployments.”

“The Objective team were the experts in how the system could be implemented. We used their knowledge and experience to assist in defining how the EDMS should be deployed to best suit our operations,” said Noakes.

ITSRR employs Groupwise email with its own dedicated email archiving platform, and only selected emails are saved into the Objective EDMS. The standard desktop environment is MS Office 2002 running on Windows XP, over Novell.

The document management system is hosted on a pair of Solaris servers arranged for failover/disaster recovery, with Oracle as the database. A backup regime is established for the database and document store to ensure that ITSRR can restore the system to a data state that is within 4 hours of the time of failure.

Since the initial rollout in 2005, the EDMS has been extended into other business functions, with accounts payable automation the latest to be implemented in the past 12 months. When an invoice is received by ITSRR, it is saved into Objective, the link to the file is sent to the officer who requested the goods or services to verify that they received the product. Once approved the invoice is then forwarded on for expenditure approval. When this is completed the accounts team can pay the invoice. Subsequently, if an enquiry is raised regarding the invoice, the responding officer can view the audit trail to identify its status within the approval process. Fuji-Xerox MFDs are used to scan incoming paper invoices.

Paper has its place

"When we started out on this project in 2004 we did think we could go totally paperless and backscan all our archives, but that was a utopian dream," said Noakes. "There would be a huge amount of time and effort involved in scanning the thousands of documents we have on paper, whereas with the Objective EDMS we have a record that we have a paper record."

For the moment the 12 metres of compactus space filled with 8600 files containing paper records will stay as it is. There are already 180000 electronic documents in Objective

"Nowadays there is not much that arrives on paper, its mostly electronic, although there are some parts of the business that are resistant to change, and still regard a signature on a piece of paper as irreplaceable.

"For the majority, the Objective EDMS integrates well with how people operate. We have put a lot of effort into building solid business processes with good naming standards, a global file structure and good cataloguing."

“Objective has increased the organisation’s transparency and accountability. We needed a business tool that would instill confidence in our staff, the rail industry and the travelling public by assuring them of information integrity and credibility. As a regulator, it is essential we can provide this confidence.

“Objective has helped ITSRR to be more strategic in collecting and analysing information which assists in the direction of resources toward greater risk areas. This makes ITSRR more effective as an organisation in facilitating safe and reliable transport services to the community of NSW.”

“We make the conscious decision to keep as close to the current release as possible due to the benefits we reap from the new features. Moving forward, we would like to further integrate Objective into our enterprise architecture by utilising its web based services,” said Noakes.

ITSRR continues to monitor progress in implementing the NSW Government’s response to the Waterfall Special Commission of Inquiry. It reports quarterly to the NSW Parliament, indicating which recommendations are yet to be implemented (i.e. open ) and those that have been dealt with (closed). Ninety-seven per cent of the recommendations are now closed, including all seven relating to safety document control.

In 2008 Unisys announced it had been selected by RailCorp to develop an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) methodology and implement an ECM platform based on EMC Documentum.