Keeping records in trim

Keeping records in trim

By Rodney Appleyard

When the switch was made from managing only paper-based records to the incorporation of electronic document record-keeping, organisations such as TransGrid did not foresee the potential problems that would arise from trying to control both types of documents. Now many are playing catch up before their operations sink under an avalanche of information overload.

TransGrid has faced increasing regulatory pressure by government legislation over the past few years-such as the State Records Act-to ensure that its record keeping processes match the guidelines. It found it so difficult to cope with the management of many historical and new records that it reached a point when it could either sink or swim. Thankfully, they chose to use Tower Software's TRIM electronic document and records management system, TRIM Captura, just in the nick of time to keep the State-run organisation buoyant. It has since upgraded this system to TRIM Context.

TansGrid is a (Statutory) State Owned Corporation responsible for the management and development of the New South Wales high voltage electricity network, transmitting power between generators, bulk distributor corporations, some direct customers and other states to ensure reliability and security of supply to all business and domestic consumers in New South Wales.

It is also responsible for the development and provision of engineering and commercial services to customers in Australia and overseas on a profitable basis. 1000 employees work for the organisation, which has 74 major substations and power station switchyards and covers 12,500 circuit kilometres of transmission lines in NSW.

TransGrid has evolved from the Electricity Commission, and being a "technical" organisation, it places high reliance on technical data. The high voltage assets that TransGrid owns have a long life service, but it was becoming more and more difficult to find information required to support those assets, potentially resulting in very costly failures or down time. The implementation of TRIM Context is helping TransGrid to capture this information securely and make it accessible to staff that need it.

TRIM Context is being used as the information management solution to cover the management of physical and electronic documents and files. These controlled documents are also published on TransGrid's Intranet site 'Transnet'.

Ken Carroll, the manager of quality and records at TransGrid explains why it needed to change records management systems.

"We operated an electronic records management system beforehand, but the application was very difficult to administer and there was only one person who actually knew how to work it. There used to be delays in getting files and it would actually take a week or two weeks to retrieve a document."

A few years ago, a couple of bad experiences caused TransGrid to look hard at how they managed their records process, and that is when they decided to adopt TRIM. One of these potentially disastrous events involved TransGrid having to provide records urgently to a government inquiry, but they struggled to find the appropriate documents because there was not a records management protocol in place. Carroll explains how the nature of records management has changed over the years.

"Ten years ago there were very good records management processes in government departments because a dedicated team of people used to take care of these paper-based records. People used to do their own typing and the records management process was very well defined. Then people started to create their own files on computers and this system slowly started to get disorganised."

TransGrid is still going through a process of rationalising all of its disorganised material, which includes 7000 folders containing multiple thousands of documents, including personal information and photographs as well as business information.

The TRIM system now enables staff to partition general work-in-progress documents from corporate information and finished documents. A structured filing system allows users to know exactly which stage the document is at and provides more logical administration, searching and back-up facilities. Documents can be saved easily and retrieved quickly through keywords. The system instantly sends back a catalogue of vital information called up under a particular subject after a search has been entered.

"It enables people to do more because they spend less time finding records. Before we got TRIM we could only create 200 odd files a year. In the first year of TRIM being in place, that had gone up to about 3,000 files, which is about a ten fold increase in the use of the records management system. We can now find a file in thirty seconds and print it out, so we've reduced the time of finding a file from weeks to seconds," adds Carroll.

He continues: "Without this system we would have struggled to comply with many policy procedures. People would not have been able to adequately control their records, which would have been sitting around in folders instead of in a structured filing system. We would have failed compliance requirements made by The State Records office, which does compliance audits of all government organisations. The time had come to sink or swim and we faced the emergency of having to restructure our records management system."

Michelle Phillips, the Tower Software Account Manager for the TransGrid account, explains how easy the software is to integrate.

"TRIM ensures quality control over documents, quick access to information assets, easy retrieval capabilities, and simplifies the process of maintaining documents with the correct information. The old system at TransGrid was too cumbersome and slow and would always crash.

"The advantages of our system over others is that it is built to integrate seamlessly with other software in organisations, such as Microsoft Word, so it doesn't need to be customised because it slots in straight away without any trouble. We offer after sales support too and the system is very scalable. TRIM enables the user to manage information effortlessly from generation to destruction."

Any documents can be saved in TRIM, including PDFs, images, Word documents, movies and Excel documents. It recognises over 150 different file types, so TRIM reads the extension of each file instantly. There are not any issues with capacity to worry about, and TransGrid feels confident that the problem of information management is under control because of TRIM.

The system has been in place now for three years, and Carroll is still teaching his staff how to use it as part of the original five year plan. He says that people are beginning to realise that saving these documents to TRIM should be the norm, just as people got used to email when it was first introduced.

With the use of TRIM, TransGrid is also planning to have all corporate information and the framework in place for staff to be able to perform any tasks over the intranet, "Transnet", such as applying for jobs and enrolling in Health & Safety courses. The system has helped them to escape the avalanche of paperwork, which threatened to engulf them, and now they are looking to move from their current position of control to one where everybody in the organisation will be able to operate the system by themselves without training or guidance.

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