2000 reasons for sound records

2000 reasons for sound records

David Lilley has been a leader in the fight to get appropriate records management practices built into Y2K remediation projects at the NSW Department of Fair Trading.

By Paul Montgomery

The year 2000 problem may have caused a lot of heartache, but at least one man is happy. David Lilley, record manager at the NSW Department of Fair Trading, is smiling because he has managed to use the bad news to turn around the records management practices at his organisation.

The impending crisis of the year 2000 might not have been such a boon, save for the fact that the Department's project manager for Y2K remediation, Glen Morgan, was a proponent of and had experience and formal qualifications in records management. Mr Lilley was able to ally with her to elevate the importance of record keeping.

"Traditionally, Y2K project managers in other organisations haven't got the information management background. They are either project managers or IT managers. But we brought records management principles to the project," he said.

"That's probably one of our major problems at the moment, those change management issues"

Mr Lilley said three business drivers have been used to push the adoption of RM within the Department: the AS4390 record keeping standard from Standards Australia, the NSW State Records Act 1998, and the year 2000 problem. AS4390 was adopted "very early on in the piece", and the State Records Act with accompanying directives from the Premier's office was a "banner" for Mr Lilley's efforts.

The Department replaced its legacy records management application, called CARMS, with the TRIM product from Tower Software in December 1997. The Y2K remediation projects are now being used as a vehicle to introduce TRIM to new parts of the organisation.

Contingency plans by the heads of business units within the Department have to be completed by June, and all of the systems have to be "shipshape" by October, so the work is still continuing after 15 months. To facilitate the process, Ms Morgan set up a focus group comprising 23 business unit representatives, including Mr Lilley, representing over 80 different business units within the Department. Mr Lilley used this to propagate standardised documentation for business planning, as well as evangelising the necessity of incorporating sound RM practices into the remediation processes of all business units.

"In relation to Y2K, we developed standard templates and policies that dictate to the users that categories of data must be registered in certain ways. They're just record keeping functions," he said.

One of the benefits of this approach was to save a mountain of paper. The NSW Office of Information Technology required monthly updates of rectification projects, and all records of these were to be retained in accordance with the State Records Act.

By integrating the Y2K focus group's documents into the TRIM system, the RM unit was able to avoid the need for paper-based documentation. All of the collaborative work done by and for the focus group was recorded electronically, and the OIT was sent data files instead of a few trees' worth of paper every two weeks. Additionally, every weekly plan remains in the TRIM system for employees to access.

The RM repository was not just used for bureaucratic minutiae, however. It provided alternatives to the obvious choice with each suspect application of either replacing or fixing the software. The capabilities of the TRIM database opened up a cheaper and more expedient alternative.

"We decided that, if we were running out of time, we could electronically 'snapshot' a database at a particular date, and capture it as an electronic document in TRIM as a record. It could always be exported to its native format," Mr Lilley said.

At the coalface of remediation programming, Ms Morgan prepared "certification documents" for each task to be filled out by the workers and their managers to comply with both the AS4390 standard and the State Records Act.

"It was mainly to ensure we had firstly documented all the work carried out and secondly, to minimise any potential exposure issues. If we can prove we have done as much as we can possibly do to ensure the systems are Y2K ready, and have evidence to that effect... then we can prove all due care was taken, and that should protect the agency," Mr Lilley said.


Few records managers in the public or private sectors would have been as fortunate as Mr Lilley in having a Y2K project manager who understood RM issues, but he said that there was still a threat available to government records managers who are still sitting behind the eight ball.

"I think it's the legislation. We didn't have that problem, but you've got to go into bat, the records managers have to do that, and lay it on the table, because they will be audited by the Auditor General's office in due course," he said.

Mr Lilley said the Department was taking part in a general shift towards the strategy of business units owning applications and IT playing a support role, caused in part by the Y2K problem. IT managers traditionally did not have the background in information management which was required above and beyond mere technical knowledge. This has meant that the RM unit has had to start "selling" its concepts to upper management by developing educational hand-outs and other "big picture stuff" to support the pitch.

"That's given us more of a highlight and [more] kudos. We're out there, we're selling it, and that's probably one of our major problems at the moment, those change management issues," Mr Lilley said.

One solution being employed is to extend the reach of TRIM to the systems of more than a dozen other business units via APIs, so that users can extract search "hits" from the TRIM repository. This process, which started more than a year ago, is only now being implemented.

"With our normal RM improvement program and Y2K, I think it's jumped a couple of hurdles," Mr Lilley said.

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