NSW Family and Community Services has started migrating six datasets into a new ‘greenfield’ TRIM system under a project that will impact up to 15,000 users state-wide.
The director of the OneTRIM program, Dr Ann Turner, said the complex project was on track to be finalised by December this year.
At a high level, the effort brings together six TRIM systems in use by the various departments and agencies that make up the FaCS “cluster agency” formed under machinery of government changes in 2011.
TRIM – now rebranded as HP Records Manager – is an enterprise document and records management system. FaCS is moving from six independent instances of v7.12 to a single instance of v8.3.
“The critical requirements were to improve usability and functionality for operational staff needing access to records and information,” Dr Turner told a Digital Implementers Group meeting late last month.
“With a merged FaCS, we have staff that now work across all our service streams, which range from social housing to child protection to ageing and disability to supporting responses to domestic violence.
“These are complex service streams, working with very vulnerable people, often [at a] very critical time and [with] very sensitive, highly confidential information in many instances.”
Dr Turner said the workaround for FaCS staff before OneTRIM was simply to provide access to multiple TRIMs to allow them to do their jobs.
“If you were in a district office and you were working for the district director you would definitely be using four of the TRIMs constantly, all of the time,” she said.
“Your ability to switch between those given the completely different constructs of the datasets is tough. I know them really well and I find it hard, and I don’t have the time pressure that you would have in an operational, frontline environment.”
Dr Turner also said that while multi-TRIM access provided visibility, it also allowed the potential for errors to creep into some of the datasets.
“[Our] people wanted to come to work, turn on their computer, and be able to access their information in the same way regardless of the service stream [they were working in],” she said.
The six TRIMs “couldn’t have been more different” in their setup and configuration. They housed “different record types, [and used] different business classification schemes and different business rules".
“What that means then is that when people go to work in them they’re applying a whole range of different knowledge and skills,” Dr Turner said.
The vast differences between the instances and the ways of work they engendered also made it unpalatable to choose one existing instance as the basis for standardisation.
“One key recommendation that I made to the FaCS board that was accepted was I said we need to move to a new greenfield OneTRIM for FaCS,” Dr Turner said.
“The reason I said that was there’s strong cultural attachment in any [work] culture to history, records, documents and language, because when you’re dealing with an organisation’s records you’re dealing with an embedded part of their culture. There’s really strong emotional attachments there.
“The other difficulty with choosing one of the datasets [as a base for standardisation] is you’re therefore then choosing the processes that have been embedded in the actions or workflows that are entrenched in that dataset.”
Instead, FaCS spent the middle part of 2015 consolidating its TRIM schemas, setting a single records policy and set of business rules in heavy consultation with the business, and effectively preparing the organisation for a single instance of the system now known as Records Manager.
There was also a technical element to this preparation.
“Originally we were going to consolidate on v7.3 – [remaining] in a 7.x environment where everyone was familiar – and then upgrade to v8.3,” Dr Turner said.
“[But] we found an economy where we could actually move directly to 8.3 which is an upgrade rather than a consolidation. We probably saved six months by doing that.”
“The next thing which we’re doing now is we’re moving all of the records into OneTRIM,” Dr Turner said.
“We’re into the migration and we’re starting the training and support. And we’ll finalise [the system] by end of December.”
Dr Turner said one of the keys to the success of the program to date was the high level of engagement that she and her small team had driven throughout the FaCS organisation.
“OneTRIM financially is a relatively small program within FaCS but we get support way above the [level afforded to] big programs … because everyone feels very connected [with it],” she said.
Although Dr Turner’s own team is just five staff, the program counts 330 “super users” across FaCS and 200 “change champions” whose remit covers the supporting communications to all parts of the agency.
"When you have a merged organisation what you quite often have for a period of time is a level of business process immaturity as the organisation seeks to understand how they do things in a merged or joined way," Dr Turner said.
"When you’re rolling out an EDRMS in a consolidated environment it usually means you’re dealing with merging business processes and quite complex people dynamics, because you’ve created a range of uncertainties for people who are trying to do their work.
"That uncertainty will extend to what we call a range of locked-in variables ... the associated skills, the training, the companies that supply the technology, and all of the support resources.
"So when you change any of that you change the winners and losers around all of that, and you’re changing the commercial arrangements and politics from a micro to macro level."
Dr Turner said understanding this complexity was the key to realising success in similar consolidation projects.
"When people say, 'it was difficult to get this in' or 'this program failed', it will rarely be that they couldn’t get the storage space or an extra server. It’ll be that something went wrong in the complexity of the social and economic relations of that workplace," she said.
"As we know about 85 percent of programs fail because of the inability to manage that change, and I would contend that’s because they’re not seeing the complexity of it.
"They see change in terms of messaging which is essentially based on communications and training. That’s a very simple way to look at change. I think it’s something more complex."