Case study – Department of Social Services

Implementation of a leading edge EDRMS and best practice digital information and records management system


The Department of Social Services (DSS), through the Compliant Records Management System Implementation Project, implemented a leading edge electronic document and records management system, known as Arc (Archiving, Recordkeeping and Compliance) – to better manage information in a consistent and digital manner and to address information stored across disparate legacy systems. Change management and training were crucial to Arc's success in embedding digital best practice into day-to-day business activities and to increase staff confidence in managing information.

Agency overview

DSS is the Australian Government's pre-eminent social policy agency and is responsible for a large portion of Government's administrative outlays.

DSS works in partnership with government and non-government organisations in the management of a diverse range of programs and services designed to support and improve the lives of Australians.

While DSS's national office is in Canberra, the Department also has offices located in each state and territory throughout Australia.


The Department's core output is document based with vast amounts of data and information provided as a result of its administrative responsibilities and policy development. Data and information are resources of critical importance to every part of DSS business.

In 2014/15 the Department created upwards of 6 million documents stored across multiple repositories, including shared drives; personal drives; production mail; an email management tool and five different Document Management Systems. There are also a number of Line of Business systems within DSS which store documents, including the grants management system used to manage administered funding arrangements with service providers.

The CRMSI Project was established to deliver a new information management regime called Arc. Arc has been implemented to deliver a single point of truth for DSS record management and ensure the life cycle management of DSS records. Arc ensures compliance in the creation, capture, protection, security, tracking, access, disposal, storage and preservation of DSS records.

Arc benefits DSS by providing reliable record accessibility, increased compliance, increased productivity, increased staff confidence, reduced risks and reduced costs.

A critical step in this change management process in the delivery of Arc has been to identify what strategies, policies and procedures we would need; and then implement them. DSS has developed a suite of policies to govern Information Management within the Department and support the new operating model.

Project objectives

The principal objectives of the CRMSI Project are to:

  1. Move DSS to a single, compliant, leading edge EDRMS platform
  2. Improve the end user experience by consolidating the DSS approach to information and records management, driving efficiencies and productivity savings for DSS
  3. Revise and update DSS information and records management policies and procedures to align with NAA directives and associated standards and legislation
  4. Transition and train DSS staff on best practice information and records management, as well as the new EDRMS
  5. Post Go-Live support for staff to ensure usage of the system is consistent across DSS
  6. Contribute to the Department achieving the digital continuity 2020 vision

Project execution

On commencement of the CRMSI Project, DSS engaged with numerous Federal Departments to discuss and document lessons learnt from their EDRMS implementations. This key activity was driven by DSS Senior Executives to ensure the implementation of Arc would be successful and that any inadequacies or issues experienced historically by other Departments were fully understood and mitigated.

At the start of the Project establishing strong user and Senior Executive engagement not only built confidence in the project objectives, but also ensured the Arc solution is fit-for-purpose and has positioned the Department to achieve a digital operating model that works across DSS for all staff now and into the future.

The review and revision of DSS records management policies and procedures was the next activity undertaken. This work is a key component of Arc and allows DSS to align with best practice information and records management. Through extensive engagement with DSS business areas, the updated policy directives align DSS with NAA and legislative requirements, allowing the digital paradigm to be embedded in day-to-day activities across the Department. They provide consistent hierarchy of policy and procedural documentation for staff to reference throughout their work.

The Arc IT Solution is made of two components:

  1. The core solution (HP RM8 and InMailX (Email Integration)) –
    • This will allow staff to easily and consistently store corporate records in a single location. This system also ensures a compliant, consistent and straightforward processes across DSS
  2. Arc Support Tool Suite –
    • This will allow DSS to be at the forefront of information and records management across Federal Government. These tools allow for simplified automated processing of identification, security, migration of data, file creation and Departmental organisation changes (such as Machinery of Government changes)

A staged implementation and roll-out has been used by DSS for delivery of Arc. This has allowed business activities to be captured and aligned with best practice information and records management. This approach also captured any non-standard requirements and ensured business continuity pre and post go-live with Arc.

Training is a mandatory component of transition to Arc, giving staff confidence in their ability to utilise the system from day one. Post roll-out and following completion training and guidance material will continue to be available to all staff online. This ongoing guidance ensures DSS employees are equipped with the right information when they require it and also warranting holistic value for money for the Department.

A strong focus has also been placed on Organisational Change Management and Communications. These activities have been critical to reinforce the importance of digital information and records management across DSS.

In addition to this work, DSS is undertaking a Census and Sentencing Project which is a driver towards reduction of paper-file holdings and digitisation of business critical records.

Project outcomes

The Project has allowed DSS to be well positioned to continually improve its information and records management practices over the coming years and in turn achieve the digital transition 2020 vision. Through this work, DSS has successfully moved to a mandated, compliant and simplified operating environment that will become an exemplar for other agencies across Federal Government on how to implement and operate in a digital paradigm.

One of the key outcomes of significant importance to the Department is the improved level of staff confidence in Arc and the ability for this innovative implementation to drive efficiencies, while also reducing risk and cost to the Department.

The Project's success has been reflected in our improved Check-up ratings achieved this year. With continued focus and support from Senior Executive across the Department, DSS will be able to improve information and records management practices further in the future with additional benefits realised.

Project impact

The Project has successfully implemented the Whole of Government directives in relation to digital transition and digital continuity through updated policy and procedural documentation. This has been delivered to the Department through a Secretary's Instruction. In conjunction with this and the ongoing availability of training material and guidance, DSS is at the forefront of a digital future in Federal Government.

Through agreed monitoring and other BAU activities, work towards digital transition 2020 will be maintained and continually reviewed into the future. This will ensure DSS resources are working within an environment of compliance and simplified processes, embracing and promoting a culture of best practice digital information and records management.

A forum was established in 2014, allowing representatives from across the Department to meet regularly, monitor ongoing progress, discuss any foreseeable issues and continually improve how DSS does business in a digital paradigm.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019