Case study – Royal Australian Air Force

Air Mobility Group – Digitisation of Aircrew Flying Service Records

Summary

The digitisation of Aircrew Flying Service Records (AFSR) project achieved a successful transition from physical to digital with no interruption to business process. The pathway to this success has also improved governance of members' information for its completeness, accuracy, privacy considerations and movement between postings. The virtual workspace has also increased accountability by minimising risks around AFSR movement and enabling more secure and efficient processes. The project has also had a significant effect on Air Mobility Group's information culture, and has empowered all stakeholders to capture information digitally.

Agency overview

Air Mobility Group (AMG) is one of the largest Force Element Groups (FEGs) in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), consisting of approximately 1400 active, deployed and reserve personnel. AMG's 13 Units/Squadrons (SQNs) operate six aircraft types from four RAAF locations (Amberley, Canberra, Richmond, Townsville), delivering personnel, cargo and equipment wherever it is needed globally for Defence operations and humanitarian assistance. Aircrew personnel make up one third of AMG and include; Pilots, Air Combat Officers, Loadmasters and Crew Attendants.

Introduction

Before commencing aircrew training, aircrew personnel have an AFSR File created. Traditionally this process involves placing the member's details onto a physical AFSR file cover; however this has not included recording the file in the Defence approved record keeping system. During a member's career it's possible for several physical AFSR file covers to be created, or for the physical files to be misplaced during posting changes, or - through a lack of knowledge, or assuming information is no longer required – for physical files to be inappropriately discarded. However the sensitivity of the information has been recognised, with the physical AFSR files held in a secure room, with access controlled by a request through the unit's registry staff.

Project objectives

To:

  • meet the requirements of the Government's Digital Transition Policy and the National Archives Digital Continuity 2020 Policy,
  • ensure each member's file is a complete record of their flying service,
  • secure access to information and reduce the risk of losing information during movements. The objectives have been achieved by accounting for all physical AFSR Files in AMG's custody and recording each AFSR File in the Defence Record Keeping System. The member's physical file has been scanned in accordance with the National Archives scanning specifications. As a result each physical file has been replaced with an entirely digital file which also records:
    • the number of physical file covers to the member's file prior to digitisation,
    • the retention or destruction of the physical file covers after digitisation, and
    • reference links from the physical content to the digital copy. Each member's AFSR File has become accessible 'on demand' by only those with a 'need to know', ensuring the member's privacy and interoperability with AFSR Files.

Project execution

The AFSR Digitisation Project was established in early 2015, and as an Air Force Improvement project, it was registered on the Air Force Initiatives and Reform Monitor (AFIRM) which provides an overview and sharing of information on all Air Force improvement projects and their progress. The project was managed by the AMG Knowledge Management Section within AMG Headquarters at RAAF Base Richmond. In compliance with Defence digitisation processes, the project team submitted a business case to the Directorate of Records Management Policy (DRMP) to review the project's intent and processes, and then approve the project prior to work commencing. DRMP also facilitates a list of digitisation providers which meet the NAA scanning standards and Defence metadata capture standards.

Project outcomes

The project team consulted with all AMG stakeholders to ensure the collection and registration of all physical file covers and then compared resourcing the work internally, utilising a Defence Reserves workforce (which is very limited), against engaging an external provider. Following a tendering process, an external provider was selected to ensure that access to information was not delayed by a lengthy process of scanning internally. The external provider was able to digitise 900 physical AFSR File covers - each approximately 150 pages - within 4 weeks. The Defence Information Management Systems Sustainment team migrated data onto each member's digital AFSR File, using consistent naming conventions and metadata (including the scanning provider and scan specifications). Following migration, the project team applied a quality assurance process to the digital copy and recorded the destruction or retention of the physical version within the metadata of the member's AFSR File. As these files are identified for RNA, and unlikely to be excluded from GRA31, this has reduced physical storage space by 15 metres.

Project impact: The AFSR Digitisation Project has achieved a successful transition from physical to digital with no interruption to business process, empowering all stakeholders to capture future information digitally. The pathway to this success has also improved governance of members' information; for its completeness, accuracy, privacy considerations and movement between postings. The movement of members' files is now completed in a virtual workspace, a significantly more secure and efficient process than working with physical files. This improved accountability of each member's AFSR File has negated the risk of potential loss of members' files and significantly improved Air Force's ability to manage the lifecycle of the information.

Other comments

This ease at which this project has been conducted, and the improved access to information, is inspiring others to consider more file types in our collection for potential digitisation.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017