Case study – Australian Trade and Investment Commission

Moving toward digitisation – Human Resources Division


The Australian Trade and Investment Commission, operating in over 120 locations within Australia and internationally contributes to Australia’s economic prosperity, by developing international markets and promoting education; winning product foreign direct investment; strengthening Australia’s tourism industry and providing consular and passport services. Underpinning delivery of our services is a fully global human resources function, providing a single source of truth on all personnel, employment and remuneration activities and transactions. The system meets mandatory requirements around information security, privacy and access as well as statutory obligations for long-term data retention.

Austrade is undertaking an organisation-wide initiative to simplify and digitise its information management and record keeping processes by:

  • consolidating information repositories
  • eliminating paper-based files
  • securing high-risk and high-value information from unauthorised access and removal
  • improving data quality and integrity through automated synchronisation
  • moving to a digital-by-default environment

Stage one has focussed on our human resource needs and has involved significant and tailored stakeholder interaction to ensure that the implemented solution met business requirements and streamlined operations.

The success of the HR roll-out illustrates:

  • a comprehensive digital single source of truth can be created to reflect the employee journey across a global organisation
  • previously unintegrated information sources can be rationalised into a single, structured source-of-truth
  • highly sensitive paper based records can be satisfactorily secured in a digital format
  • manual cross-checking information activities can be reduced and even removed
  • paper records can be eliminated in many instances
  • productivity improvements can be gained by improving discoverability and removing administrative practices, for example printing and filing

The solution has been recognised throughout the Austrade network as global best practice, meets the requirements of the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy and has provided great impetus to digitally focussed information behaviours across all levels of the organisation.

Agency overview

The Australian Trade and Investment Commission – Austrade – is the Australian Government’s trade, investment, tourism and international education promotion agency. We advance Australia’s interests by providing information, advice and services. We have approximately 1000 employees in 118 locations in over 50 countries.


In January 2016, the Chief HR Officer (CHRO) requested the IM team conduct an audit of the HR division to improve its information practices. In light of the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy, the IM team viewed this request as an opportunity to move the HR division towards a digital environment, acknowledging the high-value and long-term retention requirements for this type of content. Given the broad reach of HR into other areas of Austrade’s business, it was recognised that HR could model information best practice and influence the information behaviours of Austrade’s global network.

The challenge for this project was to achieve results using existing ICT resources (SharePoint), until Austrade was in a position to implement a full EDRMS.

Project objectives

The project objectives were to:

  • improve existing HR information practices moving from paper to digital, eliminating creation of paper-based files and supporting the ‘digital by default’ philosophy
  • drive organisational change through HR with the division modelling best practice behaviours
  • manage HR processes digitally, in a streamlined, consistent manner, eliminating duplication and improving efficiency and productivity
  • deploy a centralised repository for all HR records in SharePoint, with appropriate information structures and access controls for sensitive material
  • archive content that is of little or no value to the HR division
  • reduce reliance on network/shared drives to improve findability, internal information sharing and collaboration
  • foster collaboration with cross functional teams by storing information in a central repository accessible by all parties
  • protect Austrade’s information assets through reduced legal and regulatory risks

Project execution

A critical element of the project execution was the strong leadership and support demonstrated by the CHRO. The HR project involved the following elements:

Initiation and planning:

Focus groups were conducted to gain a full understanding of the way in which business information is created, stored and used. Staff at all levels across the global network participated to capture the issues and challenges experienced in relation to existing HR practices, process and systems.


The workshops and analysis of HR information holdings and practices resulted in seven recommendations to the CHRO to achieve greater information management efficiency. Initiatives identified to support the recommendations related to change management, capability development and systems implementation.

Design and build:

The first phase of the project focussed on:

  • designing a new HR workspace in SharePoint, with activity-based document libraries and customised folder structures to meet the specific requirements for capturing and storing existing information 
  • mapping and migrating data from current repositories (shared drives and SharePoint) into the new structure 
  • turning shared drives to ‘read only’ for reference

In consultation with the technical team, the second phase of the project focussed on investigating SharePoint solutions to manage high-risk/high-value information relating to personnel, compensation and recruitment records.

In the absence of a traditional EDRMS, the challenge was to identify solutions to mitigate risk and meet Austrade’s legal and Government requirements in relation to information.


The project team worked closely with the CHRO to: 

  • build a HR champion network to support the change process
  • develop a communications plan and training schedule to support the change, process 
  • plan an iterative approach to implement each of the secure repositories in the production environment
  • launch a pilot to a limited number of staff to undertake user acceptance testing
  • launch to the broader global network of HR staff
  • provide training and support materials during the transition period to both on-shore and off-shore staff

Project outcomes

The majority of HR processes are now managed digitally, eliminating the creation of paper-based files.

A major cultural shift has occurred from reliance on paper to ‘digital by default’. This is evidenced in shared drive usage reports and monitoring of paper-based files.

A central ‘Employee Records’ repository has been designed and built to capture personnel information. Data is synchronised daily between HR systems and Employee Records’ repository to ensure data integrity. An automated script generates a unique and secure container with a consistent and compliant folder structure for each Austrade employee, capturing all aspects of personnel information. This solution is shared between HR, Security and Consular teams reducing duplication of content and promoting cross-collaboration. Appropriate controls and monitoring is in place to ensure the integrity, authenticity and reliability of the information.

Using the power of metadata and access controls, the project team designed and implemented secure repositories for:

  • case management – to capture significant employment issues. Metadata is used to provide an overview and identify the case status. As this content populates, HR will be able to conduct detailed comparative analysis and/or track specific employment issues/employees
  • compensation register – to capture all information related to compensation cases. This is used to easily identify case numbers, history, total compensation costs and status
  • matrix of position numbers and job profiles – to provide a logical workflow and structure to support recruitment processes. This enables HR to capture all Austrade-wide job profiles and related information in a central location

Project impact

  • HR staff are working within a ‘digital by default’ environment
  • processes have been reshaped and HR now manages and shares its information more efficiently across the network
  • multiple information sources have been consolidated providing a comprehensive and accurate view of content for management and analysis
  • there is cross-team collaboration and deduplication of effort and information
  • staff have a clear understanding of the benefits of working digitally, leading to more efficient and effective work practices
  • due to their positive experience, the CHRO has volunteered HR to participate in a pilot of a new EDRMS solution scheduled for release in Austrade in 2017
  • the solution is recognised as best practice within Austrade and will be leveraged for other business areas as the transition to digital work practices progress
  • the team for this project received an Austrade Global Award for their outstanding contribution in conducting the HR information review and implementing the recommendations outlined above

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2018