Case Study – Royal Australian Air Force – Air Mobility Group (AMG)

Case study for the transition from physical recordkeeping to digital recordkeeping

Summary

Air Mobility Group (AMG) adopted the Defence corporate EDRMS, moving physical and digital records management from each unit into a centralised system. Processes involved data cleansing, establishing a folder structure and training staff. Change management was critical given AMG staff often rotated with the regular posting cycle. Benefits include accessible documents, managing records remotely, using digital workflows for decision making and adopting a 'paperless' ethos.

Agency overview

Air Mobility Group

Air Mobility Group (AMG) is one of the largest Force Element Groups (FEGs) in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

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.

AMG Record Keeping directly services over 1400 active, deployed and reserve personnel, with its Records accessible by the broader Defence community of over 80000 personnel.

Introduction

The Digital Transition Challenge

Defence, in keeping with modern International Standards, has recognised that Defence documents (irrespective of type) stored in email, personal, shared, or backup disks, drives or folders are not compliant with Defence's recordkeeping obligations.

Project objectives

In 2009 Defence established the Objective Software suite as the mandatory organisation-wide document and records management system that would:

  • capture legally required metadata to meet retention and disposal requirements
  • ensure records are widely searchable/ accessible, able to be authenticated, and are secure from alteration or deletion.

Project execution

In 2012 AMG moved its existing physical and digital documents into Objective. This involved data cleansing, the establishment of an AMG-level File and folder structure workable for all Units/SQNs across the FEG, and change management to appropriately guide and support all AMG staff into new ways of working.

To ensure records in the AMG File and folder structure are managed efficiently - and are the 'one true source' of information - AMG transitioned from each Unit/ SQN having their own physical records repository to a single AMG-level digital repository.

This approach allows AMG to manage the repository remotely with limited resources and to foster a culture which values sharing and confidence with AMG information.

The transition to a single digital repository affected all members of the FEG and has required considerable change management. Change management is particularly critical at the regular posting cycle where up to one third of AMG staff may rotate jobs, including a large number of new staff entering AMG who need to quickly learn AMG Record keeping practices. AMG uses its Knowledge Management section to address these needs as part of managing the FEG's information, record keeping policy and training.

Project outcomes

With the AMG rollout of Objective completed, including the provision of relevant instruction to users at a 'how to' level, it is now possible for all AMG staff to correctly file any document as a record within the endorsed recordkeeping system. This ensures management and access to the records, from creation until disposal, in accordance with Defence records management policy.

Delivering Benefits

The benefits of moving from Physical Record Keeping to Digital Record Keeping are already being felt, particularly with the ability to now 'remotely' manage and control access to almost 1.5 million records. Additionally, more benefits are being gained as AMG culture moves from 'adapting' to the change to 'embracing and expecting' all matters to be completed as efficiently and effectively as possible in a fully digital manner.

Immediate benefits have included:

  • Establishment of a control single source of information, including a single digital repository.
    This improved managing the accessibility and lifecycle of all records in our collection. Critical Files and documents such as Orders/Instructions/Policy and Financial Files are easily identified and accessible to all users, including via connected devices (e.g. iPads collecting aircraft mission information).
  • Users have:

    • improved decision making and accountability
    • better – stringent – Document Version Control
    • quick easy access to information needed for auditing or parliamentary questions on notice
    • the ability to converse on the one current record regardless of their physical location at any point in time.
    • the ability to manage the retention, destruction and transfer of records remotely, eliminating the need for resources in each location.
  • Digital processing integrated with the single source of information. e.g. links from AMG intranet sites, links – rather than sizeable attachments – within emails, and using Digital Workflows for decision making.
  • Users gain:

    • reduced risk of errors/ misinformation
    • absolute currency, accuracy and reliability of published/ distributed information
    • faster access to, and better control of, information through document workflows, electronic document trays and alerts
    • an intuitive automatic capture of decision workflow metadata.

Project impact

Driving Innovation and Managing Change

AMG leverages the increased functionally of our digital environment to encourage quick acceptance across a diverse and dynamic user base. Innovations have included:

  • Establishing an underlying 'paperless' ethos as the foundation for AMG's improved Information Management culture. AMG users recognise their accountability and responsibility for information via digital approval workflows, digital signatures, Electronic Publications Bags, Electronic Ships Papers, etc. Documents are born, and remain, digital. One consistent File structure accessed by all locations ensures digital continuity; ensures a single digital source of information. There are far far fewer instances of 'lost' records and people saying "I only got this yesterday": the audit metadata improves user responsiveness, avoiding delays in processing documents.
  • We are all record keepers. In the digital environment all AMG members are records keepers and can personally locate records and access relevant record metadata. They are supported by a Knowledge Management Website, a regular Information Management Flyer, and Face to Face Engagement. These concurrent communications approaches have reinforced and accelerated growing user confidence and understanding of the value of information assets.

AMG has established, and is continually developing, a digital record keeping culture where users have an understanding of the obligations of Commonwealth records, understand the value and lifecycle of records, and create and manage records digitally in a Records System that aims to comply with the Federal Government's Digital Transition Policy.

"The digital environment has significantly increased the flow of correspondence with both internal and external stakeholders, regardless of their location". SGT Kate Williamson

"Use of Travel Workflow has halved our document processing time and returned the responsibility of managing the record to the member". FSGT Melanie Monaghan

"There are no delays retrieving archived records in the digital environment; previously it would take up to a week to have a physical record returned from archives". FSGT Darren Cutler

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017