How $150,000 was saved in one year by transitioning to digital records management in one business area: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations

Introduction

In 2010, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) used its existing technology to transition the business of Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) to digital records management. The digitisation of the bulk of application files processed by TRA has resulted in immediate and anticipated future savings and enabled the streamlining of business processes.

The agency

TRA, now part of the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIICCSRTE), is a skills assessment service provider specialised in evaluating overseas trade qualifications and experience for the purpose of migration and skills recognition. It also provides assessments for international students who have graduated from Australian-registered training organisations.

The business case

TRA outsources its file storage and management. Prior to 2011, application files were sent to off-site storage where they were held at a cost of 24c per file, per year. Every time a file was accessed it had to be retrieved at a cost of $7.60 per file movement. In 2010, 13,100 files were retrieved at a cost of $108,000. The total annual direct cost for managing the paper records, including ongoing storage, was $232,500.

In addition, when TRA shared its files with other agencies, paper copies were created and retained at the agency's expense. When returned, files needed to be reconciled, and regular file movements restricted access to them by TRA staff and increased the potential for files to be misplaced or lost.

In their search for increased efficiencies, DEEWR performed a detailed analysis of its information architecture, mapping information and records flows, which identified stores, volumes, costs and trends. It used a data modelling tool to analyse options and determine possible savings. The results clearly supported the case for transitioning this business area to digital records management.

Evidence of specific savings in storage and handling costs and efficiency benefits of immediate access to the TRA files made it an easy decision for DEEWR senior executives to approve a range of digital records management initiatives.

The solution

Implementing the transition of TRA files to digital records management commenced in early 2011. Approximately two years' worth of active files was digitised at a cost of $115,000. Files older than two years were digitised when requested for retrieval from storage. Inactive files were only digitised if there was a specific business need.

New files are now created digitally in an electronic document and records management system (EDRMS) and all incoming paper documents are scanned and attached to the digital file as a part of normal work practice.

Managing risk

DEEWR recognised that some documents needed to be retained in their original format. The most common type was the initial application form which is signed by the applicant. The risk declines over time, and DEEWR made the determination to retain these original documents for seven years, after which the residual risk was acceptable to the agency and the original could be destroyed. All other paper documents could be destroyed immediately following scanning, quality assurance and filing in accordance with the conditions of General Records Authority 31 for source (including original) records after they have been copied, converted or migrated.

Savings and other benefits

A number of immediate savings were realised. File creation costs were reduced by $3.40 per file, an annual saving of $31,000. Digital access has also significantly reduced file movement costs, an annual saving of $108,000.

Long-term storage costs are also expected to decline. With the storage of one year's worth of files costing approximately $2,400 in 2011, the lifetime of storage for one year's files over 50 years would have reached more than $120,000. This cost is cut dramatically by retaining the paper applications for only seven years.

In the long term, further savings are expected in the sentencing and destruction process. Digital sentencing-on-creation procedures will create future efficiencies, with an anticipated eventual net saving of $12.35 per file from fully digital file sentencing and destruction.

Other case studies

Case study 1: Transition to digital information management: Australian Communications and Media Authority

Case study 2: Improved digital information and records system results in savings, major business efficiencies and good user acceptance: Australian National Audit Office

Case study 4: Digitising a business process to eliminate 'wet' signatures: National Archives of Australia

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017