An improved digital information and records system results in savings, major business efficiencies and good user acceptance: Australian National Audit Office
In 2006, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) decided to adopt an electronic document and records management system (EDRMS) to enhance its information and records management performance. The chosen system, known as E-Hive, was implemented over 2008-2009 and then further enhanced in 2011. E-Hive has delivered substantial business benefits, including financial savings and improved efficiency. There has been good user acceptance throughout the agency. The Auditor-General speaks highly of the system, and all staff are active users. Most of them consider E-Hive intuitive and easy to use, and the system aligns well with their normal work practices.
ANAO provides the Australian Parliament with an independent assessment of selected areas of public administration and assurance about public sector financial reporting, administration and accountability, primarily by conducting performance audits, financial statement audits and assurance reviews. It performs the financial statement audits of all Australian Government-controlled entities and also plays an important professional role by contributing, both nationally and internationally, to the development of auditing standards and professional practices. Given its role, ANAO has a special interest in the quality of information and records management in the Australian Government and has addressed it as a specific issue in four audits since 2002.
The business case
ANAO had been using an obsolete software package to manage files. The need to replace this, to improve records management compliance and to strengthen the evidential value and reliability of information formed significant components of the business case for an EDRMS. Modest savings were expected in the areas of physical storage and back office records management staff. However, more significantly and less easily realised, improved staff efficiency was expected to represent gains in the order of $1.2M a year.
E-Hive was implemented to over 400 ANAO staff at an approximate cost of $440,000. There was a staged introduction as new audits commenced, and local champions and super-users were enlisted to assist in the introduction.
The vast majority of new records are now digital. After four years, there were over two million digital documents in E-Hive with a trend of increasing use. Approximately 2,500 new files are created each year. Desktop software, including email and Microsoft SharePoint, is integrated with E-Hive, and remote and off-site users are supported. Share drives became 'read only' eight months after the introduction of the system, and staff now have a small personal space in E-Hive for their personal documents.
Introduction of E-Hive was accompanied by the use of digitisation to streamline work processes. Audits gather substantial evidence – more than 20 kg of paper can be collected in the field-work stage. Paper evidence from agencies that are being audited is now scanned overnight into E-Hive in a searchable form using OCR technology. The scanned paper is retained until the completion of the audit and then destroyed. Digital evidence is loaded directly into E-Hive. Staff create their own files as needed and quality assurance and other information and records management actions are performed at a later stage by information and records management staff. The evidence base can now be hyperlinked directly to audit conclusions, which is a time saving for senior staff responsible for authorising audit reports.
In a 2011 staff survey, more than 50% declared they were satisfied that E-Hive supported their work compared with less than 15% who felt it did not.
Savings and other benefits
Organising paper evidence used to take around six weeks. Using E-Hive, this has been reduced to around two weeks on average. In cases where agencies being audited hold their evidence digitally, it is even more efficient. As a result, the timeframes for conducting an audit have been reduced dramatically from around fourteen months to between eleven and twelve months (by 15 to 20%) as evidence is assembled and analysed more efficiently. Fewer audit staff are doing the same or more work than previously, and they now routinely meet their target for completing an audit within eleven months.
Physical storage costs of $80,000 have so far been avoided since almost no new paper files have been created. Paper costs have also been reduced by $16,000 (about 40%). However, rationalising the use of printers and adopting double-sided printing as a default setting in accordance with the AGIMO strategy have also been contributing factors to that result.
In addition, a part of one records management staff member's salary has been saved by back office processes becoming more efficient.