TRIM Users' Forum

A presentation given by Director-General David Fricker in Sydney on 2 August 2012


First I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to their elders, past and present. 

Thank you for the invitation to speak at today's forum. 

It's a great opportunity to share ideas and experiences and, most importantly, information. 

For all of us - whether we're in a government agency, in business or the not-for-profit sector - information is our currency; our stock in trade. 

So the effective management of information including, of course, managing digital information is a key determinant of our success and is important for our future. 

Get it right and you improve accountability; you make better decisions and you're more efficient - all of which adds up to better business preparedness and outcomes.

The story of TRIM

I suspect it was this persuasive logic which caught the imagination of Brand Hoff - the former public servant from Canberra whose innovative, world-leading software blitzed the established business giants in the mid-1980s. 

Now I know it's not often you hear the words innovative, world leading and Canberra in the same sentence, but the national capital can certainly lay claim to both to Brand Hoff and to TRIM. 

When TOWER Software was sold to Hewlett Packard four years ago it numbered among its customers the British Department of Trade and Industry, the FBI, the United States Navy, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Not to mention around 85 per cent of the Canberra government market. 

I'm telling this story because I think it sets out the background and context of our conversation here today. 

It acknowledges that TRIM, if not revolutionising records management, certainly transformed it though its ground breaking applications. 

It was a system which brought order and consistency to information management storage. 

As well it offered a significant level of data security and protection. 

No longer could information be inadvertently deleted; it allowed a record to be kept of who had accessed certain information and when. 

And, most importantly for someone like me, it ensured the authenticity and validity of material it preserved. 

For many of us here today, TRIM has been around all our professional lives.

The frenetic pace of change

But as all of us here know, the frenetic pace of change is unrelenting and unforgiving. 

Technologies counted as cutting-edge a decade ago are now, in the idiom of my 16 year old son - 'so last century'. 

In a world where consumers demand and expect technology to not just keep pace with, but to keep ahead of their needs, to simply stand still is not an option. 

Looking ahead to the next generation of records and information management systems, the opportunities are boundless and we must ensure that we exploit them fully. 

Imagine a system seamlessly integrated with the way people work - capturing information at the point of creation, automatically identifying where it needs to be stored and locking it away securely and in context - all as a natural by-product of business activity. We talk of this often at the Archives. 

Imagine an improved, more intuitive way of finding information - indeed where information presents itself in response to your particular requirement. 

The ideas I've thrown out there go some way to recognising and consequently meeting the needs of users in today's market.

The challenge for the National Archives

As I said, in today's operating environment standing still is not an option. 

Not least for the National Archives at a time when the magnitude, access and speed of information generation and dissemination is staggering. 

Where once the information we collected was tangible and countable, we operate now in a global, digital environment with a bewildering range of technologies available to create, disseminate and manage information. 

We live in an increasingly hyper-connected environment where people and businesses can communicate with each other instantly and systems are equally connected. These inexorable megatrends are challenging - even to some of our basic archival concepts! 

The growth of mobile devices, big data and social media are all drivers of a process that has redefined relationships between individuals, consumers, enterprises and citizens. 

On the upside, this explosion in digital information provides new opportunities to redefine the way business is done - boosting productivity by generating new products and services and improving the way services are delivered. 

The flipside is that having created this huge volume of information it potentially needs to be stored and managed and to be of longer term benefit to us. 

These incredible developments in digital technology also play a role in the Australian Government's very important objectives to make information more freely available. 

Former Special Minister of State John Faulkner describes a new culture of accessibility and accountability that's aimed at, '... increasing scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of the Government's activities and increasing recognition that information held by the Government is to be managed for public purposes and is a national resource. 

It's a culture where information held by government is regarded as a truly national resource; where the citizen's right to know is carefully balanced against confidentiality, privacy and security. 

Together, this new world of openness and accountability plus the ceaseless pace of change means a national collecting institution like the Archives must be at the  forefront of exploring new technologies to connect with our audience - the government and the Australian people. 

Passionate about the worth and potential of our collections, we are constantly looking for new ways to make them richer, better known and more accessible across the digital terrain. 

But at the same time we understand that in this exciting and dynamic environment it is important to find the balance between freely available and content rich information and information that can be relied upon as factual and authentic. 

This of course is a particular challenge for government and for our citizens who rely on this information for its evidentiary value and to support their entitlements.

Collaboration and partnerships

At the National Archives, it's our responsibility to do all we can to make sure government records are authentic, reliable and accurate. 

For example, in consultation with the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) we are leading the implementation of the Digital Transition policy. 

The aim is to move government agencies to a comprehensive digital information and records management regime. 

This is essential to reduce storage costs and the costs of searching and retrieving records as well the costs of legal discovery and freedom of information requests. 

But change can be challenging. 

Despite the obvious benefits and although all agencies now work in a digital environment, many continue to convert digital records to paper for management and preservation. 

Defeats the purpose, you'd have to say. 

Through the Archives' Digital Continuity Plan, we are working to overcome this - at the same time ensuring that digital information and records remain authentic, usable, discoverable and accessible over time. 

The Government's Digital Transition Policy requires that all agencies complete a whole-of-agency assessment annually for three years in the form of Check-up 2.0. 

Check-up 2.0 is a secure, web-based application for Australian Government agencies that assesses their records and information management practices. 

It's based on the Archives standards, policies and guidelines as well as international and Australian standards for information and records management and guidance and policies from other Australian Government bodies. 

It also has the advantage of giving agencies tangible evidence to leverage support for additional resources to improve information and records management practices.

Supporting transition and best practice

I'm sure we'd all agree that making the transition to meet the demand for more accessible information is complex. 

It requires a stronger connection between information technology and information management so that information management is integrated into all business systems and processes. 

The 2012 ANAO Audit Report No. 53 on records management in the Australian public service looks closely at the integration of information management into IT systems. 

The report recommends that records management needs and functionality should be a top priority when agencies select, develop or upgrade any of their business systems. 

Agencies ignore this advice at their own peril. 

Systems without appropriate records management functionality create the risk that inaccurate or incomplete information will be accessed and used when decisions are made. 

It can also compromise the handling of legal and policy requirements including responding to freedom of information requests. 

Clearly it's in everyone's interests to establish and maintain best practice standards in records management. 

The Archives is taking an active and hands on role in establishing world class standards. 

For example, there are a number of standards that address records management functionality in electronic systems such as International Standard 16175 - functional requirements for records in electronic business environments (ISO 16175). 

Already endorsed in other countries, ISO 16175 has recently been published by Standards Australia as a joint Australia - New Zealand standard. This standard has been endorsed by the National Archives for use in Australian Government agencies and specifies the functional requirements for systems that contain records. 

And we encourage records managers, developers and vendors to use this standard to undertake independent assessments of their own systems. 

For vendors this means a consistent specification to guide refinement of current solutions or the development of new systems across international boundaries. 

For records managers ISO 16175 can help them define the records management functionality they need when building, upgrading or purchasing business and records management systems. 

It also helps them to effectively review the records management functionality of their existing business systems.

Conclusion – working together for optimum results

I want to finish by stressing the importance of partnerships and collaboration as we continue to navigate a rapidly changing information management environment. 

All of us operating in this space have a critical role to play. 

At the Archives, we will continue to emphasise to vendors the importance of developing new solutions to meet new challenges. 

For all of us to meet our obligations and responsibilities it is vital that we drive the research and development that can lead to better practice, improved solutions and greater innovation. 

This is certainly something that is a top priority for the Archives - in consultation with records managers and IT vendors. 

The IT industry also has a key role to play through its vast reach across the information management environment which goes far beyond e-discovery solutions like TRIM. However we are still concerned about the obvious disconnect over the last decade between ICT systems and the management of information in them which is essentially the very reason for their existence. 

The industry has the capacity to meet these challenges with business continuity solutions, for example HP Data Protector, with software infrastructure solutions like the Autonomy products and with storage solutions including cloud computing. 

The business imperative to innovate to meet new challenges is obvious. 

If we don't seriously strive to get on top of these issues today, what hope have we got of coping in the future. 

Again thank you for inviting me here today. 

Enjoy the forum.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019