Q&A with Tim Hume on #OneTRIM June 5, 2017

Here at State Archives and Records NSW, we love hearing stories of success/failures in recordkeeping – systems implementations, business process improvements, innovative solutions, etc.

The OneTRIM program which was recently implemented in the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) is a story of successfully consolidating six distinct TRIM databases into a single TRIM instance.

We recently sat down with Tim Hume, CIO, Family and Community Services (FACS) to talk about the OneTRIM program and also his fascinating views on recordkeeping and the role of the “I” in the CIO role.

Below is the transcript of our interview:

Q: How would you define your role in the FACS OneTRIM program?

A: When I joined FACS, it was called FACS but had not yet come together to act as “FACS” – we have the constituent  former Departments of Housing, Community Services and Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC). All of the “One” programs were named that intentionally to highlight the importance of the transformation to one FACS.

As an outsider, coming to the role meant that I didn’t have allegiances to a former Department or faction which also meant that I could come in and help bring the FACS family together and that’s what we have done.

We’ve always had excellent executive sponsorship with Anne Skewes (Deputy Secretary, Land and Housing Corporation) as our inaugural sponsor and Shane Hamilton, (Executive Director & Chief Executive, Aboriginal Housing Office) as executive sponsor for the latter part of the program.  It’s a critical part of success to have such a high calibre of executive sponsorship for major transformation programs.

I was the functional sponsor of OneTRIM and I made sure the speed bumps were ironed out, including negotiating with parts of the business that had competing priorities and different perspectives on the design and rollout of the program. I often played the role of mediator/peacemaker in that process.

Q: You don’t hear a lot of CIOs who sponsor electronic document and records management (EDRMS) implementation, what made you sponsor OneTRIM?

A: That is actually really a good question.  Even CIOs forget that the “I” in their title is for information and that they are not just technologist and any CIO who is just a technologist probably need to look for a new gig, because technology is becoming more commoditised and irrelevant.  As technology is purchased and the whole as- a-service movement means CIOs can concentrate not on the boxes and wires or the tin as MCT (Michael Coutts-Trotter, Secretary FACS) used to call it.

It is the information and records that are kept within and how we make best use of it and that is where the excitement is and will always be: the data analytics aspects and the whole spectrum of information from records, databases and analytics, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, etc.

I’ve been a very big advocate for the “I” in CIO and I’ve been quite a vocal critic of what has been happening within ICT globally where there has been a split between digital and ICT. I‘ve been saying bring it together, make it work as one, and if one part of it won’t work, and the CIO won’t embrace the digital aspect which is the business leadership aspect then change the CIO, because it has to be one in order to succeed.

Here in NSW, we originally had a Digital group and a CIO group, both groups have now come together into the ICT and Digital Leadership Group, a fantastic move from Martin Hoffman (Secretary, Department of Finance, Services and Innovation).

Damon Rees (NSW Government Chief Information and Digital Officer) is the perfect guy to come in and lead the ICT and Digital Leadership Group and build the bridges between ICT and the business that needed to be built.

Q: What are your thoughts on CIOs which place the information aspect in the too hard basket?

A: That’s a cop out, they shouldn’t shy away from it. The more you understand the information the business needs, the more your systems will reflect what the business needs and will actually make life a lot easier. The technology is irrelevant now as long as you have good partnerships for the provision of technology and services that you need.

At some point we probably need to take TRIM to market for the technology service provision so we don’t have to be the caretaker making sure that there’s enough storage or enough processing, etc. How we run TRIM and the information we put in it are the important parts.

Q: How did the OneTRIM program deliver in terms of cost, schedule and quality and what percentage of business case benefits has been achieved?

A: It’s a bit hard to measure the business benefit of having one records management system, other than there’s only one place to look for information and that there wasn’t anything falling through the cracks. There will of course be time savings for all TRIM users because of a consolidated dataset.

The program did deliver in terms of cost and schedule and that’s largely down to Ann Turner, she was a great program director. I knew Ann was the perfect person to lead the program of bringing our TRIM instances together.

We had both technology and business information consolidation issues that we needed to resolve as part of the OneTRIM program. The change management aspect needed somebody like Ann with that infectious enthusiasm and leadership and quality of thought that she had, to be able to get the project across, she did a great job.

Q: What, if any, outcomes were different to your expectations?

A: We did a proof of concept in the Aboriginal Housing Office of removing share drives and storing everything to our records management system. I hadn’t expected that to go quite as smoothly as it did as it is tough to give up such entrenched shared drive usage. I think that is an endorsement of Shane and his leadership to that business too, to say it can be done and how it can be done. This is a relatively small (in size but not importance to the work of FACS) part of the business, but that was a great example for when we wanted to roll it out across to FACS to show that there is a way to do it and that the staff will benefit from it and it is not quite as spooky as they thought.

Q: Are you thinking / planning of removing share drives in other areas of FACS?

A: Yes, removing share drives in other areas of FACS is the long term vision. It will be a big job because we will know moving to TRIM and storing everything there is not the problem, it is about going through the share drives and deciding what needs to be archived and what needs to be migrated to TRIM.

The migration aspect will be the hard part because our TRIM database is relatively small compared to the size of our share drives and personal drives, it’s probably a 20 to 1 ratio of the size. Moving all of it with that amount of data into TRIM will be a disaster, it needs to be filtered and people need to put some effort to do that and the change management aspect of that will be difficult.

We are exploring strategies of removing our share drives. For example, we are thinking of moving records into an area that could be made read only and having a period of restrictive request. Staff can still request for those documents and we can make those readily available.

Q: Why do you think the program has been successful?

A: The pain of running multiple systems worked to our advantage. The program has been successful because there was benefit to the end user of moving to one TRIM, they came as active participants most of the time. I think what probably lead to the success of the program has been people wanting their jobs to be easier and being able to find things when they search for them.

Q: How much support did FACS receive from other agencies / external stakeholders and how much of that support helped the program?

A: The support from State Archives and Records NSW was very visible and very necessary.  Sometimes we need to ride the moral high ground and do the right thing and because we have just been through some royal commissions where records are very important part of the closure for some of these clients trying to close out very difficult periods of their lives and without those records they may have not been able to do it.

The support from DFSI and State Archives and Records NSW in implementing solutions like OneTRIM was awesome. With OneSAP and OneTRIM solutions, we have proven that machinery of government changes can be a reconfiguration and not a reimplementation.

Q: In terms of your role in OneTRIM program are there things you would have done differently?

A: If I’ve known we could got to what we have without causing a world war, I might have broadened the scope to include the journey to get rid of share drives as a second phase, immediately running after the first program.  I still would have broken it up though, it’s really good to break things into bite-size chunks and that you don’t create a monolithic program that just goes on and on.  It’s a mild regret because we are planning it now. I could have kept Ann on and it might have been an easier job than a broken journey.

Q: Are there any learnings from the Aboriginal Housing proof of concept that you are putting forward to the next phase?

A: Absolutely, we are analysing that now to find out whether there were things that they would have done differently, because we are scoping the next project.

The Aboriginal Housing Office proof of concept is a smaller part of the business and it isn’t completely reflective of some of the pain that we would have with the other parts of the business. Corporate records, contracts and housing tenant records are easier to classify and manage as they have standard processes.

For the community services part of the business, there is a child’s life involved and all people are different, some people need more care and some people have had difficult journeys through the care system which makes the importance of records even more important. You can’t plan for that and you can’t treat all the records the same and apply an amazing level of scrutiny and spend a lot of money on all records, because it would have an exorbitant cost associated with it. We need to make sure that the process we put in place caters for the needs of the business.

We need to decide which records go to Child Story and which records go to our records management system.

[Note: Child Story is an online casework management system being implemented by FACS. For more information, please click here.]

Q: Has this program changed how you view recordkeeping?

A: I think recordkeeping has had a bad rap in the past and it was seen as a necessary evil and relatively boring.  I think the importance of records to the royal commissions has really shone the light on the importance of recordkeeping and the personal significance of those records to a child has worked in our favour.

If we didn’t have those royal commissions, we would have a harder job of selling recordkeeping as a compliance function and staff would have asked us why we’re doing it. We have a very real example now, how records will have affected a child’s life 40, 50, 60 years after the event. It is an ongoing obligation and role of government to make sure those records get translated into the right manner, into whatever whiz bang system we have in half a century’s time.

I think we will see records management start to become the “I” in the CIO’s role. The records will become everything that we process, because in the end, defining something as a record and something is not, becomes a very difficult scenario. Especially if 10 years later you may think maybe I should have called that a record because I wouldn’t mind having access to it. The more we can store electronically, the better it is, as data storage is relatively cheap.

We are creating a new virtual storage facility which is just as important as physical archives and probably more so. When I go looking for the file of particular care facility or home or NGO (non-government organisation) or whatever case it may be, they can get it the next day and not search for a long time for paper records in somebody’s hand writing that you cannot read.  We have exciting times ahead of us.

Q: Do you use OneTRIM yourself?

A: I do, I actually do. I have gotten pretty good at searching for records using keywords. I am not an email filer so I do not keep folders and it just a waste of time. I need a system where search works and TRIM does that for me and that form of classification just makes sure that I don’t search the entire database.

The MiniApp helped people for who TRIM is not their main tool, use it every day and the workflow aspects are really good.

Where there are processes and forms being sent around, they should be done through workflow and that’s when the records management system blends into everything else we do. And yet most government departments don’t use workflow and still have internal mail acting as a workflow proxy.

Q: MiniApp is of interest for us because we are trying to push the barrel of what we call by design principles and recordkeeping by design. With MiniApp we got the impression from Ann that it was almost accidental, is that right?

A: It wasn’t planned at the beginning and it came about in discussion with the FACS Ministerial and Communication Services team.

MiniApp has become a tool for general workflow and has become a self-policing tool to a large degree that people will put it in there just to make sure that they can work flow it around and that’s the great selling point, but it was a bit of an accidental hit.

Early on the program, I didn’t know whether we can expand scope to include MiniApp. I can be a bit of a scope Nazi having been burnt many times in the past of trying to include too much and then struggling to deliver on time and on budget. Those times happened in the very early part of my career and you certainly learn that you need to protect scope so you get something across the line and then do it in the next phase.

Q: So we also get the impression that the success of the MiniApp helped encourage other areas even outside the ministerial section to be more positive towards OneTRIM?

A: It did. TRIM is seen like a filing cabinet and that doesn’t appeal to people. Electronic approval through MiniApp is our selling point.

With MiniApp, I don’t have to print a document and make sure it’s on the right paper and single sided not double, and then can be signed off in an afternoon even when the person is in the city, that makes my life easier. Again if there is a benefit in there for somebody, they will tend to flock to a solution rather than just filing something somewhere different and having to key in some classifications data which is more of a deterrent than an attraction. You need to make sure the carrot and the stick are both there.

The role of State Archives and Records NSW is to help clusters and agencies in both their classifications and the level of security over those records, because there will always be opposing views, even within our cluster: who should have access and who shouldn’t; what should be open and what should be closed. Maintaining authorisations and who should see stuff and who shouldn’t can be really difficult depending on what the data is and what level of value and the leaking of data might have.

Sensitive personal data could be managed from the code of conduct aspect for there has no commercial value. Apply mandatory record restrictions for data classified as commercial and/or secret.

I’ve been a big fan of open systems with systematic audits of access in the past as it makes people have some level of responsibility on their roles and self-policing, it’s amazing how it actually works.

Q: What was harder, One SAP or One TRIM ?

A: That’s difficult to answer. They were both really good projects. Running four or five SAP systems was very hard. I think OneSAP probably was a bit harder as it touched more people and was more in people’s faces.  OneSAP also meant a workforce change and there were people that left FACS because of the move to SAP as a Service.

In ICT, we do lots of things that others can do and can do better. It means we need different types of people: we need analysts and project managers, not just technologists. We need to be in the business of government, not having the biggest ICT shop in town.

I have a very large IT team of around 400 people and they’re all good at their jobs, but FACS shouldn’t be the best SAP shop in town for that is not I wanted it to be, I want our team to be the best in child protection systems and the things that make us different.

I don’t want to have to worry about commoditised systems, networks or whatever it might be. That needs to be the responsibility of someone else who has that as their prime responsibility. One SAP was probably a bit harder as it had a longer duration and also around 10 times the cost.

They are very different programs at work but if you look at the importance of the work at FACS, SAP is an important enabling system because it pays our staff and pays our bills, etc.

However, One TRIM is definitely more closely aligned to the core business of FACS and knowing we’ve children in our care, records of what their history are and bit of their lives stored in our system.

Image credit: Word cloud generated through Tagxedo.
Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.