Sharing ideas to solve one of life’s great mysteries: how to successfully implement an EDRMS April 4, 2013

This week the members of the EDRMS Implementers Discussion Group met for the first time to talk about their organisations’ experiences in implementing systems to support digital recordkeeping. This is a new group facilitated by State Records to promote the sharing and re-use of ideas, tools and approaches for implementing EDRMS (electronic document and records management systems).

Members of the group engaged in a lively discussion about some of the challenges and opportunities presented by the move to digital recordkeeping. In the spirit of sharing, we thought we would summarise the discussion and some of the solutions to particular challenges proposed by members.

Membership of this group is open to anyone in the NSW public sector who is keen to share their organisation’s experiences of transitioning to digital recordkeeping. If you would like to join this group, please contact us at

The challenges are varied

To start the meeting, each member was asked to provide a summary of their organisation’s progress with transitioning to digital recordkeeping and implementing an EDRMS. These summaries vividly illustrated the differing levels of maturity when it comes to digital recordkeeping across the public sector, as well as the range of very complex issues facing organisations.

Two of the members are from very large organisations that consist of a number of smaller agencies ‘merged’ together. These smaller agencies have often been in existence for many years and may have well-established digital recordkeeping practices. Working out how to integrate these practices, particularly when a variety of EDRMS are in use, is a key challenge.

In contrast, one of the members is from a small organisation that was created 12 months ago. This organisation is keen to implement good digital recordkeeping practices from the beginning, and so avoid creating some of the problems discussed by other members. The challenges faced by this organisation include choosing an EDRMS that will meet its business needs and integrate with the key business systems used within the organisation and implementing this EDRMS quickly before less than optimal digital recordkeeping practices become entrenched.

Determining when to capture records can be hard

The members discussed the difficulties associated with encouraging the capture of drafts and determining how to manage versions. One member explained that his organisation is taking the approach that everything should be saved into the EDRMS but managing revisions and versions is then tricky. Another member explained the approach taken by his organisation where records are captured into the EDRMS when one employee sends a document to another employee for review or approval – this approach minimises the decision making required of the employee in terms of deciding whether or not and when the document should be captured.

Members agreed that making these decisions can be political, especially with organisations or particular business units that are averse to capturing anything other than the final version of a document.

Administrative change is very tricky

Three of the members discussed the challenges associated with implementing an EDRMS in the context of semi-constant administrative change. These members work for organisations that frequently acquire and lose functions (including the employees who undertake the functions and the associated records and recordkeeping systems).

Sometimes these employees are active digital recordkeepers, with well-established processes and business rules for using a particular EDRMS. However this EDRMS may not be the same product as that in use by other sections of the organisation. Should these employees be moved onto the organisation-supported EDRMS? Or should the organisation administer and support two or more EDRMS with different business units using different systems? What happens if the function is subsequently taken away from the agency and given to another agency with a different EDRMS?

One of the members talked about the work his organisation is doing to prepare for future administrative change. The organisation is building capacities to partition records in the EDRMS, maintain separate databases and tag records so that it will be easier to identify and export all records relating to a particular function or business unit if needed as a result of administrative change.

Document workflows are key to success

The members identified document workflows as a key consideration for a successful EDRMS implementation. Taking the time to work with the business to define a workflow and identify the points at which records will be captured can automate business transactions and generate a lot of user acceptance for the system.

Members agreed that implementing an EDRMS can be a good driver for effective information management change. One of the members commented that EDRMS are perceived as places to store documents when they are ‘finished with’, rather than places to work – changing this perception can bring business benefits.

Another member explained that integrating his organisation’s EDRMS into work processes helped to ensure that it would continue to be supported. The document numbers generated by the EDRMS are so ingrained in business processes that getting rid of the system would not be contemplated.

Becoming friends with IT can bring benefits

A number of the members described their experiences of being organisationally aligned with IT. Members agreed that although IT tend to implement an EDRMS as a ‘project’ to be delivered on time and on budget with little regard as to how it will operate in practice or how benefits such as improved and more efficient working practices will be achieved, working closely with IT has its upside.

IT is ‘where the money is’ – being aligned with IT provides the opportunity to receive funding for EDRMS implementations. One member described how her organisation’s project to implement an EDRMS is being drive by IT, so therefore has funding and organisational commitment. Records management employees are involved in the project, and are striving to ensure that the system balances useability with recordkeeping functionality and compliance.

One of the members suggested that talking in IT language is key – re-brand ‘records management’ as ‘information governance’, and make friends with your organisation’s enterprise architect as they are essentially working to achieve the same aims. Another of the members agreed, reporting that befriending her organisation’s enterprise architect had been incredibly helpful in communicating recordkeeping requirements to IT.

Members also talked about the importance of being involved in decisions to implement business systems. One of the members reported that his organisation’s records manager has a roll in all system assessment projects to try and ensure that recordkeeping capacity is considered in all new system acquisitions.

Change management is difficult to justify

The members frequently referred to the necessity of change management in any project to implement digital recordkeeping. However one member remarked that change management is expensive and can be difficult to justify in business cases. Many organisations cannot get funding for change management, so must adopt an approach of gradually rolling out an EDRMS across the organisation over a number of years.

What’s next?

All in all this first meeting was incredibly valuable for all members. Future meetings will focus on particular topics, such as establishing business rules, change management and dealing with administrative change. If you would like to be part of the Group, please email

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.