We know that sponsors and stakeholders who believe in improved productivity and risk reduction from implementing an EDRMS have a significant positive impact on the implementation, and those who disbelieve have a fatal impact on success. We also know that involving general staff within the business in the project team and utilising the functionality of the EDRMS to align business processes with good recordkeeping practices heralds increased success rates.
In our quest to find successful EDRMS implementations and explore what makes them successful, the discovery of information management units which not only espouse these views but also practise them with a willing business partner has so far been difficult.
It was a delight, therefore, to talk with Maria Kepreotes, Information Services Manager, NSW Crown Solicitor’s Office in the second of the series of interviews we are completing with effective EDRMS project and information managers. The Crown Solicitor’s Office sits within the Department of Attorney General and Justice and it was no surprise to us when a few short weeks after the interview her team won the Department’s Annual Achievement Award for Innovation.
Executive buy in
The Crown Solicitor’s Office Executive understands their obligations with regard to keeping good records of legal matters. Doing so is seen as important. So much so that Maria’s role reports directly to the Executive. Her Information Services Unit is as much a part of practice management as any of the solicitors. The relationship between Maria’s unit and the Executive is such that when they have queries or misgivings they call and ask questions and seek to understand records management rather than make assumptions.
At your service
When asked about what she saw as the purpose of the Information Services Unit, Maria was forthright, “We are here to provide a service to our clients so they can provide quality services to their clients. We try as much as is possible and sensible to offer our clients a choice of how they can access TRIM and use it.”
It’s a theme Maria returns to often during the interview demonstrating a rare desire for an Information Services Unit to fully understand all aspects of the business needs and then design solutions which make it both easy for the users to access the functionality of their TRIM EDRMS and easy for the users to do their job.
To that end, the Information Services Unit has in its ranks the positions of a Continuous Improvement Officer, a Policy and Procedures Officer and a Precedents Officer. A prime purpose of those roles is to collaborate with the business.
“Initially the person appointed to the position of Continuous Improvement Officer had a training background, which was advantageous to the Unit as they understood our clients knowledge of systems having come from the Training Unit and especially having delivered extensive training to the Office. Over the last few years we have developed good relationships with the business and now the role is one which drives innovation in business processes” Maria said. “The competencies required for the role have become more demanding over that time. To succeed in the role the person needs to have the ability to analyse processes, have technical acumen and be a good negotiator. They also need to be able to manage the change process within the business.”
The interest of the unit in the business and the trust of the business in the unit is simply demonstrated by the ability of Maria to get interest in and approval for multiple business cases that have improved the capability of the unit and the Crown Solicitor’s Office overall.
One might suspect, given the service orientation of the Information Services Unit and executive support it receives, that managing change might be quite simple. However, this is not quite so. Maria’s team still have to deal with people who have to give up their tried and true ways of working when introducing new methods.
The key according to Maria is “To provide at the end of the day a nice, user friendly interface that makes the system easy for people to use.”
The pre-TRIM system was a tree structure based on “Matters” and the initials of the solicitor handling the matters. Users were familiar with their directory structure and did not like moving to a search methodology for finding files. To ease the burden of change a user friendly interface was created which ‘hid’ TRIM from users and enabled users to quickly and simply search for their documents without having to learn new protocols. To get over the natural reluctance to accept change users were shown how much faster searching was and how simple it was using the new system using their files. The ‘show me’ approach rather than ‘tell me’ has become a standard approach to managing change.
According to Maria, information management has been a journey of continuous improvement at the Crown Solicitors Office. Since 2003 they have been making minor and major continuous improvements to the functionality of TRIM and business processes. This started with scanning of all new correspondence and embarking on a project to scan the Crown Solicitor’s reference collection. The collection included scanning old Crown Solicitor Advices, Opinions and Submissions back to 1945, converting a microfilm collection containing Advices and Opinions covering 1918 to 1934 into searchable PDF format and over 90,000 index cards allowing the electronic file to replace the physical file. The project is ongoing. Another early advance for users was the automatic placement of the TRIM reference in the document footer and other metadata, such as the matter number, author and addressee in one simple registration process, thus minimising user input and error and enabling easy searches for the electronic copy.
Improving the ability of solicitors to complete their work efficiently is the driver for much of what the Information Services Unit does. Maria commented, “For example, one of our major challenges has been to do with emails. We have worked hard to provide tools for our solicitors to help them do their work. For example, we started years ago to develop a TRIM integration tool for emails, which registered multiple people’s emails to a particular legal matter. Then we worked on adding metadata without users having to do it. Now we are using linked folders so that users can drag and drop their emails into the appropriate TRIM container. In all, the time taken to register an email has reduced from 60 seconds or more to 1 second. We added 170,000 emails to TRIM between February and September 2010 and another 65,000 within three months.”
“By making the task of entering emails as a record in TRIM easy we have been able move towards a situation where we will no longer have to print emails.”
“We have been invited to pilot the use of iPads so that we can have documents in TRIM available in court ending the sight of solicitors hauling large briefcases and document boxes stuffed with hard copy documents.”
To ensure what they do is meeting the needs of their customers the Information Services Unit completes a client survey every year and uses the feedback as input into future plans.
It is fair to say that Change Factory and Linked Training are on a mission to improve adoption of EDRMS; to change the mindset from compliance to assisting the business to continuously reduce risk and improve productivity. It was a delight to get to know Maria and find a person, and a business, not only espousing these sentiments but executing them well.
© 2012 Linked Training and Change Factory