Records365 sitting pretty after DTA win

A five-year quest by the Department of Finance to implement a whole of government solution for next generation records management appears to have reached its de facto conclusion with a contract between the Digital Transformation Authority (DTA) and RecordPoint, which now enables all Australian Government agencies to purchase its Records365 solution without an Approach to Market (ATM) through a “piggyback” clause.

RecordPoint has now won a clean sweep of all agency tenders issued though Finance’s Digital Records Transformation Initiative (DRTI): the DTA, Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC).

In November 2020, the AQSC, formed in January 2020 as breakoff from Department of Health, had written to all those who responded to its initial DRTI tender to advise them that “the Commission did not find a solution that satisfactorily met all of its requirements.”

However, in June this year it was revealed that RecordPoint was awarded the $A938,894 contract to provide Records365 for its more than 800 staff under the DTA contract without any new tender being issued.

RecordPoint sales director Jesse Edwards said, “ACQSC pared back their requirements a little bit, they were broad in what they were looking for in first instance, did some internal review and said Records365 was right a good fit.”

Some found the ACQSC’s initial RFP to be contradictory, asking for records to be managed in place, but also requesting a repository to store data in.

Anthony Woodward, RecordPoint founder and Chief Operating Officer said, “If you look at specific requirements of what they went to market with they were a lot wider than our solution, because of the nature of that RFP, no one met that criteria realistically. They took out some key elements and we were a fit for that is our understanding.”

Two remaining tenders issued through the DRTI, a combined ATM from the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) were subsequently withdrawn.

In June 2020 the Ombudsman renewed its licence for the Objective EDRMS until June 30, 2021

“The DTA win provides a de facto Whole of Government solution for federal government, I don’t think there will ever be a mandated one, but this provides a procurement path for all Federal Government agencies,” said Edwards.

The RecordPoint win at the DTA was met with a congratulatory press release from no less than two Australian Government ministers, Minister for Finance Simon Birmingham and Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, Stuart Robert.

They described it as part of the Morrison Government’s Digital Records Transformation Initiative, led by the Department of Finance, to improve the productivity of the public sector through smart digital records management.

“By modernising the way in which government services data is managed and recorded, more efficient and timely services can be provided for Australians,” Minister Birmingham said.

“Australian company, RecordPoint has helped to deliver a records management solution for DTA that has been designed specifically for records managers, creators and information users within government.

“The parliament and the public should have confidence that data is kept and managed appropriately through procurement of this software which will provide greater transparency and accountability.”

Stuart Robert welcomed the DTA’s choice to engage RecordPoint, an Australian SME, to help streamline the Agency’s business activities.

Robert highlighted in particular the ability of Records365 to manage records in place rather than a central repository.

“This local company has worked to modernise its solution by adopting machine learning, full text extraction and natural language processing to automate the process of records management, from creation to disposal.

“It can apply records control to content no matter where it is stored – in network drives, email and bespoke systems.

“This offers tremendous benefits to the way DTA keeps records, not only in terms of productivity but also to assist with greater transparency,” Minister Robert said.

The DTA was already an existing Records365 user in 2020 but had to go back to market because its contract was coming to an end. It thus came under the umbrella of the DRTI which evolved from the government’s May 2017 decision to implement a Whole-of-Government Digital Records Platform. This was funded over three years by almost $A9 million under the Public Service Modernisation Fund.

At the time it commenced it was estimated that TRIM/CM held over 80% of the federal government EDRMS market. Finance’s first act was to commission a user review which was highly critical of its usability and functionality.

Anthony Woodward does not agree that Finance was targeting TRIM/CM in particular.

“I think to describe the DRTI program as a “Get TRIM” campaign is a bit unfair. In our interactions with Finance, they have always maintained they want to modernise records management with a focus on machine learning and AI.

“We have connectors that can connect into TRIM/CM like any other file store wo we can augment an existing EDRMS it doesn’t have to be the case that government agencies need to replace TRIM/CM or Objective.

“Once they have implemented R365 then users no longer need to follow any guidelines in relation to file naming or location as we use machine learning to ’decorate’ files with additional metadata that is computed and does not require human input,” said Woodward

Jesse Edwards notes, “Finance really focussed on taking the onus away from the end user across government because for the average user, the last thing they care about is managing information. They’ve got better things to be doing.  The traditional solutions just don’t have that setup.”

Records365 is pure cloud SaaS solution but can collect and manage records held on-premise if required in a hybrid configuration.

The DRTI tenders were for a number of relatively small Australian government agencies without the legacy issues bedevilling large organisations such as the Australian Federal Police, with more than 700 different business systems and a huge shared drive document storage problem.

But Woodward is confident that Records365 can play equally well in that space.

Woodward, who is now based in RecordPoints’s Seattle, Washington office, said, “In the US our customers are 5-10x larger than Australia and with 5-10x more legacy systems. PG&E California is the 2nd largest electricity company in the world with 23,000 users and they are using Records365 to interface to a plethora of systems.

“We also have some large Australian R365 users, one of the banks at 30,000 users, and NBN who are also at scale.”

RecordPoint has recently signed a head of agreement with Cenitex, an existing RecordPoint customer, so other Victorian Government agencies can procure through them. Also, one year ago, RecordPoint signed a whole of government agreement with NSW and many large NSW govt depts are adopting Records365.

There are many traditional records managers who have questioned the ability for AI to defensively identify, retain and sentence sensitive government records without any human intervention, although Woodward maintains this is a diminishing concern.

“I agree that 2-3 years ago there was serious concern over autoclassification but we don’t get that anymore. We have invested heavily in letting the records manager have control of the algorithm so that they’re still in control. Our AI is doing things for them at scale but they can override it or tell the algorithm it’s wrong at any time,” said Woodward.

“Why we are being successful globally is that the ability to manage the AI is really unique to Records365 and provides the best of both worlds.

“There are other products that are mimicking what we are doing, and Machine Learning is no longer particularly novel. We are using algorithms that are off the shelf but no one else has made the investment in how you then manage that algorithm, what it can and can’t do and what it’s boundaries are.

“We have invested heavily in letting records manager have control of algorithm, so they don’t lose control, they manage and overrule the algorithm and control those outcomes,” he said.

Canberra-headquartered CastlePoint, another Australian SME software developer which recently received a $A3 million funding boost, is another to adopt an automated classification approach to record-keeping

“We have recently replaced some traditional EDRMS installations at some large Federal Government agencies, with another similar project currently underway. We have seen that clients are tending to move away from these traditional systems,” said Rachael Greaves, Castlepoint CEO and Co-Founder.

“Even the more modern cloud versions are still fundamentally a traditional, centralised EDRMS, and the need for multiple connectors to integrate with other systems does limit their practical scope.”

“That said, for one large research organisation, we are implementing Castlepoint alongside a Content Manager upgrade. Castlepoint will manage the organisation’s other systems in-place, as well as also being able to interface with CM, to provide a single pane of glass for discovery, as well as automated classification with AI. For this client, their EDRMS is still a vital part of their information landscape, and we are able to help make it even more interoperable.

“While a lot of clients do want to decommission their legacy EDRMS (not just for cost reasons, but because of impacts they have on the network, users, and records teams), plenty do want a traditional EDRMS to store at least part of their important content. That’s why we designed our system to be able to work alongside EDRMS systems, rather than to rip and replace them. For the investment organisations have made in EDRMS, it makes the most sense to keep them where they are adding value, if you can just take away some of those user and network impacts.”

Meanwhile, The Australian Digital Health Agency has recently awarded a $A500K contract to iCognition to implement a SaaS deployment of Micro Focus Content Manager, so not all are convinced that the AI path is the only one to travel.