Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources Victoria
Like most organisations worldwide, the Agriculture Division within the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources creates and stores knowledge and records in the form of thousands of documents, images, videos and a wide variety of other types and formats. The Agriculture Division had tried a number of ways of managing this information in the past including Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS), collaboration spaces and cloud-based file hosting and sharing tools, with varying degrees of success. While these systems went some way to reducing the problem, they fell well short of meeting the businesses requirements.
Kieran Murphy, Farm Services Knowledge Management Coordinator, who oversaw the implementation of the Enhanced Metadata Management Application (EMMA for short), says staff were struggling to discover knowledge (primarily documents, resources and records) stored within multiple Departmental systems.
“It was a lot like going to the local library and finding there’s no catalogue and no librarian – there are books on the shelves, but there’s no logical order to how or why they’re placed where they are. Some of our projects have more than 500 documents or related pieces of content. With collections that large, it takes a significant amount of time to effectively find what you’re looking for or, even worse, to go through all of that and discover it’s not even there.”
Changes to the organisation, including staff turnover and restructuring also contributed to the problem.
“We have many long-term projects that generate significant quantities of knowledge. These projects often last longer than the term of staff working on them. Staff come and go and knowledge is lost, including knowledge of documents and materials that were created as part of a project, where they’re stored, key project and stakeholder contacts, project evaluations and things like that”, Mr. Murphy says.
Agriculture Victoria contracted two Victorian companies ExactData and Revium (now marketing the system under the banner of Eleos Technologies) to design, develop and implement EMMA.
The proposed solution would provide a single point of reference/access for all digital /physical assets and records across Agriculture Victoria, regardless of what they were or how, where and in which system they were stored (EDRMS, Sharepoint, cloud storage etc.). EMMA would also provide tools, standards and processes to allow for the consistent description of resources and collections across multiple existing and future systems.
The platform was to be system and standard agnostic, allowing specialised repositories to be used for different assets using different data and metadata standards (i.e. DCMI, AGLS, ISAAR (CPF)). This would also mean that digital assets and records did not to be centralised or stored in the same place, allowing legacy systems to be maintained and new systems to be added as Agriculture Victoria’s needs evolved.
EMMA would make use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), to provide a completely customisable front door to the system and its capabilities, making it very flexible and responsive to evolving organisational needs and reducing the long-term cost of ownership of the system.
Significant consultation was undertaken across the organisation and five user types developed through case studies to identify and refine system and user requirements. A pilot project was identified and a content audit undertaken to identify assets, resources and records related to the project to inform the creation of document collections. A proof of concept system was then developed and staff from across Agriculture Victoria invited to test the system and provide detailed feedback on functionality and the user experience. The proof of concept was then discarded, and a new system built from scratch in eight weeks incorporating the lessons learned during the user testing process. In total, system implementation (development and testing) was achieved in three months.
Result & Key Benefits Realised
Agriculture Victoria Knowledge Management Coordinator Kieran Murphy says EMMA provides Agriculture Victoria with a single point of access to all of its knowledge and data, breaking down organisational silos and giving the organisation a quick and efficient way to connect and search all of its databases, regardless of their function, design or location.
“The ability to bring disparate collections of information together from both inside and outside the Department is one of the key value propositions of the system. For example, a staff member could be working on a project and accessing information from different disciplines, some of it physical and some electronic (soil samples, animals, research papers) all stored within different systems, in different places across a number of organisations.”
“EMMA can help them bring all of these resources together to create a research paper, progress report or an evaluation. If the project involves other Departments or organisations, using EMMA he/she can also step outside the boundary of the organisation and look at content or staff within linked, external systems as well.”
Mr. Murphy says EMMA also allows senior managers within Agriculture Victoria to take a more strategic view of what was going on across the organisation.
“While we expected to see some real benefits from people being able to search for knowledge across Farm Services, EMMA also allows the management layer to get situational awareness of what’s going on at the coalface and find out whether the organisation is going where it wants and needs to be going.”
“Using EMMA they can see the alignment between government and organisational strategies and the deliverables and outcomes of the projects and initiatives being delivered across the Department. Because of this, they’re able to quickly identify potential areas of duplication, gaps in organisational effort and opportunities for redirecting existing investment, or making new investments and funding bids”.
EMMA also allows Farm Services to create links between present and past staff, the projects they are working on or have worked on, and the resources that were created as part of those projects regardless of where or how they’re stored. When staff move around, or even leave the organisation, others in Agriculture Victoria can use EMMA to find the work they’ve done, understand why it was done and what it relates to, meaning valuable tacit knowledge stays within the organisation.”
Mr. Murphy says EMMA has significant potential across other government departments as well.
“EMMA is very much an enterprise solution, it has an open architecture and is very extendable. EMMA is able to cope with describing almost anything. I could take the system as it is and give it to almost anybody in any organisation and it would be better than what they’re currently using.”