ASSOCIATES (vol. 1, no. 2, November 1994) -

Table of Contents

                      FULL-TEXT REVISITED
                            (Part 2)
                          John Lozowsky
                       Assistant Director
                     Information Management
                          The Treasury
                     Wellington, New Zealand
In the last issue of *ASSOCIATES*, we told about The New Zealand
Treasury's experience from April 1989 to 1 July 1991 using its full
text database of internal documents.  Treasury had used BasisPlus
to manage the final copy of both its internal policy and
administrative documents.  Responsibility for the database rested
in the newly created Information Centre, an amalgamation of the
former Library and the former Records unit.
This article is focussed two years later - in July 1993.  During
those two years, the 300+ staff members in Treasury had shifted
from using DEC "dumb" terminals to a 386/486 PC network.  Microsoft
Windows took over from VMS.  Microsoft Word for Windows, Teamlinks
E-mail, and Excel replaced the All-In-One character-based Office
Automation system.  Our weary character-based database was looking
decidedly shabby and Windows-based Documents Management systems
were finally coming together.  It was time to survey our users
about their requirements...
[Note: the following is summarized from a survey/report done by
Rosalind Coote in 1993.  Rosalind is currently both Database
Administrator and Head of Reference for The Treasury.  Please email
her at if you have any
questions about this survey.]
The computing environment has changed a lot in Treasury over the
last year.  Currently, the transition to Microsoft Word and Windows
has isolated the Document (DOC) system - it is no longer accessible
from the Treasury word processor package, and the DOC user
interface contrasts poorly with the rest of the user environment,
creating problems particularly with data loading and response time.
It is likely that the purchase of a new interface will go to tender
so it has become vital to get input from Treasury staff to define
what any new system has to deliver for our users.
In July 1993, Information Management surveyed all Treasury staff
about their needs and usage of the Document system.  Aims of the
survey were to find out what functions needed to be included in any
new Windows-based interface and to build a usage picture of the
database to help Technical Services make decisions about future
database development.  DOC is currently about 88,500 documents in
size and growing by 12,000 documents every six months.  However,
electronic monitoring on the database can't tell us what
information types staff are accessing via DOC.
The 1993 DOC survey asked:
1.  would you be interested in helping us design and test a new
    interface for DOC?
2.  what do you usually go onto DOC to find/what changes would make
    this easier for you?
3.  how frequently would you want to look for each of the
    following types of information:
          1) records of annual reports; books; Treasury files;
             journals; journal articles;
          2) fulltext of budget papers; Cabinet minutes; Cabinet
             committee minutes; interdepartmental reports; job
             descriptions; legal documents and delegations; memos,
             Ministerials, minutes of meetings; newsletters,
             Official Information Requests and Answers; Office
             minute Blues/Pinks; Official Papers; papers referred
             from the Minister's Office to Treasury for
             information; Parliamentary Questions; press releases;
             speech notes; Treasury circulars; Treasury reports;
             unpublished papers, and working papers.
4.  would you find it useful to have the following accessible on
    DOC:  spreadsheets; Voter Analysis products; strategic
    assessment of departments; departmental performance agreements;
    departmental purchase agreements; multi-year plans for
    departments; department budget assessments?
5.  do you file finished work on the DOC system?
6.  would you be interested in seeing a monthly bulletin of all
    articles recently added to DOC and/or a monthly bulletin of new
    books recently purchased by the Information Centre?
7.  who needs training on DOC?
A total of 105 surveys were returned with 34% of Treasury staff
Branches            # of staff          Survey Returns      %
FMB                 34                  15                  27%
SPAGS               42                  18                  43%
RTP                 50                  27                  54%
Industries          53                  11                  20%
CSB                 68                  27                  39%
BMB                 55                  15                  27%
[Note: Treasury has seven branches: Financial Management (FMB);
Social Policy and Government Services (SPAGS); Regulatory and Tax
Policy (RTP); Industries; Corporate Services (CSB); Budget
Management (BMB); and the New Zealand Debt Management Office.
However, the New Zealand Debt Management Office was only connected
to the network in September 1994 and so is not represented in these
survey results.]
Most people said they didn't use DOC or asked the Information
Support Officer (ISO) to search DOC for them.  [Note: The Treasury
has a network of six Information Support Officers who work in the
Policy Branches.  They provide two vital functions: the updating of
the DOC system with their Branch's output and the provision of a
basic reference service to the Branch which includes searching both
external and internal databases.]
If people did use DOC, they were generally after Treasury Reports,
Cabinet or Cabinet committee minutes, books and articles.  A
frequent complaint was that the current system was slow,
cumbersome, and not user friendly or logical.  More onscreen
assistance was frequently requested.  A number of other suggestions
for improvement were also made.  One feature many did like was
Simple Search.
>From the responses, it was also obvious that Policy Branches (FMB,
SPAGS, Industries, RTP) are the main users of the DOC system even
though the other Branches' use is not insignificant.  There are
active DOC users spread throughout the Branches but in CSB and BMB
not all staff need to use DOC for their work.
In addition, most of the 26 document types in the survey were
accessed or needed to be accessed by staff.  However, the documents
seemed to fall into three "user" groups: policy documents;
ministerial servicing; and treasury management.  There was
definitely less demand for the treasury management documents like
newsletters, legal documents, and job descriptions.  At the same
time, there are user groups for these documents (such as the need
for legal documents in FMB, job descriptions in CSB).
Staff definitely want the look and feel of the Word/Windows
environment from any new database interface and are avoiding the
current system or using it infrequently.  Information Management
needs to discuss and evaluate the comments from staff to define
what the new interface must deliver to end users, particularly the
less-frequent searcher.  They also need to evaluate the suggestions
on new documents types as well as examine the issue of existing
secondary document types that are not being captured well or used
It might be worthwhile considering if treasury documents need to be
broken out of DOC into separate, less cumbersome information
sources for those user groups who need them.  It would also be of
long term benefit to process the survey data more fully and to
explore how DOC relates to the different Branches to determine, for
example, if DOC is mainly a tool for the Policy Branches and should
be developed as such or if there are benefits in adding documents
types/library materials relevant to BMB and CSB to attract them to
DOC.  Information Management should explore the use of workgroup-
specific databases, allowing the users to add to the workgroup
databases themselves the material they feel relevant to their work
while maintaining the DOC system as a corporate database controlled
and maintained by Information Management.
There are development issues also with the capturing of documents
and whether more of an effort needs to be made to capture both
internal and external working papers "fulltext", unpublished
papers, and interdepartmental reports.  However, the effort needed
has to be weighed against the results gained.
[ This is the second in a series of articles on full text data
management compiled by John Lozowsky and the staff at The Treasury.
Further articles will cover the search for replacement software,
its installation, interface developement and data conversion, and
the results.  The Editors.]