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Vol, LVII, No. 7
April 8, 2005
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New System for Workflow, Document Management Coming

As all scientists know, sometimes things don't develop as they are expected to. For more than a year, an NIH staff member has been leading a project that demonstrates that unpredictability. SERCH (System for Enterprise Records and Correspondence Handling) has grown from a plan for replacing a combination of systems that the executive secretariat currently uses to track controlled correspondence of the NIH director and deputy director into a project of much broader — and still growing — dimensions.

It happened that while exec sec was beginning plans for its new system, the Office of the Secretary was also looking to replace its system for distributing and tracking the correspondence of
SERCH will become the system exec sec uses for managing correspondence and official records.
the Secretary of HHS. It took only a couple of phone conversations to broaden the project that would become SERCH to make it serve as the new correspondence and records management system for OS as well as NIH. And from that point, the project took off, involving other HHS agencies and being eyed for a wide variety of potential applications.

But it remains a project led by NIH, for both ourselves and OS. Star Kline is the SERCH project officer. She began work on the project as part of her job as information systems manager in exec sec. She is now detailed into a position reporting to NIH deputy director Dr. Raynard Kington so that she can devote all her energies to SERCH.

SERCH will become the system exec sec uses for managing correspondence and official records of the NIH director and deputy director and correspondence controlled by OS that is assigned to the HHS agencies, including NIH; all of the institutes, centers and OD offices will be "end users" of the system in processing documents controlled by OS and exec sec.

Current plans call for implementation of SERCH in May. It is also a system that ICs and OD offices can buy into so they can process and manage their own documents and records; as of the end of February, six ICs had already signed on to use the system. Implementation within those ICs is not yet scheduled, but it is becoming clear that SERCH won't be limited to correspondence. Potential users keep identifying other applications for it, from the NIH Ethics Program to records of scientific programs.

Following NIH implementation of SERCH, OS will use it for HHS regulations and correspondence in June — which will make "end users" of all of the HHS agencies. A number of the agencies have been working with Kline to expand SERCH's usefulness.

A demonstration of the system is scheduled for Wednesday, Apr. 20 at 8:45 a.m. in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10. Anyone interested in attending the demonstration — which will include one of the first government applications of digital signature — can visit http://training.cit.nih.gov/ and register for course #709.