07 Apr Keep Austin Moving Forward: The Convention Center’s eRecords Journey to the Cloud
In its quest to provide outstanding event facilities and services, the Austin Convention Center was challenged with providing its employees and customers a modern collaboration platform, while ensuring an enhanced level of control over its electronic records.
This presentation shares the Convention Center’s journey from manual processes and file shares to an automated and sustainable records management solution in Office 365. By using its out-of-the-box Governance and Compliance capabilities, the Convention Center created an intuitive, easy-to-use, centralized workspace for documents and records alike.
Keep Austin Moving Forward: The Convention Center’s eRecords Journey to the Cloud
Presented By Austin Convention Center & Access Sciences
Now, it’s my pleasure to introduce Renu Hall, technology director at Access Sciences; Kimberly DeCola, records analyst at the Austin Convention Center, and Jeff Moore, IT manager at the Austin Convention Center with Keep Austin Moving Forward – The Convention Center’s eRecords Journey to the Cloud. Please take it away.
Great. Well, thanks very much for that intro, and thank you to you all for coming to see us this afternoon. It’s great to see so many folks from in and around Austin and in fact, Texas. It’s not a surprise. There’s no one here from Delaware that I’ve seen thus far, but today we are going to be sharing with you our Keep Austin Moving Forward case study. It’s how the Austin Convention Center went to eRecords using Office 365 SharePoint solution.
And so, without further ado, I know that we’ve already been given a bit of intro there, but we’ll move it on into our own bit of intro. I’m Jeff Moore. I’m the IT manager of network operations at the Austin Convention Center, and also involved in several strategic initiatives, this being one of them. I’ll turn it over to Kim for the next intro.
Hi. I’m Kimberly DeCola. I am the records and information manager for the Austin Convention Center. My job entails looking out for our information assets, from the paper to the digital. I also take care of our public information requests and anything related to audits, polls, and litigation. Renu?
Thank you, and it’s a pleasure seeing everyone on this call. My name is Renu Hall. I am director of technology consulting with Access Sciences and several members of my team worked with or partnered with the Austin Convention Center in implementation of the Office 365 collaboration and records management solution, and it’s my pleasure to share that story with you today.
Great. Well, thanks Kim and thanks Renu. It’s fantastic to be co-presenting with you today, and we’ll move into a bit of an overview of what we’ll discuss.
So essentially, this presentation was about how we had a balanced and practical approach to moving our records from the S-Drive of our file share into Office 365’s SharePoint solution in the Cloud. We tapped into Office 365 capabilities because that was a supported standard within the City of Austin and we’ll talk about some of the roadblocks that we experienced along the way and really how we feel that we have succeeded, where we think that we could have done things slightly differently, and where we plan to go from here.
So, just to give you a little more information about the Austin Convention Center, many of you being here in Texas, you’ve probably been to an event at the Austin Convention Center. And our mission in business is to make sure that you have an excellent event experience, whether you’re hosting your event or whether attending one.
The full name of the Austin Convention Center is, in fact, Neal Kocurek Memorial Austin Convention Center, named after the stalwart Austinite who died in 2004. Dr. Kocurek was instrumental in medical initiatives as well as transportation and a big player in terms of trying get the Austin Convention Center built. And so, we’re his namesake.
Building started in 1990 and was completed in 1992 and that first build encompassed four city blocks of space, but then in a mere seven more years, we added two more blocks and that was opened in 2002.
So now altogether, it’s a six city block facility. There’s 800,000 square feet of space and 240,000 of that is devoted just to column-free exhibit space. It’s a beautiful thing to stand all the way at the end of hall one and be able to see all the way up to hall five. No columns. Something that you really don’t appreciate until you’re not able to have that.
We have in our department 200 plus employees and 75 employees were part of this project altogether and it encompassed 17 divisions. And just so that you’ll know, we reference department, our convention center is the department of the City of Austin and our, what is normally a department, is referenced as a division. So, you’ll hear us use the words division throughout the presentation.
So, what were our problems? What problems were we trying to solve? Well, one would have been the fact that we had multiple files, duplicated files. Our S-Drive, our share was in a bit of a mess. And, in order to access those files, we had to go through a VPN connection on our mobile technology and it was troublesome.
So, mobility and cleanup really was part of our major problem to solve, but probably paramount in all of that was records and information management. Kimberly came to us, was hired to help get this one-horse town squared away and she’s done a fantastic job. And we needed a software solution for this, because at the end of the day, there are state laws and there are city codes that we have to adhere to.
And so, those were our two business problems that we wanted to solve. I’ll turn it over now to Kimberly to discuss in detail for those two problems what were some of the business drivers.
Thank you, Jeff. So, once we kind of got down to knowing we had a mobility and information management issue, we really wanted to look at what was backing that up. So, for mobility, we actually have six buildings and we’ve got employees in all of those locations, roughly 24 hours a day, and we really needed a better way for them to communicate with one another. Many of them are working on iPads, they’re working from their phones, and we wanted them to be able to access their information on the go.
We also have a number of interactions with clients and vendors. We do contracting in-house and so we’ve got a ton of information going in and out of the center to other areas, so we do have a lot of emailing of attachments and that is something we wanted to kind of get ahold of.
We also handle a fair number of public information requests and all of you who have done those know there’s a tight turnaround for them and we’ve got to be able to access the information quickly and get it back to the requester.
On the records and information management side, we’ve also got compliance with state laws in our Austin city code, so it’s very important to me, as the overseer of our program to make sure that we are in as much compliance, achieving as much compliance as we possibly can. I want our department to really have a robust and full-bodied program.
We also, like everybody, have the age-old problem of a finding the right document right when we need it. So, you spend, especially with a shared drive, a lot of time going through records and trying to find the most current one or you find 20 of the same record and you don’t know which one is the most recent or they’re not signed. And so, we really kind of wanted to have one place where we could put what we call the golden copy of the record, so everyone would know where it was at.
And then, on top of that, we really needed to get a handle on our disposition. Unlike a lot of other departments, we do not have one not busy time of year. So, we’re busy year-round, at least through part of the center. So trying to find a schedule to get everybody on has been kind of tough, and I really needed some automation to help us do that, so that it wasn’t all on on employees who were trying to put on these fabulous shows to worry about disposition.
And finally, as public servants and as good stewards of our information, we have an obligation to protect our information assets, whether they are on paper or are databases in SharePoint, the cloud, we really needed to make sure we had proper controls in place to take care of that stuff. Slide.
So back toward the beginning of this journey, we sent out a poll to our stakeholder group in the convention center and asked them to tell us, off the top of their head, what was something that would be most beneficial to them? What did they want to see out of a solution? And so, up there at the top, right off the bat is the ease of access. So, that is a problem that we shared across the board by all of us is not being able to properly access our information in a timely fashion.
Second, there is team collaboration. Again, there’s a ton of that going on with other departments and outside of the city. We wanted some robust search functionality, because let’s face it, we all know it’s very difficult to search in a shared drive. We also wanted consistent access rules and permissions to keep things in place so that somebody wasn’t inadvertently getting rid of something and leaving something around.
Some auto classification is awesome because it’s really hard for people who don’t do records management every day to really understand how to classify their records. And we have more than 100 record series on our schedule alone.
We also wanted to find a better way to do external sharing besides sending out a trillion attachments in email. We wanted to leverage our Office 365 platform as it was coming online and get better integration with it. We wanted to have good site hierarchies and then, way down there at the very bottom is the information life cycle, which is the most important thing to me.
Obviously, from the poll results, it means nothing to the rest of the employees, but those of us in records management know that that is really an imperative tool in our programs. And so, I wanted a way to help the employees manage their information without them having to spend hours working on it, because that’s my job, not theirs.
So, what does that look like in a solution? Well, we agreed that it would be really great to move into the cloud. In years past, we’ve worked on, we had to log into a VPN, some of us who’ve been with the city a really long time remember the days of the logging in through GoToMyPC and trying to access your information, so if you weren’t logged into your own computer, you couldn’t get to all of your stuff. So, we wanted to fix that problem. And we also wanted the ability to add metadata to the information.
So again, searching in a shared drive, searching through email is sometimes difficult if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. And so we wanted to have the option of adding different metadata to these documents such as when they were created, when they expired, when they were superseded, when the project ended. So, we had ways to filter that out, sort of like when you go to Amazon and you’ve got all those choices down the side of the page that get you from 10,000 plus items down to maybe 200. So that’s what we wanted to do here, too.
So, I also wanted to tighten up the kind of information coming back and getting more accurate information. So, if I’m looking for a floor plan for one of our ballrooms, I’m not getting a schematic on how to run the floor washer. So, we really needed to make sure of that and also that we were responding to our public information requests and our audits with correct and true information.
So, next on the solution list was a way to get rid of the mass email of attachments. One of my personal goals for our department is to cut down the amount of information that we got floating around in Outlook. And since we collaborate so much we are currently emailing a lot of that traffic out. And so, the sharing of links will be so much easier where we can just send one link to somebody, everyone can work from the same document, all the changes are on the same document, and it’s all contained in one little, nice box.
And then finally, there’s email traffic. So, email is an angel and the devil for everybody. It’s a great thing for instant access to talk with people, but it is a bear in terms of managing it. It grows so fast that it’s nearly impossible to contain it.
Slide. So, we have a little poll for all of you. If any of you have started your own journey to putting records management in Office 365, we’d like to know where you’re at. Are you not even considering joining in such a project? Are you in the planning stages? Do you have a journey of your own already in progress, or have you done an implementation and perhaps now you’re in the refinement stage where you are making the tweaks and settling in and getting the creaks out?
So, let me know about the next 20 seconds or so kind of where you are on that and I’m going to turn it over to Renu.
Thank you, Kim. And I guess we give everyone a few seconds to respond. Here we go. I guess we can… Does this mean that the poll is closed or people still entering? I think that looks like it’s done. Okay.
Sorry. It’s closed.
Okay. All right. So, yeah. That’s very interesting to see where folks are on their journey with Office 365 and records management. I see a considerable amount of the audience has not considered it as a platform, so maybe this presentation may give you some insight into what a journey would look like if you were to implement records management in Office 365. And then we’ve got several remain in either planning and implementation and a few actually in refinement. So, thank you for answering that poll.
So, with that, I’d like to move forward with so what does that solution look like? You’ve heard from Jeff and Kim on what the convention center’s desires were in terms of an optimal solution for Office 365 for collaboration records management.
So, when Access Sciences partnered with the convention center, we began the journey with, actually mentioned an initial engagement with the business to understand really what the requirements were across the board, from executive leaders down through the organization. And here are some of the things that we heard.
As I mentioned, they had already purchased Office 365. They already had SharePoint Online and the desire was really to fully leverage the existing capabilities of this platform before incurring any additional costs for licensing or other products.
So, this is really the solution to beat, to see if could we meet all of the requirements with just the Office 365 platform and would there be any customizations or other refinements that could not be met with the tools?
So, moving on, the number one requirement, as Jeff mentioned in the beginning, access at any time, from anywhere with any device. Now, this we also know that Office 365, SharePoint Online being a Cloud platform, it already facilitates this access from anywhere and with the modern interface, it also facilitates access from any device because it’s a responsive UI in the modern SharePoint Online.
Search was a big part of it, finding the right information at the right time. This implied, of course, that they had to be a very robust information architecture backing the solution. This could not just be a lift and shift, replace your file share with SharePoint Online with all of the content in exactly the same state. We would not get effective search with that mechanism. So, this is something that implied good information architecture, content types, metadata, and, of course, application of retention across all of the content.
We knew that this had to be both collaboration and records management. It wasn’t one or the other. And, of course, this is also a big challenge for organizations. How do we make it easy for end users to collaborate in their spaces without having that burden of also managing and understanding how records need to be addressed? So, it had to be as seamless as possible.
Scalability was a big requirement for the city. We knew there were several requirements that would be phased in in later implementation stages, such as the collaboration with external parties. At the outset, this was going to be a collaboration for the city, the convention center’s employees, but we knew that very soon, the collaboration external parties would have to be supported and we knew that Office 365 supports that, again, out of the box with external collaboration and guest access.
We mentioned modern, a fully responsive user interface that would be applicable to any device that users access the information from. And then sustainability was important. The whole idea of having a completely out-of-the-box, vendor-supported solution to the extent possible, minimizing any customization and then ensuring that we had change management and governance integrated into the solution so that it would be sustainable as it moved from project to operations. Finally, with future integrations, the city, convention center had mentioned that they needed integrations, for example, with Outlook. They might need integrations with Adobe, with Adobe Sign. There were several features that would be implemented in later stages and the Office 365 platform is a vendor-rich ecosystem with many products available for those sort of integrations. So, at the outset, that was the set of requirements and kind of the rationale for moving forward with the Office 365 platform.
So, again, one thing that we did at the outset, in addition to having the conversations, which is extremely important to understand what people’s pain points are and what their hopes and desires are for this new solution, another aspect was actually to do a current state assessment, understand and looking at the repositories, what does the data say? What kind of content is out there?
And the initial analysis showed that most of the information that was in scope was really today managed, the currency was managed in the network shares as well as attachments in Outlook, as Kim had mentioned.
The network shares housed about two terabytes of data, 700,000 documents, which was a significant volume that needed to be analyzed and be in scope for migration to SharePoint Online so that this information would be accurate and it could be accessible using the search mechanisms that are a part of the new platform.
And analysis of the information also showed that most of it was in business formats. By this we mean Microsoft Office formats or PDF documents, information that is typically, that is already supported by the SharePoint platform. They didn’t have any need for any additional add-ons, for example, for engineering drawings or any other types of documents that might need additional viewers.
Regarding the records retention schedule, the retention schedule was in good shape. It had already been simplified into a big-bucket approach, that there were only 132 records series, which is a very manageable number when implementing that into a records management solution.
And one discovery that we made in the current state assessment, which is a bit of a surprise for us when it came in is that we realized that the Austin Convention Center department, as Jeff mentioned, is one of many departments within the City of Austin. And they all shared the same Office 365 tenant.
So, that was our first experience with having to make changes to one particular occupant within the tenant without making changes to the other occupants or impacting them in any way. So that was part of the consideration in the design for moving forward with that implementation.
So, I know there’s always a lot of questions around Office 365 and its suitability for records management and, of course, whether it meets your requirements or not really depends on the requirements for individual agencies, and so everyone needs to evaluate these on a case-by-case basis and understand whether the solution would meet the needs out of the box.
So, for the convention center, we looked at sort of the primary challenges that organizations have with records management and Office 365. Number one of these being how to manage both the time- and event-based triggers, so retention schedules typically have a combination of these. How to manage the disposition process so that you have some sort of review before items get disposed. And then how to identify records versus non-records when information is managed in place, so co-located. There isn’t a separate repository to which records go. They are created as documents and content and they transition to record state.
So, managing all of this in place without burdening end users to tag records is really the challenge that a lot of organizations face. So, when we looked at the requirements both from a current and future state, this is how we resolved some of these issues.
So, the convention center had a government G3 license and they were moving to a G5 license. So, we decided to implement the information management policies using content types, because content types already come with metadata and it’s required to implement the taxonomy to and make a search to facilitate, refine our basic search. So, content that’s already in play, we decided to use the IM policies to implement time-based, event-based triggers, knowing that, in the future, when the convention center moved to G5, we could fully leverage the retention labels, the dynamic labels to apply those retention codes to all categories of information. So, this is a supported migration path and that’s why we went ahead with the content types and IM policies.
The convention center’s disposition process did require a review before deletion and this with the G3 license, there isn’t a review before disposition. However, with the G5 and use of labels, the disposition process is available to the compliance center out of the box, so that was also a path that we could move forward with without actually having to implement a custom disposition review report as would have been otherwise necessary in a G3 platform.
And finally, with the need to manage records in place, what was very clear again is the need for an information architecture. Again, not a lift and shift solution. We would have to have a very close engagement with the business so that they were able to categorize and tag the information and that way when the sites and libraries are built, we could pre-tag them with the appropriate content types and thereby, when users dropped documents into libraries, they automatically inherit the right retention codes and the right categorization so they’re not burdened by the knowledge of records categories. They’re simply thinking in terms of their business processes and their document types. So again, these are all very manageable scenarios for Office 365 records management, and this is the path that the convention center took.
So, what does this approach look like? I mean, most people would say this is a fairly typical approach and the work began toward the end of 2018, with that initial discovery and engagement that we talked about, just understanding the current state. And then, phase two through the rest of 2019, involved the sight design buildout as well as the file migration. And in 2020, most of the activities now around refinement as well as the migration, as we talked about, of certain functionality to take advantage of the G5 capabilities.
So, I talk about these phases in a little bit more detail in the next few slides. So, phase one, planning and design. As you can see from this picture, this is from a time not so long ago but seems like a lifetime when we didn’t have to wear masks. This was the initial data gathering conversations and the business engagement.
So, we mentioned the discovery stage working with the business to conduct workshops to understand their content and then, as I mentioned, that was the first exposure to the understanding that we had a single tenant and multiple departments that would be using the same tenant.
We analyzed the requirements and synthesized a set of requirements around, like I said, specifically records management, making sure that we could check off those specific requirements as well as the search capabilities and given that this is a modern SharePoint Online user interface, we knew that a search that uses refiners, kind of like what Kim mentioned, that you’d see on Amazon search or a Home Depot search, for example, those refiners are not available out of the box. In the modern UIs, that would have to be a custom web part. So, that’s one item that we knew we would be building as part of the implementation.
Next is the design phase, where for every business group, we identified their content types, mapped those to IM policies for records managements, and then this is how we separated out the convention center’s content from other departments. The content types were all derived from a base content type, which is the ACCD-base document content type and all the content types derive from that. So, that effectively partitioned their content from every other department’s content.
And then, when we transition that to labels, we simply prefixed the label name also with ACCD. So, it was possible to apply work flows, policies, et cetera, to that content without impacting any other department.
The design of the custom search was also done and then, the bill plan, how are we going to get through an implementation involving 17 different business groups and how will we migrate and analyze the two terabytes of data that need to be moved from the file shares?
So, the bulk of the work happened in the implementation phase. Again, this is characterized really with very close collaboration with the business throughout, because these different business groups would have to partner with us in order to build out their information architecture. There is no avoiding this, if this is a site that the business needs to adopt and be comfortable using, it has to match their business processes, it has to mirror their content, and this has to be a conversation that has to happen throughout. So, we partnered with the different business groups, the different business groups resulted in about 25 different SharePoint sites.
So, that activity involved a detailed taxonomy, building out the content types, identifying what metadata was needed as well as the retention associated with those different content types, as well as defining what are the search terms and the security model for the different groups.
Once that work was done, thus began the migration analysis. And one important note here is that although there was two terabytes of information and about 700,000 documents, we did a pre-migration analysis of this content based on the content’s dates and matching that up with the retention schedule for each business area, we were able to identify a vast amount of content that had already aged out in place. There was no need to migrate that because it already met its retention. So, we reduced the volume to just 40% of that that actually needed to go through the migration analysis and then the business needed to map from source to target locations, that we actually then ended up migrating with ShareGate. So, ShareGate with some additional scripting was employed again, but throughout the business was involved in validating every step of the way to make sure that the end result really met their expectations.
The last phase here is really just the refinement and scaling with new capabilities. A few divisions needed additional training. IT had some more training in this phase. There was some more ad hoc support at the governance and compliance level and then more implementation around that migration to G5 with the content tape IM policies being replaced by labels and then use of the disposition report now that is available with the compliance center out of the box.
One additional change was the search that we mentioned, the first go-around, the search, while it was a custom search, it was not responsive. So, with the second go-around, that was adapted to take advantage of the modern search capabilities, be responsive as well as give you those refiners that really give you an effective search that you would normally not get out of the box. Everyone complains that SharePoint search either results in thousands of results or zero, nothing in between. And that is not a qualification for an effective search.
So, this is the path that was taken in order to actually build that capability. And with that, I’m going to hand it over to Kim to talk a little bit about change management and governance.
So, right from the start of this project, it was very important to us as the core team to go forth on a journey that the users would buy into. We had a lot of conversation about how to make this as smooth as possible for them so that they would use it and adopt it, because I’ve been in companies, too, where we’ve gone to a new software service or a new solution and people don’t like it and they don’t use it and they go back to their old way of doing things.
So, this is one of those projects where, if we didn’t have everybody on board and everybody using it, it was not going to be successful. And we didn’t want stuff still going into the sharedrive instead of into the new platform.
So, we started right from the beginning talking about governance and we worked very hard. Our IT administrator put a lot of effort and thought, our site administrator, into a governance plan for the SharePoint site.
We also stood up a governing board and the governing board consists of many different people, there are end users, there are some champions for the solution, there is some management in there, and then the core team stayed on as an advisory group for them. So, we are non-voting members, but they vote on changes that ultimately affect the whole site for the department.
We also instituted a change request process, so that they have a path to get help if they need it. They are able to get requests submitted to our help desk and someone, there’s a couple of people who can assist with getting things changed or fixed for them.
We also put together a support model from the end user all the way up to our site administrator, so if you’re a general end user, you have a power user in your unit that has a little more training and a little more know-how that can help you with some basic issues. And if they can’t help you, then there’s a site owner in every unit, again, with a little more training, a little more access and permissions and it goes up the chain from there.
So, it will eventually end up in the hands of our site administrator and if it’s a department-wide change, again, it will go before the board and they’ll vote on it. So, there is a model that we’re following for our site and we take into consideration is this change going to affect just one unit or is it going to affect everybody?
We also made sure from the very beginning and we are still doing this as we enter phase four on our end to get continuous feedback from the users. We’ve sent surveys out all along the way. We’ve had user engagement meetings to get their feedback on this whole process. Are they using the site? Is it working for them? Do they need changes? Because, with any new thing, the more you start to use it and you settle in, the more you find things you didn’t know what you didn’t know in the beginning and you may find things that you want to change or that would work better for you. So, it was very, very important to us to use that feedback to be able to put together additional training and just really keep in touch with the wheel as it’s turning. And with that, I’m going to turn it over to Jeff.
All right. Thanks, Kim. So the big question here is, after all of this effort, did we succeed? And you may reflect back on the slide that we saw earlier. This was the poll result from our initial discovery meetings with everyone, and at the top there, you have ease of access to information. That’s what everyone said was most important to them. Team collaboration was second place. Third, robust search functionality. And then, of course, the lonely one down at the bottom there for Kim, full information life cycle management.
All of these were important. Those top three were the ones that were of most importance to everyone. So, we figured, it just depends upon how we measure this as to whether or not we know we succeeded. And we can use usage metrics. We can use feedback that we have obtained throughout the process or here at the end. We can also look at issue tickets that are submitted to the help desk.
And so, what actually came out of this? Well, SharePoint, the ideal usage metric would have been the comparison of previous shared growth through the shared drive to growth of that in SharePoint. But because we did not have a baseline in our shared drive of how often things grew, we weren’t really able to have that metric.
We also thought we could use page views to spot trends and that really wasn’t something that we could use either. So, the next thing would be, let’s see, next slide, really the feedback. And these are things as we say, we would have meetings, all the way throughout, every meeting, the PM would send out a short two-to-three question survey and we would try find out how people were doing. Many of these comments, though, came out of the end result.
So, here you’ll see that someone says that they’re very happy with the fact that everyone can collaborate simultaneously on their files. They love that everything is just there in one place. They were searching across a number of locations for things and in emails prior, so this was really great to have that.
Another one was the ability to work online with documentation. Again, that collaborative experience. Being able to see where people are working in the document while you’re working as well.
Another one here was the version control. So, remember we had a lot of versions of files floating around through emails, different copies made out on the shared drive. And this was one step in the right direction. And also the dragging and dropping method of being able to put files into SharePoint was something that they appreciating.
So, for our next slide, did we succeed again? Did we succeed? Well, we went through all of this and, as we say, it really comes down to how you define success. Just because we had some issues does not mean that we feel that we didn’t succeed. In fact, we do feel like we have succeeded. Quite a triumph, really, when you consider that there really were not any major software issues. Most of the problems that we did experience were down to process. And so, where we see that we have to make some improvement was to come back around and do some reinforce training.
So, our next slide, please. Lessons learned. So we’re going to talk about some of the things that we would do differently, but before we do that, let’s move into another poll and this one will be what are some of the biggest challenges that you foresee as you’re planning this, as you may be in the middle of it, what are some of the biggest challenges that you’re facing? Do you have the right people at the table? Do you have too many disparate systems where files are stored? Do you have unmet compliance needs, some governance and compliance that needs to be met? What about the technologies that you’re using? Is it too complex? Do you have change management already in place for systems in-house? Or are there at any cloud aversions? A lot of folks still quite concerned about going to cloud.
We’ll spend the next 20 seconds or so and let you guys fill this out and let’s see what you have chosen. And this is a multiple choice question. So, select all that apply, please.
Okay. Thanks very much. So, we can see our results here. Having the right people at the table seems to be the biggest challenge, followed by too many other systems? And at third place, we have change management. Change management. Yeah. Huge. Great.
Well, if we could go to the next slide, please. Here’s what we think we did well. Early on, we had a charter, we had a plan for how we were going to do governance. And, in that charter, we had identified our executive sponsor.
Now, many projects function really well from a grass roots perspective with end users, but we knew that one that was an overarching interest of the business that would span across all divisions was going to be something that needed a single executive sponsor at the top. Just to let everyone know how important this was to the executive team and that that was the expectation that we were going move out of our S-Drive and into SharePoint so that we could meet our records management goals.
So, we think we did that right. We also had the right IT staff and the right information governance staff involved from the get-go.
And we set the right information governance foundation long before we started looking at a system, Kimberly was in looking at all of our records series, meeting with each of the divisions. And so, we had a lot of that work already done and many had even prepped their S drive to match that. So, we had a really good start with that.
The agile approach we utilized from the very beginning and so we would put something out there. We would get feedback. We’d make iterative improvements. Communication and feedback was key. Like I say, we did our surveys. Just quick surveys at the end of each meeting let us know where we were headed. Have we gone off path or we stayed within scope?
User acceptance testing was important, so putting together use plans, testing plans, facilitating the testing by users but also being there to observe as the user uses the system to see what are some of the challenges that they face? Talking out loud as they’re working through some of the navigation features.
And then, of course, just maintaining consistent momentum. So, you can always do things differently. The biggest room for improvement. So, what would we do differently? Well, there was a fairly sizable gap at times between when a site was built out and when someone received their system to use.
And so, for us, that would be something that we would try to do differently next time is to plan these things out so that where it was a shorter gap between those two spaces. And also providing them with early exposure to the end solution.
Now, the very first one or two divisions that went out, probably we wouldn’t have had a frame of reference, but once we’d established those two groups, it would have been great to really give people an idea in the weeks prior to their migration. “Here’s what the IT group or the contracts group, here’s what their site looks like.” We think that that would have been of use to us.
Also, having the global tenant administrator involved early on, as Renu was pointing out, where one tenant with the City of Austin and Austin Convention Center is just one department out of many. So, we did have to work with our central IT department in order to get that done and we probably could have engaged with the global administrator a little earlier.
Also, just maintaining continuous change management. That’s something that we would just strife to tighten up, but also having our governance processes in place. We knew we had a governance plan and we knew that we would establish a governing board, but I think with all of these there’s always a sweet spot between the time that you know that you’re going to need to set up the board and the time that you need to begin making decisions by that board.
And so, maybe trying to move that slightly earlier than we did it could have bought us a few more decisions to be made quicker. And then, of course having a more realistic migration plan in place. Who of us that hasn’t done a house remodel has estimated a certain amount of time and had it double on us? Well, that’s what happened with our remodel. We estimated between a week or two for migrating in division’s files and, in most cases, it took three to four weeks. So, we really needed to double our time with that.
So, now that we’ve done all this, what lies ahead for the Austin Convention Center? Well, for those of you that use other parts of the Office 365 suite, Teams, Project, you know that when you create a Microsoft Project within Office 365 and Project Online, it creates a SharePoint site. For those of you that use Teams, you know that that creates a SharePoint site on the back end, and those sites do not automatically come under the enforced metadata if you’ve done something like we’ve done here.
And so, while we are addressing those in the short term in a manual way, what we’re looking to do next is to engage with a Teams provisioning process. So, anytime a team should be created, it follows a process of approval, it gets created correctly, and it comes under the heading of all of our enforced metadata policies.
Then, of course, that provisioning process would be developed in Power Automate. We’ll be able to use Power Automate and Power Apps for a number of things that great low-code, no-code environment that’ll allow us to develop these things, and there are tons of forms, et cetera that we’ve had over the years that we could put to process. I’ll turn it over now to Kim and let her discuss the other items.
Thanks, Jeff. So, in the future, we would also like to look at perhaps getting a plug-in that will go between Outlook and SharePoint to make it a more seamless exchange for email traffic to go into the SharePoint libraries. There is a way to do it now, but it’s not as user friendly as an interface would be. So, that’s one thing we have on the agenda to look at in the future.
And we also want to bring our governance not only over to SharePoint’s site but out across all of our Office 365 platform. We have access to many of the components like Stream and Microsoft Forms. They’re all being used by the staff and as people become more familiar with them and now that we’re working remotely and we’re relying more on that technology, we’re cranking out the additional information and so we want the same governance with the metadata and the access controls, and the records series and records management capabilities applied to as many as we can roll it out to.
And then, we’ve also been contacted by some other city departments who have heard about what we’re doing and have asked how this path has worked for us and if we achieved our success, which I think we have. I think we’ve been very successful in this journey and, as Jeff mentioned, the small problems that have come up are not related to the solution. They fall back on some additional training that’s something we can fix pretty easily.
We’ve demoed it for a couple of other departments. There are some trailblazers who are looking for new record management systems and have expressed an interest in maybe doing the same thing that we’ve done.
Great. Well, thank you, Kim. Thank you, Renu. It’s been a pleasure having this meeting with the both of you today. Well, we’ve turned up our videos here. We’re all online and now it comes to the part in the session for any questions that you, the audience, may have.
This is Andrew again. We do have a lot of questions in the Q&A starting with, “Managing records in place with SharePoint seems like a good way to go since we have Office 365. How difficult is this solution to implement?”
Perhaps, Renu, you can comment on that.
Yeah. Okay. So, yes. Happy to take that. I guess, I mean, all of us can speak to that. This is not difficult to implement. There is a process to follow. There is very definitely a base information architecture, a base records management foundation that needs to be built. We talked to some of those elements on this presentation, but so it’s definitely a supportive solution, I would say. Yeah.
And the benefit, too, is that we’ve done this here today, many of you are here local. And for those of you that aren’t, you know where we are, the big building, six city blocks. You know where to find us. And so, don’t do it on your own. Don’t feel that you have to go on your own. Tap us. We can definitely ruminate with you on some of the things that we feel someone embarking upon this journey could do.
And I should note, just for the attendees, that the official session’s over, but I would like to go through the Q&A just so they make the recording. So, when folks go back to view this and they ask a question, that they’ll be able to view their response. All right. Thank you.
The next question is, “Was this solution operational when the pandemic hit? If so, how is the transition with working remotely?”
Yes. The solution was operational when the pandemic hit and, actually, we were still in the migration phase throughout this process and we have been very successful in continuing the work that we were doing. We still had… Jeff, is it four or five groups that had to be migrated and so between March and July we completed not only continued cleanup of their shared drive section, but also the migration. So, all of that was done successfully and the groups that were already migrated into their sites have really just taken right to it. I mean, business has gone on as usual. There’s not been any problems with everybody continuing right on.
Yes. We were all transitioning in one form or another to Teams prior to COVID. So, when COVID hit, then, it really kind of pulled us the rest of the way into the use of that tool within Office 365.
So, we did a very good job of transitioning to mobile work, and we just continued to have all of our meetings with that and our SharePoint administrator, Hedrick, I don’t think she ever missed a beat.
All right. “Are there plans to roll this records management system out to other City of Austin departments?”
Well, as Kim was saying, there’s certainly some shared interests in this solution. There are meetings that the folks go to both from the records and information management perspective as well as Office 365 and SharePoint. Maybe not SharePoint, but certainly Office 365’s perspective of how this is a valid business tool to use across the city. There are no plans that I know of at this point, but there is certainly space to move to from here, having established this as a precedent and we’re quite proud of it.
And this one I saw also was asked in the chat and answered, but just to get it on record, “How many employees are there at the Austin Convention? This is fantastic.”
We have approximately 265 full-time employees and during any one of our events, especially the larger events, that number can grow to around 550 when we put on additional staff.
Awesome. “Is the SharePoint governing board for ACC or the City of Austin overall?”
The governing board that we’re talking about is just within the ACCD, and not for all of the City of Austin.
“Does this solution just use SharePoint or is there another Microsoft product that is, quote, ‘Records management system,’ in addition to SharePoint?”
I can take that. No. This uses completely SharePoint out of the box records management capabilities. As we mentioned in the requirements analysis, the requirements for the city were met through the out of the box, so we did not need an additional plug-in.
And this is directed at Jeff. “Can you discuss why the life cycle issue with Office 365 was not as much of a success?”
Why it was not much of a success?
I think you’re referring to where it was at the bottom of the poll, Jeff.
Oh, okay. Well, that is the poll that we sent out at the beginning with regard to what our employees felt was to them most important to get out of the project. And, for them, it was far more important for them to have ease of access. But I will say this. Prior to having SharePoint, you did not want Kimberly to show up in your doorstep and ask you where something was. You just didn’t want to have to go digging through your items to do that, much less to categorize them by record series. And now, people are able to do that.
So, though they felt that that wasn’t too important to them at the time, I think that now, had we done another poll, I think that we would find that we’re in much better shape in satisfaction with regard to that as a higher priority need for them. So, I would say that we did succeed in that account.
And the next questioner has a concern. She’s concerned about space. Should she keep both the shared drive and utilize SharePoint just in case?
I can answer that. So, no. I wouldn’t keep shared drive for space management because, I mean, SharePoint really optimizes space utilization, so in different versions of documents, you’re not saving the entire document again, just the deltas. So, it really is a very efficient storage mechanism and with all the other benefits that come with storing all your content in SharePoint, I would use that as a primary repository. I would not use shared drives just to manage space.
If you really have a huge volume, a lot of that could go to archives, so you may consider another storage mechanism for archival, which is a lower cost, less access, less options for retrieval, but not shared drives.
I would say that we have, after migration, the shared drive was left there in place and locked down, so to read only. So you would never get into a situation where, “Oh, my gosh. Two weeks into this and where is my document? I’ve lost it forever.”
Well, no. We’ll help you find it, but you can still refer back to if you needed some information to reference out of there, you could. But it was just that it was turned to read only, but that was one way that we were able to ensure there was no going back.
“With Teams, what special provisions have to be made for records management?”
I can maybe answer that. So with Teams, I mean, Teams is just, as Kim mentioned also, another component in the Office 365 suite. The back end of Teams puts content in many different places, OneDrive, Exchange Online, and SharePoint. So, you just need to implement the retention policies that you have for content with taking into consideration the different areas that Team stores content. So, it needs to be a part of your overarching records management and governance policies.
And one of the things that we’ve started doing as we advanced our own education is the Teams site will allow you to map to your existing SharePoint sites, so your library. So, what we started doing is as the users made Teams, we’re showing them how to map to their official library so that the records go into there instead to another SharePoint library that maybe is not under the main umbrella.
Excellent. This is running a little long. Do you have email addresses, so you can share maybe in the chat for folks who still have questions about your presentation?
I know there are still a few outstanding questions. I’d be happy to stick around if you guys are. I just don’t want to-
I’m fine with staying around.
Okay. So, “What kind of metadata limitations did you have, and did you overcome them?”
We really didn’t, not that I saw, anyway. We were, in the beginning, as I mentioned earlier, it’s kind of a you don’t know what you don’t know. So, we guided the employees on their libraries to at least use metadata that related to the records series.
So, for example, if it was a project, then there was metadata put into capture an end date because that’s how the retention is calculated. And we at least tried to put that in so we could match it up with the schedule and then a lot of the employees already had ideas of the kind of metadata they wanted such as how to break it down by location, was it at the convention center or Palmer Event Center? What year was it? What fiscal year was it?
So, I don’t really see that we had any limitations. Jeff, did you notice any problems with that?
No. I didn’t notice any, and I thought maybe Renu would have a little further insight into that, too.
Yeah. Just one recommendation is when you apply metadata, you have to go with less. Less is more. The fewer metadata attributes that you apply to documents and then you request end users to apply, the better adoption you will get.
So, typically not more than five enterprise attributes and maybe a few additional based on each business area’s needs. So, keeping that to a small number makes it manageable, not just from a technology perspective, but also really for end users to be able to handle that.
All right. “What are the limitations as far as space is concerned in SharePoint?”
So, yeah. This had come up a little earlier, so there is a certain base volume that you get based on your number of user subscriptions, wow, and then you get a pretty large volume in your OneDrive for Business also based on those individual end users. So, it’s not typically an issue and you can obviously purchase additional space as needed.
So, I don’t really have a number off the top of my head, but I noticed a couple additional concerns and maybe I can respond to people by email if they want a specific number around what their current volume is and what their concerns might be.
And then, the other thing to remember, when we talked about earlier about migration. Not everything you own needs to go into SharePoint Online in a migration. A lot of it will be left behind. So, don’t compare what you have in your file shares today and think, “Oh, my goodness. How much is it going to cost to get all of this into SharePoint Online?” That’s not typically an effective approach to migration.
Yeah. One of the thing that go along with that comment of Renu’s is that in addition to the fact that we identified what didn’t have to go over, so we ended up taking only 40% of what we currently had on the shared drive over, there were other items, such as CAD drawings and images and videos and things, design files. And so, those are files that we have not migrated over to SharePoint. Those are things that instead we have plans to move into Adobe Digital Asset Management, because we already used the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of tools.
All right. “We’re currently using Office 365 but are hesitant to store records on SharePoint due to oftentimes permanent retention. We often rely on hard copies due to that permanent retention. How do you address records that are permanent?”
As Jeff just mentioned and Renu mentioned, it’s not everything we have has to go into SharePoint, including the permanent retention. Now, at the convention center, we’re lucky in the fact that we don’t have a lot of permanent retention because those items bring along their own set of challenges, but we do have a few that moved into the platform and there is a way to declare those as records and basically lock them down and they will stay there basically forever, as long as the software is running and the system is alive, they’re there and they are protected. They have access restrictions on them. And I don’t foresee any issue with them living in the system.
But again, we’ve got some other items that we chose not to put in there that are just as capable as going off to our storage site instead of being digitized. And so, it really depends on the type of record that, I don’t believe there’s any issue, at least not that I see now with having a permanent item in the system.
“Are there any individual file size limitations in SharePoint?”
Oh, file size. I mean, there are limitations on the file sizes, but I mean, not off the top of my head, again, recalling those, but you typically don’t hit those sizes in earlier versions with SharePoint 2013, 2016. Those were sometimes sizes that you hit, but those have been greatly expanded now.
And then two questions concerned with using SharePoint for the disposition of records or using Microsoft Compliance Manager for these retention labels and disposition.
Correct. So, it is all using their Microsoft compliance center, the disposition labels, so that’s where we mentioned the first go-around, we had used the information management policies associated with content types and with the second go-around, those were migrated to using retention labels.
And the last question is, this person understands that Microsoft has a 30-day retention and then it’s gone. “How do you address records that are deleted when they’re not supposed to be?”
So, let me clarify first of all that the retention is actually 90 days, 93, between the first and second stage recycle bins. And, in this interim stage, as we get seeded into the sites and everybody gets acclimated to using it, I am monitoring the recycle bins for each of the sites to see kind of what’s going into them, and using that as a teaching tool. So, as of yet, I haven’t noticed anything that has raised a flag for me, but until we start using our dynamic labeling, I am monitoring that and we’re doing continuing education on what is and is not a record.
But I think, based on the fact that the libraries match the record series, and they understand that those are record series, they’re more hesitant before deleting something out of there. So, we are keeping a tab on that.
Well, we emptied out the Q&A. That’s so awesome that we went about 15 minutes over, but there are still over 100 folks watching. So, I know it’s a great presentation by that.
I would like to thank all three of you for presenting. Just based on the interest in the chat and the Q&A, I know this was a very successful session.