September 2015 – March 2016
Business Case Background
The County of Grande Prairie is a municipal district in Northern Alberta. Established in 1943 and incorporated in 1951, the County has a vast collection of both paper and electronic records and documents dating back to the early days. As the population of the County has grown, so too has the size and complexity of the municipal government. With this growth came a series of decisions, innovations and transformations that led to the organic growth of the County’s records and information management standards, policies and procedures. In 2015, the County recognized that this organic growth did not sufficiently meet the regulatory and administrative requirements of a municipal government in the 21st century. The County saw a need for a complete overhaul of their existing documents and records management technology and operations in order to comply with these requirements in a way that was as easy and straightforward as possible for those employees and contractors responsible for creating, editing, consuming and otherwise managing these documents and records.
Problems to be Solved
For years leading up to the project’s outset, the County had relied on an electronic records and documents management system that was cumbersome to use and manage and that lacked support from the product’s vendor. The County was looking for an easy-to-use system that integrated seamlessly into the day-to-day work of County employees and contractors, required little to no knowledge of records management for the average user, and that would be supported in a cost-effective and time-sensitive manner. The County was also looking for guidance and best practice recommendations for migrating documents and records from the existing system to the new system.
The County’s leadership saw the value of implementing an effective records management program in order to minimize the risks that come from a legal request for information. In their existing solution, a myriad of costly problems existed – duplicate copies of the same asset, lack of version control, lack of adequate retention and disposition policies and incorrect storage locations for many assets, just to name a few. Ensuring that the organization was in full legal compliance with records management legislation was one of the top objectives of this initiative.
In addition to compliance needs, The County’s employees and contractors were increasingly struggling with where to store information assets in order to provide for efficient and comprehensive retrieval by themselves or someone else at a later date. As such, it was vital to ensure that a new solution was designed in consultation with the end users. A deep understanding of internal processes, policies and standards as well as working conditions and corporate culture was vital in ensuring that whatever solution was provided would align well with employees’ daily routines and increase the likelihood of positive user adoption while also providing a standardized approach to managing an information asset throughout its entire life cycle.
Solutions and Recommendations
At the time of this project, finding user-centric electronic document and records management software solution was a challenge. Ultimately, a combination of SharePoint and Collabware (https://collabware.com/) was selected to meet The County’s needs.
Working with a team of UX designers and SharePoint developers from Habanero Consulting Group (https://www.habaneroconsulting.com/), I worked with the information & records management team within the County to elicit and better understand both the business and user needs for this initiative and to initiate an iterative design process for the solution. Our first initiative was to develop a base approach to the project by identifying shared needs across all of the departments and project teams within the organization. This was then followed by deep dives into each department or project team to understand any specific needs that had not been met by the initial approach and to customize the solution as needed. The final stage of the project saw the entire project team working together to establish a plan to migrate content from the existing solution into the new SharePoint space.
Task: Corporate-Level Business and User Analysis
Deliverables: Universal Team Site Structure
Working extensively alongside the information & records management team at The County, I spent a great deal of time digging deep into the business operations of the organization to better understand all of the inner workings of the company. The focus of much of the analysis was on identifying information asset types, relationships between asset types, and the business processes that led to their creation and use within the organization. Through a cyclical and iterative approach, I devised a standard team site structure that would meet 95% of the individual department and project teams’ needs. This structure included generic sub-site structures with accompanying metadata and taxonomy requirements.
Site Home Page Wireframe
Individual Team/Project Site Home Page Wireframe
Task: Department/Project-Level Business and User Analysis
Deliverables: Customized Team Site Structure
Upon receiving sign-off from The County leadership on the universal team site structure, I began working in a similar manner with each individual department and project team in the organization, one-by-one. Through a series of independent analysis, conversations, design workshops, and iterative design activities, I produced customized team site structures based on the universal design that fully met the needs of the department or project team. These structures included more focused sub-site structures with accompanying metadata and taxonomy requirements.
Customized Team/Project Site Home Page Information Architecture
Note: Specific details regarding metadata and taxonomy requirements are protected under NDA.
Task: Department/Project-Level Asset Migration Planning
Deliverables: Migration Plan
Once I had concluded the design stage with an individual department or team, I worked with both the information & records management team and the department or team in context to establish an information asset migration plan. The primary focus of this effort was to identify where metadata requirements were unfulfilled in the existing solution followed by the creation of a plan to fulfill the metadata requirements and move the assets from the existing solution to SharePoint.
Concurrent to this effort, the Corporate Records Manager worked with an external vendor to establish a records retention & disposition schedule to allow for the effective management of the information assets in the new solution.
Risk Factors and Assessment
Due to the terms of the contract, I was only able to work with three departments within the County to finalize their sites within SharePoint. At the time of my departure from the project team, these departments had been successfully migrated onto the SharePoint/Collabware solution and a strong foundation had been laid for the continuation of the work internally.