Best Practice Collaboration and Information governance

Collaboration is critical to driving innovation, efficiencies and delivering community outcomes for most government agencies.

Fuelled by an explosion in the use of collaboration tools, most government agencies are undertaking a rapid re-think in records and information management to apply governance to these collaboration activities. 

While it is essential to provide a work environment that offers an easy way for users to communicate and collaborate, it is equally important that agencies maintain complete and accurate information of what users create, send, or receive as part of their work. How do government agencies deliver the governance required while freeing users to collaborate as desired?

Recognise and address the governance challenges.

Last year, as organisations shifted to remote work as part of business continuity, collaboration software adoption grew. Many organisations achieved remote collaboration with Microsoft 365’s suite of applications. Microsoft Teams became the fastest growing software in the history of Microsoft. In March 2019, it had 32 million daily active users and by October 2020: 115 million daily active users. Consider that 250 teams can be created per user, 5,000 members in an organisation-wide team, and 500,000 teams created by a global admin, and the scale of information shared is enormous.

Observing this explosion of information, and as a Microsoft partner, Objective began considering how information governance can be applied to Microsoft Teams for government agencies. One Objective customer, Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) had been on the forefront of the adoption of Microsoft Teams.

PIRSA approached Objective about its governance concerns with the usage of Microsoft Teams throughout their organisation. The challenge brought forward was that they needed a way to have governance over the files and information being shared. PIRSA was concerned that they would lose control over the information being shared as it fell outside of traditional governance processes.

"How were we going to manage the information, as in the documents attached within Teams? Lots of business decisions were being made and updated, how were we going to capture that back into our ECM?” commented Deanna Fleming, former Manager of Digital Workspace at PIRSA. “We also needed to review how external sharing across agencies was to be managed." 

Deanna was tasked with explaining the importance of information governance to the IT team and worked closely with Objective to bring governance to Microsoft Teams. This challenge shaped Objective’s product, Objective Gov365, which PIRSA rolled out in November 2020.

Like PIRSA, many organisations are considering complex information governance challenges around Microsoft 365 applications in our modern workforce.

Modern, Collaborative Working

Collaboration is critical to driving innovation, efficiencies and delivering community outcomes for most government agencies. Microsoft 365 offers users the ability to share and participate across various activities that include document production and distribution, video conferencing, corporate social networks, and co-authoring. The downside of all this user choice is the need to ensure that corporate compliance and governance needs are addressed consistently across all tools - enforcing common data models and avoiding the creation of isolated, unmanaged data silos.

The way information is created, evaluated, captured, protected, consumed, and distributed is key to effective digital government. It can empower your agency to extract a wealth of business value from your data. It can also minimise the risks and costs of mismanaged information. In a time of rapid change, organisations need to review how they are harnessing their information as an asset.

The key to utilising the benefits of digital government lies in a sound information management strategy supported by a robust governance framework.

Why is third party governance recommended for Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 is an ideal platform for enterprise collaboration. However, independent analysis concludes that it is not a comprehensive governance and records management solution for organisations that need to demonstrate accountability of information or decisions. A recent study conducted by The Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM*), identified 63% of respondents surveyed see a continuing role for 3rd party solutions in maximising the impact of their Microsoft 365 investment. The top priority for this is governance and records management.

Despite the updates to the Microsoft 365 platform that include compliance and governance improvements, records management with Microsoft 365 does not align with international record keeping standards ISO15489 & ISO16175 in that the context is not considered. According to these standards, records can only be fully understood when in the context of other records and in relation to the people creating, using and managing them.

Enhanced information and process governance to Microsoft products

Implementing sustainable and retrospective information governance is imperative as to not lose context, reduce manual searches, and increase security around what is shared internally and externally. Compliance must be delivered seamlessly so that users have the flexibility to work and collaborate as needed.

Ultimately, information should be captured and fed into a single source of truth, such as your electronic document and records management system (EDRMS) with minimal impact to the end-user and centralised control of privileges, versions, and visibility. Consider the Microsoft 365 tools most used for sharing internal and external information within the records community and what you could do with enhanced governance:

Teams: Collaborate with confidence knowing that information and its context (all files and conversations) are captured within your EDRMS and managed throughout the entire life cycle.

SharePoint: Users actively participate in the comprehensive document lifecycle and manage governance from within your EDRMS.

Outlook: Automatically capture critical email content, attachments, and email content according to your governance requirements.

Co-authoring capability: Provide users with a frictionless editing and co-authoring experience while controlling versions, history, permissions, and security.

Controlled External Collaboration: Provide complete control over external distribution and receipt of confidential information where long-term evidence is required.

The ultimate reward – building trust in government.

Adding the necessary governance to collaboration tools is something that organisations need to act on now.

While organisations have had to pivot and adapt to a new way of working in our modern world, an explosion of information was and continues to be shared. In our digital age, information needs to be harnessed as an asset. We need to ensure that all steps are taken to capture records in context which ultimately supports informed decision-making, effective business practices and increases transparency. This in turn improves community outcomes and builds trust in government.

* AIIM, Mastering Your Microsoft 365 and SharePoint Investment: Moving from Rapid Adoption to Sensible Maturity, 2020