e-Records Conference 2014: Streamlining with SharePoint

erecordsslogo-300x261This is the first post of a multi-part recap of the 2014 e-Records Conference. Presentation materials from the e-Records Conference are coming soon to the e-Records 2014 website.

By Bret Adams, Government Information Analyst

Okay, so if you didn’t attend e-Records 2014 — or if you happened to succumb to the common afternoon tendency to nod off after lunch — here’s a summary of the presentation by Natalie Acevedo from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) on how her agency leverages SharePoint to manage their records management program. Natalie was careful to state that her presentation should not be construed as an endorsement of SharePoint, but indeed the agency seems to have had great success with the product in tracking their processes, communicating records management information, and sharing training resources with staff.

The records management team at DPS consists of their Records Management Officer, four enterprise-level employees who handle records management as an extra/additional duty, and 60-70 records liaisons and backups across the state and within the headquarters. The DPS Records Management SharePoint page serves as a central portal for all agency- and division-level records management documentation and training.

The main SharePoint page includes eight links that are all accessible to any DPS employee or contractor. Only liaisons have permissions to make changes.

DPS Records Management SharePoint Page

DPS Records Management SharePoint Page (click to enlarge)

The “RML Training Documents” link includes information for records management liaisons (RMLs), who are required to take refresher training every two years. New records management liaisons must take the training within 60 days. The Calendar of Events is used to share upcoming training events as well as internal audit dates — quarterly spot audits of departments are performed to ensure compliance with the agency’s records retention schedule.

The Records Retention Schedule Documents page has been especially useful to employees seeking retention information for their individual departments. When DPS recertified its retention schedule in 2013, they divided the 67-page schedule into divisions (e.g., Administration, Public Safety, Finance, IT, Criminal Investigations). While Natalie emphasizes to employees that “It’s too big!” is not a valid reason for not complying with the schedule, she finds that enabling employees to just click on their own division’s section of the schedule is very helpful to them.

Each division has its own page, which includes things like disposition requests, quarterly audits, and items in storage. This lends itself to transparency.

Natalie broke down the steps they took to automate their program using SharePoint:

  1. Create a spreadsheet with your retention schedule information. This will make retention schedule data easier to manipulate.
  2. Create a group with permissions for personnel approvals. She mentioned the importance of striking a balance between access and control (permissions).
  3. Develop a list of criteria/questions for your agency need. Anticipating the agency’s needs will help inform the content to include in the site.
  4. Import data and generate the list template. The division-level disposition logs include drop-down lists that include only the records series applicable to that division. That way, division liaisons don’t have to sift through every agency record series to find the information for the series they’d like to dispose of. Natalie noted that they include retention codes (AC, AV, etc.) at the bottom of the page of their disposition log.

Some other list fields in their disposition logs pertain to possible disposition holds, like Public Information Act requests or pending litigation. Additionally, the form asks users to indicate the manner of disposition (shred, recycle, delete).

They also utilize the list tool and alerts to notify specific individuals (via system-generated messages) when updates are made to their list or items (such as disposition’s being approved). This eliminates the step of records management staff’s having to email liaisons this notification.

Another useful tool they developed was the Retention Period Calculator (see below). This helps liaisons calculate when their records are eligible for disposition. Natalie indicated that the calculator is easy to share – if you’d like to request a copy, she provided the department’s contact information.

DPS Records Management SharePoint page - Retention Period Calculator

DPS Retention Period Calculator (click to enlarge)

Finally, they created an FAQs Discussion Board where liaisons can post questions. Natalie is alerted when a new question has been posted, and then she can answer the question via the discussion board instead of sending an email to the individual employee. This minimizes phone calls and emails, because users can simply reference the discussion board to see if their question has already been answered.

The DPS Records Management SharePoint implementation has centralized processes, streamlined communications, and better utilized the department’s records management staff. We commend the DPS records management staff for leveraging a very common tool in what is clearly a very effective way!