e-Records 2017: “Teacher Retirement System of Texas: The Information Governance Journey”

This is the seventh post of a multi-part recap of the 2017 e-Records Conference. Presentation materials from the conference are available on the e-Records 2017 website.

  1. Information Governance: Take Control and Succeed
  2. The Public Information Act and Updates from 85th Legislative Session
  3. TSLAC Wants Your Electronic Records
  4. Establishing Information Governance for Local Governments in Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365
  5. Data Protection and Information Governance across Data Silos
  6. Big Data vs. Information Security: Bringing Peace to Conflict
  7. Teacher Retirement System of Texas: The Information Governance Journey

At the e-Records Conference, Jimmie Savage from Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), and Kristin Homer and Todd Brown from Access Sciences walked the audience through the journey of how TRS’s records management program went from a one-person operation to an agency-wide collaboration that allowed them to transform the way their program governs the information produced by users.

First, they worked to define the problem: TRS had a well-established physical records program, but found that e-records were more of a challenge. E-records were often kept in decentralized storage, like Outlook and individual network drives maintained by users, and there were limited centralized repositories at the department level with no standardization regarding organization. An audit showed that these records were not always correctly retained or purged according to the retention schedule, and end users were generally unsure of their roles and responsibilities when it came to records management. They decided to attack the problem using a formal assessment process to develop an agency solution, with a few goals in mind: centralizing RIM processes, providing staff training at all levels, and assessing the program on an ongoing basis.

Access Sciences was engaged to provide a current assessment of all departments of TRS. They completed workshops with each department to ascertain how records were being produced and managed, mapped those records into a content catalog which inventoried the information they had and how it was structured, and summarized key findings and recommendations. These results were used to develop a big bucket retention schedule and create standard repositories for electronic records.

In addition to the Access Sciences team, the records management department engaged other TRS departments for input on the project, including the CFO, IT, the project management office, organizational change management, and department representatives. They wanted to ensure that the solutions they were proposing would be feasible for all users.

After this process, they made some recommendations, including moving records and information on network drives to standard libraries in SharePoint with built-in classification and records management; moving business records and information in Outlook and personal drives to libraries in SharePoint, restricting access if necessary; using search refiners to improve finding records in SharePoint; moving process tracking to SharePoint, where you can track with status information, alerts, and workflows; and moving document collaboration to SharePoint to manage with status information, versioning, alerts, and workflows.

Additionally, TRS revamped their records retention schedule to make it more applicable to how things were organized in the agency. They aimed to create a single records retention schedule that would apply to the whole agency and where it was organized based on function instead of the organizational structure of the agency. Where it was possible, they made record series a collection of record types with similar purpose and legal requirements, also known as bucketing. They also created file plans to guide each department on how to apply the retention schedule to their content.  The result was a streamlined retention schedule that, instead of focusing on 23 different departments with many overlapping records series, had 8 functions, such as agency governance, benefit administration, human resources, and legal and compliance. They were able to reduce the number of records series from 378 to 116, creating less text for users to go through in order to classify records.

In order to bring employees up to speed, they created SharePoint classroom training, as well as weekly trainings that are ongoing. Moreover, they created a SharePoint learning portal, job aids, and computer-based training that users could access at their convenience. The RM team also set “office hours” like a professor would, where employees could come to the team with questions or concerns during set times in order to get assistance.

Even though they are only about 1/3 of the way through the entire project, the team has positive results to show: improved search and collaboration through common SharePoint locations, improved records and information availability, improved access for management and staff across repositories, streamlined processes with SharePoint workflows, refined roles and responsibilities, expedited employee and purge processes, and file plans to identify and manage records locations.

As the analyst who will be reviewing the TRS retention schedule once it is completed, I’m eager to see the new schedule and the changes that have been made. I would encourage any agency that’s looking to revamp their records management program to take a look at this presentation for ideas on how to streamline and innovate processes to manage records while easing the burden on end users.