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Records & Information Managers: How to Leverage Your Skills in a Microsoft 365 World

November seems to have been an intense month as life begins to unfurl around the world. Not only can we go outside to spend time with friends and family, but we’re also seeing a surge in people wanting to speak with us about how to improve their approaches to information management in Microsoft 365. The increase is not surprising at all as organisations are becoming more mature in their roll outs and are now needing to tackle issues like information retention.

For me, one standout activity recently was visiting people at their actual office. I realised it had been almost two years since I had visited anyone in a professional capacity!

Aside from real humans, what set my office visit apart was the difference in the way we were able to connect ideas while physically sitting around a table when compared with my virtual meeting experience. As we settle into this new “hybrid” way of working, I’m still figuring out the most appropriate way of tackling each situation.

Across my in-person and virtual sessions with clients, I’ve noticed a common theme emerging of, “Where do I start if I want to get control of my information in Microsoft 365?” The word “control” is key here because it can mean many different things to different organisations, but as always, there are a few consistencies.

For the IT folk, the conversations we typically have are about platform/technical governance – approaches for ensuring that as they roll out Microsoft 365 more widely, they can provision and manage access to information appropriately.

For the Information Management professionals, the concerns were the same but from a different angle. The Information professionals were interested in understanding more about design options for ensuring the information itself is managed well over its useful life.

I hear many information managers say, “I’m confident and comfortable appraising and sentencing physical items, but when it comes to digital and Microsoft 365, I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing.” To this I would say that we’re all on this Microsoft 365 adventure together! The pace of change within M365 and all the new functionality releases keeps us on our toes. I’ve been working with Microsoft technologies, and specifically SharePoint, since 2005 and I learn something new most days!

A Mature Approach to Microsoft 365

As I have been speaking with Information professionals, in most cases I quickly realise they know more than they think they do. Below are my three top picks in terms of what I’ve heard Information Professionals discuss how Microsoft 365 can be matured in their organisation.

1. Understand the repository you need to manage—in this case, Microsoft 365.

Getting on a structured course specifically targeted to your needs is going to save you time and money in the long run and will help you make decisions about how Microsoft 365 could be structured and what management you can apply to the various workspaces. Learning more about Microsoft 365 will also help demystify M365 terminology so you can be more involved with other business units, like IT, who also have a large part to play in rolling these projects out.

microsoft 365

2. Phone a Friend!

Go and see what other organisations have done. Find someone you’re comfortable with and ask all those questions you’ve always wanted to ask – no question is too silly. If you’re not able to gain insight into another organisation, you can also look at vendor case studies for an overview of the approach taken. These case studies are available on the Microsoft website, but also websites like AvePoint’s (which you can check out here).

If you do have the opportunity to ask some questions, here are some recommendations:

  • How were recordkeeping requirements balanced with security requirements and the level of digital literacy / comfort with Microsoft Teams in your organisation?
  • How are your Information team members involved in the creation and management of new Microsoft Teams or SharePoint Online standalone sites?
  • What’s the process for end users requesting workspaces?
  • What were some of your key “aha moments” during the Teams rollout that you wish you’d understood at the beginning of the project?
  • How has knowledge of the differing retention requirements of information across your organisation grown within your IT team during the project process?
  • How has knowledge of M365 functionality grown within your Information team during the project process?
  • Have there been any user adoption issues?
  • What have been the most impactful benefits for your organisation in terms of information management?

3. Translate Your Requirements

When you understand the content repository, think about how you could translate what you need to do into a modern collaboration platform. Remember, it’s not going to be the same approach that you may have taken with a physical records implementation, or even in a more traditional electronic document and records management systems (eDRMS). Information management in a collaboration platform is inherently going to be different. Let’s look at an example of retention management across three very different mediums:

  • Physical Records. What a Directorate Case may have looked like in Physical Records:
  • Network Shared Drive: Directorate Cases 2012. What “Cases” may have looked like in a Network Shared Drive:
  • Microsoft Teams: Directorate Cases
    Team name: Case ABC
    Channels:
      • General
      • Documentation
      • Communications
      • Signed Documents
      • Financials
      • Tasks and Timelines

microsoft 365

You will need to decide what’s critical to the success of the project and come to terms with the fact that you may not get everything you would have in a more traditional system or a physical records environment. This is because managing content in a collaboration environment is vastly different. Examine the critical success factors and determine what you’re not willing to negotiate on. This might mean analysing relevant standards and deciding what the ‘critical mandatory’ elements of the standard are. Having a seat at the table is more important than getting everything you want.

Looking Forward: Sustainable Information Management

Even as we settle into the “new normal,” we know the trend toward remote work has been accelerated. In-person collaboration has reduced and is most likely to remain changed for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, Microsoft 365 usage is increasing and the need to implement retention management is becoming more pressing.

As a result of Microsoft 365’s continued rise, we are seeing a huge demand for practical and sustainable ways of managing the content lifecycle. The knowledge that information professionals have about the relative value of their organisational information is critical and must be applied to the design and implementation of M365.

I’m thoroughly enjoying seeing retention management taking its place in the sun, and look forward to supporting organisations to sustainably manage their information over time!


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