Interview: Victoria Department of Education & Training

Key perspectives on common industry pain points around change management and training.

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Department of Education and Training

The Department of Education and Training is a government department in Victoria, Australia. They are responsible for the state's education system.

North Melbourne, VIC


Watch our RecordPoint Customer Interview with Rory Quinn from the Victorian Department of Education and Training. He provides insights into solving real-world business challenges and talks about how RecordPoint aided the organization’s strategy on its records management journey.

Recorded live from a RecordPoint Roadshow, Rory shares key perspectives on pressing questions from the audience on common industry pain points around change management, training, and user experience, and provides valuable tips on collating metadata that helps both the users and the Records Team.


Rory Quinn: I am the program manager of our SharePoint RecordPoint Program, at the Department of Education. I also have a very small information management consultancy.  I joined the Department of Education about two years ago. I help to manage their migration from a legacy document and records management system, eDOCS. Some of you might be familiar with it. That product had become end of life. They were working through the process of whether to move to a new version or to have a look at other products. The department did a market scan of other products that were out there. While they were going through that scan, our Director of Information and Knowledge Management identified that we already had a secondary document records management system at the Department, in SharePoint. I'm not going to be too unkind to the eDOCS technology, because it does what it does very, very well. It's quite a good enterprise content management system. It hadn't been adopted very well. The training had been inadequate, it had been set up to reflect our RDA, so it was a records management view of the world.

Why Consider SharePoint for Records Management?

RQ: We also had SharePoint on the side. We see good adoption, and it is our intranet. There were some team sites and collaboration sites that were already being set up. We made the enterprise architectural decision to extend our use of SharePoint. We would use it to manage records instead of bringing in another product into the department. This decision brought us to RecordPoint. Moreover, we started identifying, looking under the covers with RecordPoint. There were some secondary benefits that we identified.

- First, it was going to be much faster for us to out in place.

- Second, it was going to be significantly cheaper.

- Third, it was going to help us simplify our IT stack. We were going to be able to drive adoption much better. It was a system that people already knew or were aware of because they must deal with it day-to-day. This project started on lifting compliance in the organization. We had a very low level of compliance with our electronic records. Some other benefits became clear as we went through the business case and justification process.

How the Project was Started

Miles Ashcroft: Thanks to Rory for the introduction. This project was more than a records initiative, as you were saying. I mean, how did the way you presented it to the business change over time? Did it start as a records initiative and grow from there? Did you start with a view that this was a broader initiative?

RQ: The project initially started as a compliance activity. It was to improve the level of compliance around our electronic documents and records. But, in parallel, we developed an information strategy. A vital component of that information strategy was to improve collaboration and knowledge sharing within the department. We see SharePoint as a critical component of that.So, this did start as an activity to improve compliance. Once we started heading down the SharePoint path, we discovered that we could realize a lot of other collaborative and business process benefits along the way.

The Goals of the Project

MA: I'd like to drill down on the main pain points that you were trying to address, as part of the initiative. You've talked about the goals. Looking at it from a negative point of view, what were those pain points? What about usability and user adoption? Can you drill into that a bit further? Why was that an issue?

RQ: Yeah, so the issue was around product familiarization, training, and adoption. People weren't all that okay with eDOCS. What we were discovering is that people were managing their documents and business processes in SharePoint. Only at such time that they considered that material to be final or a record, would they then put it into eDOCS.We thought, "Well, why don't we cut out that final step, and keep everything where it is, and manage it in place."

MA: And one of the big things that we've talked about is, training and change management. That's often, as we've discussed, where projects can fail. How did you try to cut the impact on the business? To reduce that training or keep it to the essentials? How did you guys tackle that? Was there a strong tradition of proper training and change management in the department before?

RQ: So, to the last point, no, there wasn't a great one. We did have support for our eDOCS platform. But we very rarely talked about records. It wasn't in how we positioned it and how we rolled it out to users. First, we talked about getting the value out of SharePoint. Second, we discussed improving this process. Third, it was bringing information into one area. Last, it was the improvements that we would get out of search. I mean, we did have to touch on the records component. We had to draw that correlation between SharePoint and RecordPoint. But, for most users, we focused on the SharePoint adoption activity, rather than a records activity.

MA: So that's how you made the users care. I talked about in my presentation the fundamental problem with records management is that most end-users don't care. How did you deal with that factor?

RQ: Yeah, it's an interesting point. I move away from the idea that they don't care. Most people want to be a good corporate citizen. They want to do the right thing, and they want to make sure that they're managing their documents as records. But, they want you to make it easy for them. They don't want to have to learn a business process. And, they don't want to have to learn something new. They want good records management to be a subset of useful information management. The end user wants a business process so that it becomes an outcome of doing what they do day-to-day. They prefer this to a business process in and of itself.

The Records Management Team

MA: We've talked about the users, the vital stakeholder group. Moreover, we have some of them here today, the records team. So, what do you see being in it for the records team, as you roll out?

RQ: So the records guys came along today to have more of a look at RecordPoint. We're in our transition phase at the moment. My project is finishing up, and we are transitioning into operations. They haven't started managing records in RecordPoint yet. But, in the long term, what it's going to give them is the ability to control their records policies. They can then apply that in many locations. So we are not asking people to bring their documents to a system. We're asking them to work where they want to work, and we'll go and find them. So I guess we had deficient levels of records compliance in an electronic form before. There's going to be more content for them to manage going forward.

Change Management

RQ: We spent a significant part of our budget on change management and adoption. I had a team at one point up to 14 people. This team includes trainers, and business consultants, and technical people. They were also doing some portions of the internet, so I'll drop three or four people there. But, we had some people working with the business. They worked to understand what their processes are and how they work. Also, how they communicate and the types of terminology they use. This way we could create environments for them, that did make sense. SharePoint is intuitive; there's no doubt about it. But, you do need to put a little time and effort into making sure that you establish those collaborative environments. They need to remain intuitive, and then they can scale out.

MA:I would like to add to what Rory said there. The issue with metadata and profiling of documents is where you've said, "Great, I can ask people for all this metadata." The first step is to avoid going down that path.I suppose my view of metadata is, you have to ask yourself, "What's in it for the user to answer this? What are they going to get back? What value is it?"Also, do they understand what it is that you're asking? Because if they don't know what you're asking, you'll end up with garbage, or you'll end up with nothing.

We had a customer in the UK, actually, where he had a set of tags. One was a mandatory field, which was a drop down in SharePoint. Moreover, he hadn't done that analysis around, about what do users care? So the first thing in the list was asbestos because it was a health and safety thing. The users hadn't trained it, and he hadn't explained the value of that choice in it back to the user. So he had a call from a customer a little while later going, "Hey, I've got this big asbestos problem."What happened was everyone was clicking "okay," using the default values. Asbestos was the first term on the list. All these documents were tagged with asbestos. I said it would be more fun if we had aardvark in the list, we could have had an aardvark problem. But, I suppose that's the issue with metadata profiling. At RecordPoint, our view is, try and grab as much as you can from the implicit metadata that's available. Because, you know who they are, what department they're from, those sorts of things. Moreover, then be sparing with the extra metadata for which you ask.

Automating Metadata

RQ: To round out my answer, we didn't go deep and try and create these colossal metadata taxonomies. We did keep it light and used the implicit metadata as much as possible.

MA: If I can deal with that one. I suppose the advantage of RecordPoint is that it uses a rules engine. You can ask an end user for metadata that's relevant to them, that helps them. Then from that, you can extract out enough to apply the records classification that you need. So, to answer your question, yes, you do, but you try and obscure the specific records stuff as much as you can.The question is, what level of access do we expect around these systems? Is it, I suppose, core ministry and the ministry of work, or is it also teachers and people out in the schools?

RQ: So, as a secondary school our system is open, and that is our default position. That would include teachers who have a user ID and a login. They would be able to access this information, save for anything that considers being of a protected level. Anything that might be a cabinet document or anything that has dissemination limiting marker on it. For example, HR protected disclosures and those types of information. If I can access something for general use within the department, we would suggest is open to teachers as well. We all report to the same boss. Moreover, I'll talk more about how we're going to address that, in the future later on. But, if a teacher wanted access to my project site today, they would be able to find it. So, we are about to put in our new briefings and correspondence workflow. This workflow will manage all our departmental briefings and correspondence. That will be open again by default, save for anything that is considered sensitive. So only the people that would be involved in the approval of that briefing would be able to see a sensitive briefing. But, other than that, we would be opening that up by default. We have a very progressive Director of Information Management at the department. What's interesting is that he also owns the process for Freedom of Information. He sees the types of releases that we get asked for, all the time. So, his view is, "Why do I spend so much time securing non-sensitive information? If someone were to ask for it out in public, I have to give it to them?"

Migration of Records Management Systems

MA: One of the themes that I dealt with is migration. How did you guys tackle the migration question, Rory?

RQ: We have yet to migrate from eDOCS, but we currently are planning that out. Because it was unloved, we used it as a finalization archive, rather than a proper enterprise content management system.We don't see a need for us to say, "Identify all the legal documents and put them into an active legal site." Or, identify all the information knowledge management documents.We're picking it up and putting it into an archive, and wrapping search around it. The majority of users would search for documents within our legacy system by doc ID. So, that it will expose that through search, and people will be able to find it.

MA: So, you have stepped back and gone, "Why are we doing this? What's the business aim?" Rather than saying, "We must migrate."

RQ: Yeah, no, we're trying to do this as possible. Regular migrations have burned me in the past, so I want to do this simply.

Next Steps for the Project

MA: To sum up, and you've talked about this, where are you guys at now, and what are the next steps that you see?

RQ: So, it was two weeks ago, we made our legacy ADRMS read-only. This decision was a step as we've transitioned people onto SharePoint. That was painless. I did expect a lot more noise than we got, but it's been great thus far. We're migrating the data out of eDOCS in December. So that's to round-out the first transfer work we're looking to do. We're currently developing a business case to augment our use of RecordPoint into schools. There's a compelling use case. Also, what Miles was talking to, that people are creating content all over the place. Schools have been independent entities for some time now. They have had the option to spin up Office 365 tenants, and they have been doing it in their droves.

Managing Multiple Content Systems

RQ: They've been connecting to the department's own Office 365 tenant. But, they've also been creating their own. We have a departmental Twitter account; we have a departmental Facebook account. We're seeing schools spin up individual Yammer instances. The schools use these to communicate with teachers and parents, to connect them. The use them to talk about what's going on at school. So, the amount of content we create; there was a genuine use case for us to records manage, is expanding. There was talk that one of our former senior executives was sharing information with another department. This use was entirely legitimate, but he was using Dropbox. This choice was because our enterprise tools didn't allow for it. So, we must catch up very from a records perspective. Now that we've gone down this SharePoint RecordPoint path. There is other work we're going to have to do too. We cannot ask people to bring records to us but provide the facility for us to go out and find them. Generate rules that will go out and not seek and destroy, but seek and sentence, and manage that policy.

MA: I'm interested in talking about the cloud and the Office 365 story. How has that story changed over the last few years that you've worked at education? Are people embracing the cloud or seeing it as a legitimate option?

RQ: At the department two years ago, the cloud was a dirty word. It was considered a great future technology. But, it was not something the department wanted to study currently. Even in a short 24 months, we've seen somewhere in the vicinity of 180 schools take up our Office 365 tenant offering. So, the policy had to change. The privacy nervousness had to change, and that all happened in the space of about 12 months. So now we're starting to see a greater appetite for the cloud. The economics of it are compelling, particularly for a government department. There is still that delta between what our cloud-first government strategy says. And, what our own department's acceptable level of risk is. But, we are removing the barriers to that. So, data sovereignty was a huge one. Privacy was a big one. As I mentioned earlier, we have an information strategy that we're developing in parallel with this initiative. This strategy has a bunch of activities that it needs to undertake. But, one of them was to create an information security classification policy. We did that. The second is to develop an information security controls framework. We have all these potential privacy and security barriers that we've almost imposed on ourselves. These barriers that have stopped us moving to the cloud have to be removed. We'll see quite an aggressive push towards the cloud. This push will be for schools, over the next 12 to 18 months.

Keeping Up with the Pace of Change

MA: The pace of change that you've seen in the department, we've also witnessed. I suppose, from talking to other customers. Moreover, if you'd said that to me a year ago, I would have told you you're mad. There's no way that that adoption is going to occur first in the government space. It'll be something that commercial organizations will adopt.

RQ: Our focus was to target those users who were heavy eDOCS users. We had to establish an environment for them to store their documents and records. They've been the good corporate citizens; we looked after them. In parallel, we also looked at divisions that had heavy share drive usage, or even heavy SharePoint usage. We tried to bring them into our new SharePoint setup that had the connectors into RecordPoint. Or, we will deal with the information that has been on existing SharePoint sites. We'll be imposing RecordPoint rules on those sites. We have created a site for every division and branch within the department. Our focus over the next three or four months is to continue to drive adoption. We've trained somewhere in the vicinity of about 1,480 people in SharePoint. So, we've seen an aggressive uptake of our offering, and we don't expect that to slow down.

Training People on Office 365

MA: What was that training? Of what did that consist?

RQ: So, the 1,480 people that's been through the classroom?

MA: Yeah.

RQ: We've also developed web-based learning modules and quick reference guides. We've got our learning hub for people to use. But, we had a low level of technical competency within the department, relative to other organizations in which I have worked. Moreover, many people have worked in education, before joining the department. There was quite an appetite for classroom-based training.

Working with Content Outside Office 365

MA: What's on the horizon for other content? I mean, I showed the Rubik's cube graphic earlier. What's on your Rubik's cube?

RQ: In the short term, our schools that have taken up the Office 365 offering on the Department of Education tenants. We'd also like to address the schools that are using their own Office 365 tenants. We have approximately 13.5 terabytes of data in share drives that we are using for business purposes. Some people won't let go of them. We need to do an activity to identify what it is we need to keep out of those file shares, and what we need to records manage in there. File shares are on the agenda, but everyone doesn't want to deal with it. It seems too hard because we perceive that we would have to migrate that content into SharePoint. We want the documents to be records managed, so we're talking to you guys about the file connect piece. We want to be able to run rules across those file shares, to extract the critical records that we need to manage so that we've got a handle on them.

MA:I'd like your personal views on that hybrid model that we discussed before. I mean, that seems pretty much what you guys are adopting at the department. Do you see that as something applicable, or makes sense for most particularly government organizations?


RQ: Well I think the thing is, we're already doing it. So, we have departmental staff using Office 365. We have departmental staff using SharePoint on-premises. It's the way it is. But we need to continue, keep up the developments in the cloud. We're only going to see more and more content out there over time. The types of content and the environments that it lives in that we're going to have to manage as a department is only going to grow.This step is only the starting point of our journey.

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