Special guest blogger Andy Resto talks about his role as a Work Learn student creating Best Practices documentation for the Records Management Office. Thanks Andy!
This summer, as part of the records management team, I focused on the producing Best Practices for the university’s growing use of MS Teams as a collaborative workspace, which accelerated overnight as a result of the pandemic. To better understand how other institutions were using Teams, we developed and conducted an environmental scan of
Canadian universities. Using the results of this survey, discussions with survey participants, research, and collaboration with UBC IT, Barbara Towell (E-records Manager) and I developed a suite of MS Teams Best Practices documentation for internal use at the Records Management Office (RMO) and for university staff who are collaborating through Teams.
Working on this project has come with its joys and frustrations. Dealing directly with these tools was great exposure to big issues existing in modern information management, from cloud storage to file sharing and security, to managing several different shared drives at once. This experience will come in handy in basically any future records management role I may play. There is such a deep well of records management tools available for use in Teams and elsewhere that I was able to research. However, as I got more and more excited about the possibilities, the hang-up of not having back-end permission to implement these tools made the work in large part conceptual and abstract. I found myself often wishing I could use the tools in practice.
Working on this project has come with its joys and frustrations for me
Other frustrations came from trying to communicate the complexity of the information environment in an efficient way, while also balancing perspectives from different departments. This has forced me to think about and understand the specific value that the RMO can provide to end users and the responsibilities RM should take on over other stakeholders. As a current graduate student in the Archival Studies program, I developed a much deeper understanding of the mission of records management.
MS Teams research / University survey
The survey consisted of two parts: the automated destruction of email in MS Outlook (supporting another project currently underway within the RMO) and use of retention within MS Teams. The survey questions were informed by research into different documentation provided by other Canadian universities on Teams, and through exploring the functionality of the app. We found that it was difficult to encapsulate all that we wanted to know about Teams through a short survey, especially as we learned more and more about how Teams was structured. So we kept the survey questions as direct as possible, touching on the management of active team sites and disposition decisions once inactive.
I had never developed a survey with real-world implications before; it felt good to be building something that could begin to build a knowledge-sharing network for records and information management colleagues. Because the timeline to refine the survey was limited however, it became clearer that a follow-up explanation or discussion of the survey would be needed, since our own understanding of the questions we were asking was continuously developing.
Survey presentation and conclusions
Following the distribution of the survey, and as our own understanding of Teams became more nuanced, we began to realize that there were some limitations to the data we gathered. Most universities were in a similar situation to our own; just recently having begun the process of widely using MS Teams and trying to tackle the difficult task of implementing records management standards.
The main thing that I looked forward to was the opportunity to bring professionals from around Canada together to discuss the findings and begin connecting, to figure out ways for institutions to share and support one another along this process.
The main thing that I looked forward to was the opportunity to bring professionals from around Canada together to discuss the findings and begin connecting, to figure out ways for institutions to share and support one another along this process. I hope that by conducting this survey, beginning the conversation and providing examples of the directions that UBC is headed, we were able to inspire ongoing collaboration in developing standards for Teams management.
Personally, the presentation of the results to the participants of the survey was a valuable experience. I had the chance to speak on a professional level with other colleagues across Canada, and I hope it was valuable for the attendees as well. We have set up a shared space and conversation thread among the survey participants to stay connected.
MS Teams documentation
Originally, the goal of our research was to produce an MS Teams Best Practices document, to help guide users to structure, manage, potentially transfer and retain information. This became the overarching master document for a network of documentation including how-to guides, site applications, best practices in OneDrive, and information on capturing and transferring records created in Teams.
My experience in developing this documentation involved a balancing act between the depths and detail of Microsoft interconnectivity while trying to keep the process as straightforward as possible for users.
UBC already has a records management policy and best practices for using e-mail as well as online training. The content created during my summer position further supplements these resources. I believe they will have value to the university community moving forward, especially knowing that the use of MS Teams and associated MS Office file storage will only continue to expand. These documents will help RMO staff understand the relationship of records within MS Teams to other Microsoft software; for users outside of the RMO they can act as great reference material. They will help aid staff communication and promote efficient workflows.
An important step of the process is aligning information management goals and expectations with those of the IT department. This has been valuable to understand how working in different departments fosters completely different perspectives. Compromises need to be made for expectations regarding retention schedules, working styles, communication, timelines, and results.
My experience in developing this documentation involved a balancing act between the depths and detail of Microsoft interconnectivity while trying to keep the process as straightforward as possible for users. By reading so deeply into the potential of implementing records management tools for retention and disposition, I’ll be able to pass on knowledge which will help the RMO internally. In the documentation itself I attempted to keep information high-level, yet specific enough to serve the practical purpose of helping someone launch, structure, and manage their Teams. Doing this research and going through the effort of processing this information for users has been great for me; these concepts need to be understood as the creation and maintenance of digital records becomes more and more complex. MS Teams Best Practices can be found here: