Maximising Microsoft Teams for Best Practice Record Keeping

Achieving the balance of information governance with the flexibility of Microsoft Teams can offer great value to your organisation

How do you get the balance right between information governance and the new ways of hybrid working in an organisation? To start, it’s important to understand information governance from both an organisation and a user standpoint. An organisation would be looking at the structure around governing information and having an EDRMS in place to manage critical information. For users, they are looking for a flexible and collaborative working environment in which they could work from anywhere. Finding the balance between these two is critical.

This is where Microsoft Teams has started to fit in. In 2020, the use of Teams exploded due to the shift to remote work. In many cases, the move to Teams occurred wildly without much planning or thought behind it. Teams was rolled out very quickly across many organisations with close to 150 million users.

Now that we have found our rhythm in this way of working, an opportunity presents to plan and prepare to maximise the use of Teams. Information and records managers can catch up to this new technology by considering the balance of governing content within Teams and leveraging your existing EDRMS without hindering users that are working day-to-day in Teams.

Why do we need to capture information and retain it as a record?

In a recent webinar ‘Maximising Microsoft Teams in a Governed Environment,’ Peta Sweeney, the Vice Chair and Queensland Director of Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia (RIMPA), shared her perspective on the importance of having an understanding of governance in Microsoft Teams and the value to be gained from it.

Peta began by providing examples of why governance is important and what types of Teams content you should be governing. From governments to regulated industries such as banks, telecommunications and insurance, there are many organisations who have record keeping requirements and compliance obligations.

There is also an assumed level of recordkeeping for consumer access, transfer of business, and business continuity. A quick search allowed Peta to discover that in the event of a disaster, 40-60% of businesses would never be able to open again unless they had records. Business continuity is also greatly affected in the event of staff turnover, as records and knowledge need to be passed on to the person coming into the new role. Community expectations and stakeholder expectations also need to be documented as a record. “At the end of the day, it’s just good practice to make and keep records,” explained Peta.

What do we need to capture

Peta stressed that not all content in Teams needs to be captured as a record. A personal chat or a meme would not be considered a record. Names, addresses, credit card details, and dates are all examples of data that might be shared in Teams, and even SharePoint, and should be captured.

“When we extract that data and we join it up with other pieces of data, we create information. In itself, that information is a useful commodity, but it’s only when we use it to support our decisions and our actions to document and provide evidence of the things we do, it’s at that point that it becomes a record, and that’s the stuff in Teams that we need to govern with the most rigor,” Peta explained.

She pointed out that records have a few characteristics and attributes such as:

  • Records have content but they also have context.
  • They are made at a point in time by certain people for a particular purpose.
  • Records help to structure and form.
  • They are authentic.
  • Records are unchangeable and capture a point in time.
  • They have integrity and reliability
  • Records offer liability.

“With Teams and the modern way of working, there’s no one content type that you would need to manage as a dedicated record and ensuring that the record’s attributes – particularly around fixity, you know, being able to remain unchanged, integrity and reliability – maintaining those won’t actually happen by themselves,” explained Peta.

“You really need to do some careful planning to make sure that the records that you are making within Teams can help you and move you forward in the long term.”

The value of record

It doesn’t matter if you call information a record or corporate memory, there is value in retaining them. Peta explained that the value comes from all the reasons that we keep records. “We need to recognise that value changes overtime. There’s not a one-size fits all approach on how you manage the information and for how long,” she explained. There are different types of value to place on records:

  • Legislative and regulatory value
  • Justification of why a decision or action was made
  • Legal discovery or responses to Freedom of Information requests
  • Historical value

With all records, it is important to manage them so that you gain maximum value. However, this becomes more complex over time. As such, it is important to ensure that content is available, findable, usable, and maintained so that when the information is surfaced, we can confidently use it.

Making the most of our information

When it comes to capturing information, records and information managers should be considering how to make the most of it. Peta explained that the cost of incorrectly or failing to collect the information is far too great. Not only are there storage and management costs to consider, but there is also the cost of misinformation, duplication, silos, data loss and not sharing the information. “I think Teams provides us with a real opportunity to get a better return on that investment.”

However, one of the main elements missing from Teams is the ability to capture information and pull it into existing file pathways or archives.

The challenge is that information becomes spread throughout chats, channels, or even SharePoint. An anecdote to this is thinking about the process of recordkeeping when Teams are created. Teams has been growing wildly but there is a need to govern.

“Records don’t just create themselves. They are an aggregation of activities that happen over time. Teams demonstrates this really well,” Peta said.

While there is a need to govern information, Peta stressed that end-users should not have to become recordkeepers. This is where the heavy lifting of Objective Gov365 comes in. It allows the information to be captured in a seamless way with minimal impact, allowing people to get on with their jobs.

Applying governance to Microsoft Teams

Stuart Meyers, Customer Value Director at Objective, supported Peta’s discussion to explore how to apply governance to content within Microsoft Teams. He delved into the different kinds of Teams models and what kinds of information to capture from chat, Teams, meetings, channels. “At the end of the day, it all comes back to content and context,” Stuart explained.

Revisiting the need to balance information governance between organisations and the flexibility users require, there is a way to capture information with minimal to no impact to the users. Objective Gov365 allows Information governance to take place in the background.

Stuart shared some insights that he learned from customers and Microsoft, as well as detailed tips for organisations to maximise their use of Teams.

Objective is offering value discovery sessions for Microsoft Teams where Stuart will work with you to determine what your challenges are. He will discuss how you can effortlessly govern your critical information within Teams, how to leverage existing information assets that you have in your EDRMS through Teams, and how you can start using Teams to maximise the value that capturing information can bring your organisation.

To hear Stuart’s detailed examples and explanation as to how information governance is applied to Teams, as well as more information about value discovery sessions, watch the On Demand webinar. There are many more valuable insights to discover from Antony Bauer, Product Marketing Manager, Stuart, and Peta in this valuable discussion. Register to watch the On Demand Webinar now.