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Training and Change Management are Crucial

No matter the platform, an enterprise content and records management strategy requires change management and training.  The cost upfront is minuscule compared to the cost of a failed program.

SharePoint and SharePoint Online with Office 365 has many exciting content and records management features and is a leading platform.  It may come with a familiar Microsoft interface, but that doesn't make it the same as filling up a C: drive. When working with a large pool of enterprise content, there is no substitute for an understanding of the policies, processes and system that governs your content.

Education is Critical

One way to combat many SharePoint problems is education and change management. The responsibility for this awareness and training can often fall to IT or the risk and compliance team, perhaps even the records manager. The key to any sustainable education program is buy-in. Start by forming a task force with stakeholders from the appropriate business units to align goals. Creating a defined program, instead of just rolling out the technology, will encourage users to participate willingly.  Executive communication, internal marketing and "Lunch and learns" are key tactics in a broader change management initiative.

It is crucial to track employee progress and ensure all employees – especially new hires – participate. If your company doesn't already have a formal onboarding/education process, this is as good a reason as any to begin. Potentially offering small rewards to those who complete the objectives is also encouraged. Often, the "carrot" is much more effective than the "stick".

Culture Change

Everyday business users of SharePoint interact with all types of content to complete a variety of tasks throughout their workdays. Unfortunately, according to a recent survey report conducted by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), user adoption continues to be an issue for 58% of respondent organizations, with inadequate training and lack of management support being the primary problems. What these users may not be considering, however, is how their interaction affects the company's overall SharePoint governance environment.

This is where a comprehensive program comes into play. Keep in mind these efforts are not the core of most end users' job responsibilities, so training should be structured in a way that presents the required tasks as simple and efficient. Remember, we want to be doing most of the heavy lifting behind the scenes, with rules and automation while providing guidelines the end user can follow to keep this automation on track.

This attitude of enterprise content management awareness must start at the top and permeate throughout the entire organization as feasible. Survey after survey has come out indicating that C-level executives in every industry put ECM at the top of their priority list.

With this increase in data security, now is the perfect time to include the overall information governance and records management strategy in the conversation. The potential risk and compliance issues (along with the financial consequences) cannot be overlooked, and all parts of the business must work together to prevent them.

A crucial part of culture change is that it establishes long-term goals. These goals will prevent user frustration as training is reinforced as part of ongoing programs.


We recognize, however, that a culture change can only go so far. The survey from AIIM mentioned above concludes that the under-utilization of SharePoint is a human issue, not a technology one. With that in mind, it is simpler and more reliable to put a robust and easy-to-use solution in place that minimizes reliance on end user behavior.

From an information governance standpoint, we can help our users and organization immensely by taking as much of this process as we can out of their hands. Automating classification, tagging, governance, as well as the application of policies and retention schedules to record are key tenants of an effective information governance program, and will help immensely in preventing risk and compliance issues in SharePoint.

With sensitive records being transferred or disposed automatically based on policies, employees will be unable to accidentally move, modify or destroy them. This will also increase productivity by decreasing redundant, obsolete and trivial (ROT) data, and reduce the time spent searching for records and content.

One especially effective way to support a seamless SharePoint content management program is to limit the interruption of the users' normal workflow. This can be done by automating policy rules and lifecycles on records. Some outdated platforms are unable to handle this automation while maintaining the flexibility required to manage multiple repositories.

The biggest concern from a workflow standpoint is that, if the process in place is too cumbersome, the employees will find a workaround, leading to information existing outside of official channels, such as in personal Dropbox accounts. This obviously presents tremendous risk and introduces a plethora compliance issues for the organization.

Training, culture, and process are key

Make SharePoint (and all of your other content platforms) easy for your users to learn. Make them aware of the need to manage content and train them well to ensure your program is a success.  This will lead to improvements in business processes and compliance that will pay dividends to everyone in the organization.

By Cynthia Wood

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