January 8, 2024

Government Agencies Boost SharePoint Adoption

Information management is a major focal point for governments around the world. From sprawling bureaucracies to small towns, any municipal, county, state-level, provincial, or federal administrative organization faces the challenge of organizing and managing vast amounts of data across multiple departments.

While most corporations may be concerned with profit margins and revenue generation, the key drivers for governments trying to get a handle on data management arise from security concerns and operational efficiency as they try to serve the needs of their constituencies. Rarely adequately staffed, government offices must balance the need to conduct daily operations and address requests and concerns from citizens and local businesses while still adhering to data privacy and protection standards that ensure private information remains private.

Administrative assistants with photographic memories and a wall full of meticulously labeled filing cabinets might have done the trick decades ago, but the Information Age demands an Information Management solution that’s up to the challenges of modern-day governance. For many governmental organizations, turning to SharePoint and Microsoft 365 is the logical choice.

End users are already acquainted with Microsoft 365 and spend much of their day using their core productivity and communication apps such as Excel and Outlook, and many adopted Microsoft Teams for collaboration as remote work’s popularity has risen. Integrating Information Management into these familiar tools and workflows is both the most logical and most economical way to bring these concepts to life within the organization.

However, creating a directory structure in SharePoint and sending out a memo telling workers to begin using it rarely results in rapid and widespread adoption. Employees already have more than enough work on their plates and likely won’t see the benefits of this solution for themselves or the larger organization, leading to lackluster usage and spotty compliance.

To combat this complacency, some government organizations have taken a different approach and simplified how and where end users interact with SharePoint by introducing harmon.ie as part of their overall Information Management and Enterprise Content Management strategies and deployments. Here are some examples of what our government sector customers have experienced.

Setting the stage for SharePoint success

Compliance may be top of mind for IT, but for your average individual contributor or middle manager, there’s often a big disconnect between organizational-level urgency to properly manage information and an end user simply trying to complete their tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible. Asking folks to disrupt their routines and switch up processes they’ve been using for years or even decades is seldom met with enthusiasm. It’s much easier to build momentum and excitement for these changes, when the solution also radically improves the end-user experience and productivity.

"Many employees don’t understand the importance of records management or meeting regulatory or financial requirements,” says Mike Palmer, Manager of Information Technology for the Canadian City of Langford. “What they care about are technologies like harmon.ie that make life at work easier. Today, city employees regularly use SharePoint to access and share information as well as collaborate on documents now that it’s a snap to do."

Accepting that people won’t consistently adapt their behavior without proper incentives is key to making Information Management work at scale in the real-world corridors of government. Touting these perks for end users and promoting them widely can really move the needle when it comes to SharePoint adoption.

At the Government of Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) agency, that meant mitigating limited inbox sizes and solving document versioning challenges. Word of mouth drove widespread adoption across the organization as they quickly transitioned from a small pilot to getting harmon.ie licenses for everyone.

People are not going to change,” said Mario Gaulin, Director of Enterprise Information Solutions at AAFC. “If you want them to make use of SharePoint, you have to make it easier for them to access, search, and do auto-tagging.”

User experience key to success

While some government agencies might decree from on high that all workers must immediately comply with firm Information Management rules that force users to adopt SharePoint, others take a subtler and more organic approach. At the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), instead of issuing a formal mandate they opted to focus on ease of use and end-user facing enhancements.

This centered around deploying harmon.ie as part of MoDOT’s project rollout and emphasized the superior user experience and simplicity of compliance rather than stern edicts and punitive measures for those who fail to instantly adhere to new rules around information archiving and sharing on SharePoint.

Our users usually don’t know they are using SharePoint,” said Mike Miller, Assistant Director of MoDOT Information Systems. “All they know is harmon.ie."

The familiarity of the Outlook user experience and harmon.ie’s seamless integration within that application drastically cut the learning curve for the Council of Europe and folded in nicely as part of their transition from public folders to SharePoint.

Our users are mainly used to Exchange and Outlook, as well as the public folders in Exchange,” said Philippe Reilhac, head of the IT Directorate of the Council of Europe.
They are used to making use of drag and drop functionality to move documents directly from their email to public folders, and after our initial implementation of SharePoint we decided that any further solution needed to work on a similar level.

Collecting metadata at scale

With leadership clamoring to fully exploit the power of artificial intelligence and increasing pressure to maximize automation for critical information tasks such as email retention and destruction, there’s a burgeoning need for robust metadata to power these operations. Yet for most workers, this represents an additional task they must perform for every email or file they move to SharePoint. Getting quality, consistent metadata tags for each file on SharePoint won’t happen overnight, but harmon.ie significantly simplifies the process and streamlines these steps for workers to minimize interruption while maximizing compliance.

Asking users to populate a lot of metadata was a non-starter,” said Mario Gaulin, Director of Enterprise Information Solutions at AAFC. “harmon.ie allows users to upload a lot of documents and emails to define the same metadata for multiple files in one operation. This is a huge timesaver.

Automated metadata extraction from emails saved to SharePoint using harmon.ie was another key selling point for the Council of Europe.

harmon.ie’s solution works very well and the fact that your metadata is directly written from your email just by dragging and dropping into SharePoint is very important for our users. It saves time and ensures higher levels of adoption for the platform” said the Council of Europe’s Reilhac. “This project has been a major evolution for the Council of Europe and revolutionized the way we look at engaging our employees to adopt new technology.

Ready to see if harmon.ie can help your government organization or agency level up its adoption of SharePoint or Microsoft Teams for Information Management? Download a free trial today or check out some of our other government case studies from around the world.

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