MMU’s Governance and Secretariat team are responsible for planning meetings for 27 committees, which comprise a mixture of MMU staff and external members, and meet several times each academic year. This planning involves the assembly of a collection of documents which must be printed and delivered to each committee member in advance of the meeting in the form of ‘meeting packs’. This is a time-consuming, expensive, and wasteful process.
Additionally, the team is responsible for locating and extracting documents from previous meetings when requested by committee members. As the document store grows, this is becoming less practical.
MMU wanted to find a way to improve this process, removing the need to print and physically distribute the documents, whilst ensuring that records were kept in accordance with the University’s strict record retention policies. MMU believed that this could be the perfect pilot phase for the wider implementation of a complete SharePoint solution to aid collaboration and provide efficient document storage and management.
We were selected to partner with MMU on this project following a competitive tender process, thanks to our excellent understanding of the higher education sector and extensive track record of delivering large-scale SharePoint solutions to other institutions.
Our flexible and pragmatic style of working also appealed to MMU as they knew that the end product would match their requirements. This approach allowed MMU to refine the scope of the project throughout the process, allowing them to proceed with development without having to define everything up front.
At the outset a project team was established, made up of our consultants and MMU’s project managers. This partnership approach allowed the customer to be involved throughout the lifecycle of the project and understand the setup and configuration of the platform from the beginning. Regular meetings and workshops meant that MMU could see how the site was progressing and had the opportunity to give feedback during the development phase. In addition, we provided training on the new platform, encompassing both user training to enhance early user adoption and ‘train the trainer’ tuition.
We designed and implemented a SharePoint team site for the Governance and Secretariat team which provides:
- A document library to hold all the items to be discussed at each meeting
- Secure access to the site with a personalised view for each committee member, showing tasks and their diary
- The ability to view documents in the web browser
- Easy access for committee members using SharePlus, a third-party app, on an iPad
- Remote access using SSL Certification with all users authenticated using Active Directory (Windows) authentication
- A separate SharePoint Records Centre to which documents can be sent, with workflows to enforce the document retention policies
In addition, we wrote some specific pieces of bespoke functionality to aid the Governance and Secretariat team:
- Automatic security restrictions on uploaded documents. Committee members can only view documents related to their own committees, without the need to manually set permissions on individual documents.
- Custom workflows created using SharePoint Designer to control document retention and expiration in the Records Centre. This allows document owners to receive email notifications at specific intervals to inform them that a document is going to expire.
Using the SharePoint team site has brought clear benefits to the Governance and Secretariat team, including the following:
- MMU has streamlined the administration of its planning meetings, saving both time and money.
- MMU has reduced waste by cutting down on the paper used in its administration process. Committee members are able to access information 24 hours a day, wherever they are, with an internet connection.
- The information held is secure and accessed only by those who are allowed to view it, in line with the University’s retention policies.
- As the MMU IT was involved in the project from the outset, their team are now able to manage, support and if required, further develop the site to meet any changing requirements independently.
- The University can educate their users and perform induction sessions with new starters without the cost of employing external consultants or trainers.
Benefits all round
Other teams within the University have also discovered the benefits of SharePoint:
- A team coordinating the University’s move from a satellite campus to the main campus used a SharePoint team site to share architectural plans, using custom metadata to organise documents according to building and level. This saved the time and confusion as documents were stored centrally rather than emailed back and forth, and provided easy access to the latest versions of the plans.
- Some staff have created My Sites, which are personal sites allowing users to store documents and create blogs to share information with their colleagues.
- Waterstons created a bespoke web part which presents academic timetable data from a third-party system and can be added to pages within SharePoint.