Progress so far

Since the last action learning group on 7th February, We have been trying to address the challenges of this project.  Like most other Higher Education Institutions, we are in a time of great change and financial cut backs and so much of our work has been to research where there is appetite for change and where change is already being planned and we can work with these areas to improve their chances of achieving change and delivering added value.

At the end of January, we held a day workshop facilitated by an external IM consultant to look at all 6 areas of records within this project, Student, Staff, Finance, Estates, Research and Committee records.  Each member of the IM team is taking a lead on one area and we summarised the current situation as we understood it and then tried to map the data flow of each type of record from creation to retention, deletion or archiving.

One main area of focus since then has been around the management of student records.  We currently retain all student paper files permanently and although there have been some electronic student record pilots, most of our schools still create a paper file as well as maintaining the electronic student system (we use SITS).  There are many reasons for this – most academics and some administrators don’t have access to the student system and so when they need to write a reference or answer a query about a student, getting access to the paper file is the easiest way to do this.  Other issues are lack of scanning facilities for those records received in paper format,  lack of trust of the electronic system or comfort in the existing process and lack of drivers to change!

As information managers, we need to  be led by the business in driving these changes.  We have identified a window of opportunity to work with our Students and Education Support Directorate who are driving work around the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR).  Alongside this work, the business is also hoping to improve access to the system, address training issues and review the security model so that end users can get an overview of a student record without having to access multiple screens or submit data directly into the system.  Our team will be working alongside these projects to compare ‘As is’ and ‘To be’ processes and to demonstrate at what stage fully electronic records can be trusted and we can cease creating and retaining paper records.

Another area we have been asked to work on by our IT services is to look at staff records.  In preparation for Research Excellence Framework assessment in 2014, we are implementing a new Research Information System fed by the PURE application.  The use of HR data feeds exposes data quality and business processes in a way that was not intended and our challenge here is to work with HR, Finance and ITS staff to map data flows through both the HR and Finance systems.  One thing that we are focusing on is responsibility for fields within the core systems – in many cases, there is  no clear responsibility and in other cases, changes can be made to suit one use which may impact on how another system uses this data. 

None of this will be solved overnight, but what we have learnt from this is the value of bringing key players around the table to talk about this issues and working as a multi-disciplinary team to understand each person’s role in the process.

The Enterprise Architecture workshop arranged by JISC on 29th March was a valuable introduction to this approach and one thing I particularly took from the day was that Enterprise Architecture practitioners may be more effective if not sited in ITS or Business functions.  Our experience of being neutral players, able to understand technical and business requirements and to translate requirements between the parties would back up this recommendation.

Other areas we have started to investigate have included research administration records.  Administrative records are managed by our Research Grants and Contracts team and at present are kept as paper files and sent to records management for retention.  Discussions are underway to scope a new system that will manage pre and post awards and will allow digital or scanned documents to be attached to the project.  Involvement in the planning and design of the system will allow us to ensure that these records will be more widely available which should limit the need for staff to keep their own copies as well as to improve the ability to transfer administrative records to the College Archives to preserve our research memory

Committee records are now only preserved digitally and we are continuing to work with committee administrators to ensure that they submit them in a timely manner and that we can store them with adequate metadata for retrieval and use by College Staff.  We hope to create a new committee system using SharePoint 2010 in the near future which will allow self-service secure storage and access for committee members to allow phasing out of printed copies at a later stage.

Work with our Estates records will be building on two previous projects both funded by JISC – the PEKin Project which delivered a case study on the move from paper to digital estates records and the Transforming Estates Records Management (TERM) project which piloted the Impact Calculator.  Estates are improving their project management system (IMPREST) to allow storage of project documentation and the IM team have been involved in this work.

Our final area of work is that of Finance Records.  This is traditionally paper based and we are in the early stages of documenting the flow of information from external suppliers and staff expenses to payments and the documentation created and its need for retention.  There are many players involved in these processes and the appetite for change is not high.

I’m looking forward to the next action learning set on April 30th to share our experiences with the other members and to use this feedback to plan work over the next few months