SharePoint Online: How U of T is tackling thousands of documents

How does a division reduce 1,700 digital documents to 372 and create an efficient information management process for the future? U of T’s Division of Human Resources & Equity (HR&E) did just that with the help of SharePoint Online and Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration (EASI).

In July 2018, the new HR&E Documents Hub replaced the Blackboard portal. The new site allows staff to track, modify, store, organize and share critical documents.

“Blackboard provided us with a secure place to store documents, but it was difficult for staff to search for information,” says Hayley Fuller, communications and change manager with HR&E. “We have a lot of documents that we produce centrally that we need to distribute to divisional offices. SharePoint Online offers comprehensive search, document versioning capabilities and a mobile-ready interface for an enriched user experience.”

The HR&E and EASI teams centralized forms, templates, procedures and policies. They created an overall strategy, extracted the content from Blackboard and analyzed which documents out of thousands should be transferred to SharePoint Online. They then customized the user interface with feedback from focus groups, and created a process for removing stale information in the future.

“We wanted to make SharePoint Online a much better user experience,” says Heather Postill, information management analyst with Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration (EASI). “It’s important that documents are accurate and up to date, and we wanted to save HR practitioners time when searching for the basics.”

Tamsyn Boshoff, compensation advisor with HR&E, is a content manager and was part of the planning and testing process.

“The testing process was thorough and the new system is really user friendly,” says Boshoff. “On the old system there was no way to know whether posted materials were being used. Now, we can see which documents are popular and users can sign up to get notifications about updates.”

Along with HR&E, the EASI team has worked closely with the Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, the Planning & Budget Office and the Office of the Vice-President, International to optimize their document management needs. Since launching SharePoint Online in January 2018, the EASI team has provisioned over 90 sites for divisions to use on their own and provided in-depth coaching and partnership with nearly half of those. Their consulting services are open to all areas of the university.

“We can help units and divisions with a more formal process, or we can provide ad hoc consultation – ultimately it’s about organizing information and improving business processes,” says Postill. “Beyond SharePoint, we can also offer consulting for other document management systems.”

This project represents phase one of a multi-year strategy to improve document management within HR&E. In the future, the division plans to work with all HR units to consolidate information and is also creating a hub for business officers.

“The EASI team has been such an incredible resource,” says Fuller. “We didn’t know what we didn’t know when we started this process. With their expertise, they guided us through every step and can do the same for any other area at the university.”

Interested in learning more about SharePoint Online and how to work with EASI? Check out the EASI Document Management Hub’s resource library, sign up for an ODLC course or contact easi.sharepoint@utoronto.ca.