Challenge

Managing land and mineral rights on all state-owned properties, including hundreds of miles of coastline, is a complicated enterprise to begin with, and the larger the state, the more daunting the challenge. For one such state agency, a difficulty lay in its need to maintain and properly tag photos and related documents.

The agency’s Coastal Divisions needed to maintain a vast catalog of pictures showing beach conditions, offshore structures, derelict structures needing removal, storm damage, and more, and as their archives grew, so too did their need to find an efficient and accurate way to manage records. Adding to the complexity was the fact that many of these photos and associated documents were created by and shared among different business units, which led to inconsistent storage and naming of files.

Was there a cost-effective way to manage these files so they would be properly labeled, centrally stored, searchable, and associated with the projects and documents they illustrated? Could such a system simplify the agency’s process for tagging items with retention dates and improve the agency’s ability to respond to open records requests? And once such a system was created, how could training be delivered to current and future staff across multiple divisions, and in such a way as to bring everyone on board with the business value of the new solution?

Solution

The agency had recently worked with Sense Corp to create and implement a SharePoint ECM system, so SharePoint was the natural choice for storage of the Divisions’ files, which included JPEGs, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, and PDF files. Because this project was critical to the Divisions’ operations and would require workflow change on the part of agency staff, the project team decided on an iterative development approach to keep stakeholders engaged throughout the project, thus ensuring the solution would meet the agency’s business needs and facilitate user adoption.

Agency users responsible for capturing photos and data drove the process and provided the information needed to draft a detailed taxonomy for tagging photos and documents with the appropriate metadata, and during the development phase, the team participated in building the SharePoint site based on the taxonomy defined. The solution was based on a Sense Corp-created custom workflow using Microsoft-based tools to pull photos from the current shared drive, upload them into the SharePoint site, and tag them with the appropriate and available metadata values based on the taxonomy.

At the end of each sprint, interested stakeholders were shown product demonstrations and asked about the look and functionality of the solution so that the product team could regularly incorporate feedback. Openly soliciting feedback throughout the development lifecycle ensured that Sense Corp delivered a solution that exceeded the needs of frontline users, rather than a high-concept, one-size-fits-all approach that, in reality, fits no one. This also ensured that users would not receive unwelcome surprises when they participated in UAT, and more importantly, helped drive user adoption once the solution was implemented.

After a testing phase that included one last product demonstration with stakeholders and incorporation of user feedback, Sense Corp created an extensive Interactive User Guide with screenshots and detailed instructions for each SharePoint function. This user guide became the foundation for a robust training program designed specifically for the agency. In addition to helping current staff with their day-to-day work, the user guide also serves as a roll-on document for new employees.

Once the solution was in place, Sense Corp stayed on the ground as the agency implemented the project team’s tailored change management plan and officially rolled out the system. Agency users were pleased with the benefits and ease-of-use of the new solution, and their commitment to the implementation and high rate of user adoption drove maximum ROI for the agency.

Results

With its tailored ECM solution for photo storage and management, the agency is better positioned to leverage photo assets. Photos are now consistently tagged with all relevant information, including the precise location where the photo was taken, who took the photo, and how long the photo needs to be retained. Agency staff now have the ability to use precisely measured photos to document storm damage and erosion—documentation that could prove critical when applying for federal funding to protect coastal resources and restore them after storm damage. In addition, now that the agency is equipped with consistent and accurate record retention data, staff can confidently respond to open records requests and ensure continued compliance with state regulations.

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