NAGARA is pleased to award the 2020 NAGARA Program Excellence Award to The Vermont Agency of Human Services (AHS) Records and Information Management Steering Committee. The AHS RIM Steering Committee was formally chartered in 2017 as a collaboration between the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration (VSARA) and AHS. This group meets monthly to address pertinent agency wide information governance issues and is comprised of representatives from each of AHS’ six departments, a representative from the central office, a designated VSARA RIM Specialist and executive sponsors. The steering committee model is a highly successful pilot for implementing standards-based recordkeeping in the State of Vermont.
Following established industry best practice, executive level sponsorship and collaboration enables traditional stakeholders like records managers, subject matter experts and IT to effectively and economically resolve issues with the support and approval of decision makers. The AHS Steering Committee builds upon this best practice and integrates the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles® into a wholistic governance framework that enables AHS employees to manage public records while delivering services respectfully, efficiently and aimed at improving the health and well-being of Vermonters. Uniquely, the model piloted by the AHS RIM Steering Committee ensures that departments within the agency have equal voice at the table to democratically direct agency development of information governance maturity across all departments. Participants in the AHS RIM Steering Committee benefit directly within their own functional areas and at the broader agency or even at the State level. A recent example of this egalitarian approach can be seen in the deployment of Microsoft Office Teams™ during the current COVID-19 global pandemic. As the State of Vermont quickly mobilized to remote work, a “teams-gone-wild” situation began to develop. Through swift decision making, the AHS RIM Steering Committee developed new protocols for the request and establishment of a Team site, workflows to map sites to existing record retention schedules and policy. This repeatable procedure imbeds within the setup request a method to predetermine the maintenance and eventual disposition of the new sites, and information contained within them. Additionally, through this process, the group was able to address pre-existing Teams sites and map them to record retention schedules and facilitate a retrospective clean up on those sites. The successful control of Team sites within AHS has resulted in standards of practice that may be adopted statewide, enabling more methodical work not only by thousands of AHS’ employees, but by other state of Vermont employees working remotely.
Having active and engaged executive sponsorship opens the door to further innovation related to electronic records management. Through successful collaborative efforts between AHS and VSARA, opportunities to pilot the use of new file analysis tools by Active Navigation™ to identify, describe and capture public records across unstructured platforms and ingest them into existing preservation systems have become available. The AHS RIM Steering Committee successes have also inspired other Vermont agencies and departments to establish collaborative steering committees with the assistance of VSARA, further increasing the State’s commitment to information governance.
In under three years, the AHS RIM Steering Committee has greatly influenced recordkeeping within the Agency; through the development of 17 new record schedules, impacting 45% of Vermont state government saving the state over $55.5K in on-site and off-site storage costs for FY20, and facilitating the defensible disposition of 388 reels of microfilm and 3,129 boxes of records held in the State Records Center. The impact of the new Agency specific record schedules is of course not limited to cost savings, and can be seen in the increased awareness of and excitement for information governance within AHS; and has helped the agency increase efficiencies within existing workflows and in responding to public records requests.