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Teams, SharePoint and AvePoint helps Taumata Arowai with Public Records Act compliance and secure collaboration

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The need for a separate water services regulator was identified during the review of the 2016 contamination Havelock North’s drinking water supply. As a result of this review and broader sector reforms, Taumata Arowai was established under the Water Services Regulator Act 2020. The Crown agent will become fully operational when the Water Services Bill is enacted, expected to be in late 2021.

Collaboration tools required

As part of the planning for the establishment of Taumata Arowai, the requirement for a set of collaboration tools was identified as part of a broader tech setup.

Microsoft SharePoint was chosen for intranet and document management purposes, while Microsoft Teams was selected for workplace chats, video conferencing, external collaboration and other team activity. Jessie Larsen, Establishment Lead at Taumata Arowai, highlights why Microsoft tools were picked:

"We have a small number of people, and we need to be smart. Technology that enables us to be productive is essential. Microsoft has good integration across products, the user interface is intuitive, and they're always improving."

Public Records Act compliance

An essential aspect of the project was ensuring new solutions for Taumata Arowai would adhere to the requirements of the Public Records Act. During the discovery phase, we interviewed Taumata Arowai team members to determine these compliance needs. By deploying AvePoint Records Management, an add-in for SharePoint, we applied classifications and taxonomy, document retention rules and a disposal schedule to ensure compliance with the Act.

Security onboard

A secure migration of documents from the Taumata Arowai Establishment Unit, the host agency’s document management systems, was required. With SharePoint being tied back to Azure AD (reviewed by our cyber security team), we could provide this peace of mind. Developing a security matrix was also part of the design phase. As documents were migrated, they were reviewed and adjusted for their sensitivity levels using Microsoft 365's in-built functionality. As per public sector guidelines, data does not leave the NZ or Australian data centres. The new setup complies with the Government Chief Digital Officer's requirements for cloud services, with the audit process being conducted between Taumata Arowai and Theta Cyber Security.

The 'Alpha' build for early feedback

Working closely with the Taumata Arowai project team, we created a SharePoint Alpha build, which generated user feedback early on in the project. After some iterations, we came up with the final design for the SharePoint intranet and document management setup.

Added extras

We met all Taumata Arowai needs using the standard applications in Microsoft 365, with no custom code. Agency-specific requirements not otherwise addressed through Microsoft 365 features were met via Power Apps and Power Automate functionality.

Added SharePoint customisation included:

  • A vendor onboarding process populated into Dynamics 365 Business Central.
  • A 'template picker' function allows users to store and select the appropriate template at the click of a button.

Outcomes

Taumata Arowai now has a suite of collaboration tools that also meet the requirements of the Public Records Act. Zane Windle, Enterprise Architect at Taumata Arowai, feels reassured about the project:

"We're confident that we followed a good process, put in great capability and tested as robustly as we can."

Larsen adds,

"The process with adhering to the Public Records Act was made easy. Our users don't have to think about it; there's an automatic classification as they store documents in the various SharePoint libraries. It's removed the burden on them so they don’t need to think too hard about records management."

Users received training and are equally pleased with the results:

"We've had a lot of feedback from users about how easy the document management system is. It's a big improvement from where we were before."

With a security-first approach, Taumata Arowai can continue adhering to regulations:

"There's consistency across the organisation, which is vital, especially as we're working at pace. Where there were any pain points, Theta listened, and solutions were quickly found."

A common challenge can be the degradation of system usability due to other priorities. Fortunately, this wasn't the case for Taumata Arowai, as Larsen comments:

"There's usually a trade-off with usability and compliance. Naturally, we wanted to comply, but that shouldn't be at the expense of our people being as productive as possible. Theta and AvePoint helped us to achieve both."