“We’re all mad here”: Google Team Drives

Alice’s Abenteuer im Wunderland / 
Public Domain

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.”

Chapter 6, Alice in Wonderland





Let me candid: I was not pleased with this announcement. 

I am not in IT and I certainly cannot fathom providing technological solutions to an institution as large, diverse and decentralized as the University of Michigan. Yet to give unfettered access to a shared storage service with nothing but a small page of “Best Practices” to read from…is this really what we need? Another – albeit virtual – basement to stuff documents into? Annoyed, my eye twitching a little, I closed my computer and went home for the evening.

The next day (and with a cooler head), I considered how we should address this potential new recordkeeping challenge.

ITS is focused upon providing technical solutions for records and information storage—> Archivists are charged with the identification of records and information of enduring historical value —> Records and information management is as much about understanding human behavior and bureaucratic processes as it is about the records and information —> I know how people are going to use Google Team Drives and….

This is when it hit me. I don’t actually know how people are going to use Google Team Drive. I don’t actually even know if IT knows about the University Archives outside of “old things”. 

This realization has inspired an outline of a plan. I need evidence to support or disprove my assumptions.

Plan Part I.

ITS provides a comparison matrix to assist members of the University community to make decisions as to what collaboration and document storage services they need. We can build upon this framework and evaluate these services against additional high-level business needs for managing digital records. Once completed, perhaps ITS will be better positioned to spread word of the services offered by University Archives and Records Management Program. Perhaps they’ll even see the value in evaluating future services by the same criteria.

(see NARA’s Universal Electronic Records Management Requirements for inspiration.)

Plan Part II.

Find out how Google Team Drives is being used across campus. If approved, a large-scale study would at the very least involve cooperation from many parties including: IT, IT divisions within each school and college, administrative leadership, and staff from across a wide variety of business areas.

As this is still only a sketch of a plan, I am very interested in hearing from anyone* who is:

  • Currently experiencing the roll out of Google Team Drives
  • Has survived the roll out of Google Team Drives
  • Is currently reviewing Google Team Drives
  • Have developed a set of workarounds e.g., recommended apps that extend the functionality of Google Apps for Education
  • Has a set of ERM requirements to share or recommend
  • Uses Google Team Drives in your own work

*Although I work in a public higher education system, we all have experienced similar challenges and concerns in our work. I value your thoughts, reactions, and questions! Feel free to message me at ecarron@umich.edu or via Twitter at @heyellee.


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