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SharePoint: No more meeting minutes!

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Categories:Project Management; Libraries and Lists; Collaboration; Site Manager/Power User; Document Management; MOSS; WSS; 2010

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Editor's note: Contributor Ellen van Aken is an experienced intranet adoption manager. Follow her @EllenvanAken

When I visit “collaborative” sites, e.g. for a team, a department or a project, I often find a document library called ”Meetings”, or even worse, several document libraries, each for one particular meeting date. These generally contain documents for prereading, presentations from the meeting, agenda and minutes. And sometimes they have an action or decision list as well.

2013-03-18-MeetingMinutes-01.png

The good thing is that these meeting documens are now in one clear online location, and that (hopefully) sending documents via email and printing are reduced.

But now think again. It is 2013.

  • Do you still store everything in document format, while there are ways to do things directly online?
  • Do you have to open multiple Meeting Minutes or Decision List documents when you are looking for that one decision from early 2012, but forgot the exact date?
  • Is there still someone responsible for writing down “refer to next meeting” for several agenda items in the Meeting Minutes, and then remembering to add them to the next meeting agenda?
  • Are you still emailing various draft agenda’s to your team?
  • Does someone in your team have to collect the progress of the action list and recreate the new Action list?
  • Do you have to chase everyone for approval of the meeting minutes?

A different approach.

It may be time to move to a simpler process. Of course, there is the Meeting Workspace but sometimes you prefer to have everything in one site. The MW will also no longer be supported in SP2013. An alternative is the Meeting-Agenda-and-Minutes List, combining agenda, meeting minutes and decisions in one list. Our team started this in about 2002 and we have happily used it for our weekly team meeting for years.

The concept is as follows:

  1. Everything you discuss is first, an agenda item. The owner of the item creates and manages it themselves.
  2. All items not marked as “completed” are visible.
  3. The meeting owner adjusts the order of the agenda items just before the meeting.
  4. During the meeting, the item is discussed. We always had online meetings, so we viewed items on-screen. The item owner can adjust the item while discussing, and show the updates to the team.
  5. After discussing the item, the decision and date are added to the item and the status is set to “completed”.
  6. All completed discussions are stored in one or more “completed” views, sorted and grouped as needed.

Example

Does it sound complicated? Let me show you the (Custom) list that I have worked with.

This is an item on the agenda:

2013-03-18-MeetingMinutes-02.png
This is the item to discuss.By default, status is “New”.

This is the agenda, sorted on “Order” and filtered by “Status is not equal to completed”.

2013-03-18-MeetingMinutes-03.png
This is the agenda for the upcoming meeting.

During the discussion, the relevant info and decision are captured in the bottom fields of the item.

2013-03-18-MeetingMinutes-04.png
During discussion, the relevant information can be added.

This is the view that shows all items that have been discussed. You can easily filter for specific topics, regardless of meeting date. Of course you can also group on other metadata, but this view clearly shows the increased transparancy compared to Meeting Minutes in document format.

2013-03-18-MeetingMinutes-05.png
All decisions from earlier meetings, grouped by discussion date.

Of course you can simplify or extend the list to fit your own meeting style and goals.

What are the advantages?

  • No need to send agendas via email; if everyone sets a notification you wil get a message when a new item has been added or changed.
  • The meeting owner can easily adjust the order of items
  • During the meeting, the item is open and any next steps can be added straight away
  • When something is not discussed or no decision has taken place, it simply stays on the list. You do not have to specifically state that it is “moved to the next meeting”.
  • One archive of individual decisions means you do not have to look through documents by date. Now that you have one “online database” it is much easier to find any decisions relating to your topic, since they can be found by date AND by creator AND by tag if you have used those.
  • Everyone has seen the decision so there is no need to circulate any meeting minutes for approval.

Will this work for all meetings?

Of course this needs change management. If your organization is relying heavily on documents, not used to PC’s and projectors in the meeting room, or has been pampered by people sending things to them, this will be a big change that will need discussion, training and an extensive trial period.

It may be wise to measure time involved in the current meeting setup beforehand and to compare that to the new setup. This informaton will also help you to convince others.

For some meeting types this setup may not be appropriate. There may be legal requirements to have documents, perhaps even printed, with handwritten signatures, or some external participants may not have access to your SharePoint environment.

But for your average team, department or project group meeting, this may save lots of time!

Have you used something similar? Please share!

Comments

Lynley

Thanks!

What a great "real-world" application of a SharePoint list!  I'm going to share this with my end users :) Thanks, Ellen!

Posted 25-Mar-2013 by Lynley
CKL

it works brilliantly

We have used such a approach for the last year and a half in 30 teams (transitioning from PowerPoint agendas and Word minutes). Instead of a description field, we use 3: Background (used in Agenda and Minutes), Discussions (in Minutes) and Decisions/Actions (in Minutes). Different views render the agenda or minutes.

Posted 26-Mar-2013 by CKL
Trevor

Such a great approach!

This is a very timely posting. I just finished a proof of concept for a leadership group at our organization and its very similar to this. They are wanting to get away from printing out all meeting materials and go to all using lenovo tablets. I'm hoping to refine this for this group and then rollout to others.

Posted 26-Mar-2013 by Trevor
Ellen van Aken

Thank you for your comments!

Hi all, thank you for your comments. I am glad to be an inspiration, and happy that I am not the only one who sees the benefit of this setup for meetings.
Best regards,
Ellen

Posted 27-Mar-2013 by Ellen van Aken
casc

I love using SP lists

and think yours is a great way to capture the agenda and minutes that ultimately turn into tasks for someone anyway. Thanks for putting it out there!
 
In our culture, users have recently latched on to the idea of using wikis for meetings. We create a wiki library called Meeting Minutes in the Committee's  site, and use the wiki home page to list the committee's charter and individual meeting links. Each new wiki meeting page contains at minimum the meeting title and date, and a section for Attendees, Agenda, Minutes, and Resources (links, images, etc.). Minutes are managed live during the meeting so all can agree on decisions (seen on projector, tablets, etc.). Agenda items not covered are copied to the next easily-created meeting date page. And though we do end up using a Tasks list to manage the resulting To Do's, it's easy to link from the meeting page directly to a Task and vice-versa. Users seem to find the live web-based updates "more intuitive", although I really think they're just tired of Word and PowerPoint and like this new tool.

Posted 28-Mar-2013 by casc
Kerri Abraham

Terrific Ellen!

I rarely sneak over to EUSP anymore, but I happened to catch your article and I can't help but comment as this was a topic I spent a significant time arguing and researching in my environment. I have since retired from SP, but I wanted to share the bits I remember struggling with in regard to meetings. First, I think the concept is rock solid, but I do think SP fails in one huge way in regard to being able to use recurrent dates in a calendar with this kind of set up. I had experimented with multiple content types, since using a Task list seemed most reasonable for 'Action' items that might need to be assigned out of meeting discussions, Tasks and Calendar seemed a good first attempt. Wanting to give attendees a view of the calendar (a master calendar no less that would link to their Outlook all nice and tidy) but then provide a second CT for the meeting minutes, since the recurrent dates on a calendar provide only one ID, not one for each date, a second CT type seemed necessary, but that was problematic (I was researching SPServices in finding my solution last I remember) because it seemed that the date was the 'key' to tie all the information together(especially if you need to print it), lists give you hundreds of ways to display results, but many people rely on that calendar/date just to get to the meeting - I wanted to provide them that recurrent date visual that a calendar provides. I went the parent/child relationship route only to hit that one ID per calendar entry problem again with recurrent dates. Those awful recurrent dates are why I believe MS is getting rid of the Meeting Workspaces, they are a cobbled mess of weird folder tricks that are a nightmare to take apart when they get disassociated from the meeting date (oh yes, lots of experience in that realm.) In an ideal world, there would be a Meeting site (team site) for every committee within an organization. All documentation would be kept there, and a Lookup column provided within the Agenda/Meeting Minutes list so that topics within the meeting and their related resources would be linked together. All meetings within committees should have an agenda available in a pre-established timeframe (i.e.: one week before meeting date) and when the agenda is finalized an alert is sent to members to view. It seemed to me that if no agenda was available then the meeting should be cancelled. (I sat in on many meetings with no agenda, no goal, and no success.) I toyed with the idea that these list would actually be two content types, Agenda the first, Meeting minutes the second. Just to throw the idea out there: the content from the Agenda would all transfer to the meeting minutes automatically, but secretaries would be less confused by any potentially blank columns when completing the agenda since they wouldn't show until changed to Meeting Minutes at/after the meeting. My last thought on this great topic (thanks for reading this far!) You can use Quick Parts to create documents from your items with workflows...it's a little tricky, but it can be done. Then you get the ease and consistency of using a list, but that list can generate your document so that a signature could be captured. I had wanted to solve all these issue and present a solution prior to leaving SP, using lists for meeting minutes is brilliant, but there are a few drawbacks to consider.

Posted 15-Apr-2013 by Kerri Abraham
Kerri Abraham

Ugh!

I did leave paragraphs in that mess above...but the comment box never keeps them. (Chrome) Sorry!

Posted 15-Apr-2013 by Kerri Abraham
Gene Vangampelaere

Meeting minutes with OneNote

Ellen After reading your article I started thinking if there are other solutions for handling meetings. I'm experimenting with OneNote the last month. You can find the details on my blog: http://www.spums.be/?p=7584

Posted 16-Apr-2013 by Gene Vangampelaere
Ellen van Aken

Thanks all!

Thank you all for your comments. I like seeing all the alternatives, because it shows that there are so many more (and easier) ways to deal with this outdated concept of creating and storing separate documents.  If only our users would want to change their ways! ;-)

Posted 21-Apr-2013 by Ellen van Aken
Marek Hlavac

We have created our own solution for this

This is a fair approach if you don't want use custom code. However, in more sophisticated, yet common scenarios, it may not be enough. The meeting minutes:
- are to be limited by permissions (management may not want all people to see their strategy, tasks and other sensitive information, for example),
- have to be stored in one place (not only managers DO want to see meeting minutes from their company in one place, if the are allowed to see them from the point of permissions - see previous sentence)
- have some meeting agenda same each time (meeting start, tasks check, particular reports etc.) - we do not want to create those items each time the meeting starts
- ability to send invitations, generate and store meeting reports as a list item/pdf... etc
- integration with SharePoint tasks - one topic can contain one or more tasks.
 
 

Posted 13-Sep-2013 by Marek Hlavac
Kirk Karges

Capturing Meeting Attendees

How would you suggest capturing meeting attendee information in this list?

Posted 07-Apr-2014 by Kirk Karges
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