Records Management Overview (Part 2)

If you haven’t already, you should read my previous post: Records Management Overview (Part 1).

In part 1 I covered some of the things to consider when using SharePoint for Records Management and I showed the evolution of capabilities over the years. I hope you are looking at getting a Recordizard (The SharePoint 2013 version of Records Management Pokémon) for yourself, or that you already have one.

Here are a few additional things you need to consider:

Scale: People still ask can SharePoint scale. Yes! SharePoint scales! I know some organizations are still on SharePoint 2003 and 2007, but most are now on 2010 or 2013. In 2010 we made huge strides on scalability with support for distributed Records Centres and tens of millions of items in a document library. The improvements in search in 2013 make this even less of a concern, it is super easy to build a solution where your users can search and find the records they need in seconds. In Office 365 we have an army of engineers focused on scale because Office 365 is growing at an enormous rate. In March 2014 at SharePoint Conference we announced 1TB site collections and unlimited size tenants in Office 365.

Distribution & organization: If you have more than 100GB-1TB in records, you will need multiple Records Centres. You have three options. Be sure to think long term because data continues to grow significantly, plan for the future not just your current storage needs. There are three options you can consider:

  1. Submit all content to a central Records Centre and configure that content organizer to send content to the newest Record Centre. When that Record Centre fills up, changes the rules to point to an empty Records Centre.
  2. Same as #1 but do it more automatically. You can configure your rules so that different types of content go to different Records Centres.
  3. Create one Records Centre for each type of project. For example if you have employee records you could use one Records Centre to manage those. Then keep your tax documents in another Records Centre. The people working with those records can go to each Records Centre individually and you can use a central search portal so that people can search across all records.

With content types and metadata, folders are not as critical. Retention can be driven off the content type and users can just search to access records. There may be cases where you do need a folder hierarchy and typically I would recommend at least some folder organization. Folders become critical if you do folder based retention or if you will manage records by browsing the document library.

eDiscovery: The eDiscovery Center makes eDiscovery preservation, search, and export all self-service for the teams that need these capabilities. It is a central place where you can pick site collections across your organization, preserve the content without blocking edit and delete, and export the data out to meet your legal requests. Because the in-place hold preserves the entire site, you do not want to turn this on in your Record Centre unless you have good reason (I want to preserve all data for x years). I would suggest using the site collection based hold feature from SharePoint 2010 where you manually declare individual items on hold, or have your legal team search and export the data out of the Record Centre and put it somewhere else. Overall the new eDiscovery features make the process way easier so the litigation team can get their job done without getting in the record managers way.

Physical records: SharePoint doesn’t have physical records capabilities. There are barcodes and labels, but they are basic and I don’t recommend them. There are some great SharePoint partners that have solutions for physical records built on SharePoint so take a look at that.

DoD 5015.2: Most customers I talk to do not need DoD 5015.2. Some think they do because they heard from an analyst or friend that any records management system they buy must be DoD 5015.2 compliant to do real records management. This may make your selection process easy. You just look for a check mark and a price tag, then you’re done comparing. Unfortunately you are doing yourself a disservice. DoD 5015.2 is a fairly old standard now and it was developed in an age where the world was based on paper. With the new digital capabilities we have, we can reimagine records management. Simplification will lead to efficiency, more usage, and higher value. Simplify your requirements and look for opportunities to find new possibilities. Are the benefits of a lower cost system with great search, eDiscovery, and collaboration capabilities worth it to you? But hey I work for Microsoft, of course I would say that. Instead, why not read this article by Records Management Guru Don Lueders On Why I No Longer Support the DoD 5015.2 Standard. He also writes on and I recommend you check that out.

The short of it is – make records management easy. Easy means simple. Picking the right content type and metadata to classify a document and then finding the record again when needed should be fast and easy. SharePoint Records Management provides an excellent base to do this. Many organizations will be able to use SharePoint out of box with a bit of configuration. Other organizations will want to partner with some of the great SharePoint Records Management partners out there. If you don’t have SharePoint expertise, you may need to bring in some SharePoint help to plan out your solution and help you get it going.

I hope this overview helped you get a grasp on the basics of SharePoint Records Management. I love to hear about how people are using the Records Management features I have spent years working on. Post in the comments, do you have a recordimander, recordisaur, or recordizard? How many records do you have and what are you using SharePoint Records Management for? If you aren’t using it yet, what are your plans and concerns?

Quentin Christensen, Program Manager