SharePoint myths by Mike Alsup

By Mike Alsup, Senior Vice President at Gimmal Group (Full article here)

Myth #1: It is too hard to implement “true” Records Management (RM) in SharePoint.

Reality:  Microsoft made SharePoint more of a retention tool with an interface that is familiar to SharePoint and IT professionals than an RM solution whose interface is familiar to RM professionals.  “Out of the box” implementations of SharePoint RM require a wide variety of configuration settings, customizations and choices that must be established and maintained by someone who is familiar with both SharePoint systems administration and retention policies.

Myth #2: SharePoint doesn’t scale to the Enterprise.

Reality:  Many of the characteristics of enterprise deployments of SharePoint RM require careful planning, including the following:

  • Scaling SharePoint from a few sites to an enterprise with thousands of SharePoint sites requires the consistent enforcement of retention and records policies.
  • Scaling to hundreds of Content Types and hundreds of nodes in a File Plan.
  • Mapping the nodes in a File Plan to legal citations and managing this across a distributed enterprise with multiple farms, specific international requirements, and other local exceptions.
  • Establishing the rules for metadata inheritance based on the SharePoint Content Types in the context of the sites, lists and libraries where the objects exist.
  • Establishing the rules for site provisioning and governance that ensure that consistent enterprise information management policies are enforced.
  • Application of new information policies on information stored in legacy SharePoint sites

Myth #3: SharePoint doesn’t support the RM administration paradigms that most Records Managers are familiar with.  These are features, unique to record management, that enable users, record managers and administrators to create, move, copy, administer, and dispose of records according to record management best practices.

Reality:  It is true that several traditional RM administration tasks are managed very differently within SharePoint than in other RM solutions.  Below are several examples of records administration process requirements that are very different or non-existent in SharePoint “out of the box”:

  • File Plan Management – A file plan is a hierarchical structure that organizes records into a structure whereby rules for disposition and review can be cohesively applied.  File plan management provides a user interface for the definition of specific attributes and levels of the file plan structure.  File plan management also includes the ability to push the structure into a set of SharePoint constructs such as sites, libraries, and folders. 
  • Cut-off and Disposition Processing – Cut-off is the point at which a record begins the execution of the associated retention schedule.  Typically, a cut-off is a set of criteria that must be met prior to the action of processing the associated retention schedule policy.  The required capabilities include setting the scheduled cut-off review process periods, specifying and managing the cut-off event relationships and their execution, and performing the associated pre and post reporting functions.
  • Transfers – The Transfer function provides the ability to export selected records into a specified output format.  In addition, records also need to be imported into SharePoint through Transfer capabilities.  The import and export functionality provided through the Transfer function should also include the ability to extend the input and output formats and to map specific record attributes to these formats.
  • Record Relationships – This provides the ability to create bi-directional, parent-child and peer-to-peer relationships between two or more records.  Relationships provide the ability to maintain connectivity between associated records as well as the ability to enumerate superseding and supporting record information.
  • Vital Records – This includes specific functionality that addresses those records that have been identified as critical or “vital” to the organization.  These capabilities include the ability to identify, track and systematically review these records and their designation.

However, add-on products are emerging that enable the implementation and maintenance of SharePoint RM in a manner that is not only familiar but is powerful and complete from the perspective of records managers.

Myth #4: SharePoint can’t be certified as compliant by DoD 5015.2, MoReq 2010, or VERS in the relevant regulatory jurisdictions because of core product limitations.  Even in organizations that are not required to have certified RM solutions, these standards are recognized as important qualifiers for vendors to achieve and Microsoft chose not to include all of the features in SharePoint to enable it to be easily certified by these standards.

Reality:  It is true that:

  • Some RM certifications require content to be forensically deleted.  This requirement can be easily met by externalizing SharePoint content, but content that is stored within SQL Server cannot be forensically deleted, so SharePoint requires an add-on product to achieve this function.
  • SharePoint has the ability to process a retention policy based on a metadata value on the record and therefore can process a disposition policy once the specific metadata value has been set (such as an event date).  What isn’t manifested in SharePoint is a consistent manner to handle this event date and the process of triggering the date on hundreds or thousands of records.

Myth #5: SharePoint RM is better with a 3rd Party Repository of Record.

Reality:  It is true that many vendors have more experience with managing repositories of record than Microsoft has with SharePoint, including Autonomy, EMC, HP, IBM, and Open Text.

However, maintaining a separate repository of record for SharePoint content requires:

  • An ongoing synchronization of platforms that goes well beyond straightforward integration.  Customizations in SharePoint need to be tied to customizations in the repository of record solution.  Version updates require extra coordination.
  • Multiple user interfaces to find content depending on the system in which it is located.  Multi-repository solutions are often more confusing from a user perspective.    
  • Multiple teams with skills in each of the tools involved to implement and integrate the tools into an integrated RM solution. 
  • Extra license costs for the repository of record solution.  If the organization already has SharePoint licensed, the additional license and maintenance costs can be significant.

Conclusion

SharePoint is rapidly becoming a standard for collaboration, knowledge management and portals in most organizations for reasons that are well documented in the AIIM Communities and elsewhere.  The requirement for the content in SharePoint to be managed according to retention and disposition policies of the organization is clearly achievable.  While there are some challenges to achieving this within SharePoint, these same challenges exist in all of the alternative approaches to achieving enterprise RM.  The capabilities of add-on products from such vendors as Automated-Intelligence, RecordPoint, Collabware, GimmalSoft, Colligo, and others are rapidly maturing and deserve a careful review from organizations that are considering how best to achieve their enterprise retention and disposition goals for SharePoint-based content.

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