Records Management in SharePoint: It Takes a Village

A recent survey concluded IT pros had best keep their hands off of records. So who's complaining?

"IT can't do it alone," said Iron Mountain's Sue Trombley recently. "To do a SharePoint deployment in 2010—especially if you want to take advantage of the records management features—you have to assemble a cross-functional team."

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It Takes A Village...to Deploy SharePoint


That was one conclusion she noted from Iron Mountain's recent survey of IT pros migrating to SharePoint 2010. Trombley, director of consulting there, discussed the survey, which the company commissioned from IDC. In it, those IT pros were asked about their use of records management policies.

Oddly, only one in three respondents actively involved their organization’s records managers during implementation of SharePoint 2010, despite wanting to use SharePoint to solve records management challenges.

As interesting were survey results relating to migration of data. "They were asked how they were managing it—18 percent said they were bringing everything in. The rest said if they have time, they're weeding through it," Trombley said.

But "weeding through it"—even with records managers and records management policies at the ready—can still be problematic. In the survey, 46 percent indicated that their records management policies don’t account for content from new applications such as social media, blogs, and wikis.

"When you start unfolding what it takes to get on SharePoint 2010, we fall into these complexities and people get stuck. I've worked with people who say 'we're going to keep the legacy systems and manage those and go forward with new records management in 2010 and we'll clean up the right way'" starting with 2010," Trombley said.

Indeed, 63 percent of respondents said that they didn't dispose of outdated and inactive records from legacy SharePoint sites and other existing data repositories. Instead, they chose to migrate data into their new SharePoint 2010 application or keep it and maintain multiple applications.

Others, she said, just don't want to deal with SharePoint for records management. Instead, they use it as a front end and dump records into a solution such as Documentum.

"My experience working with customers on Documentum and OpenText is, most of the time, not everybody has a seat to use that. It can be limited to people who are responsible for controlled records or almost using Documentum as a black-box storage. I don't think it's going to go away. But because of the ease of standing up SharePoint sites, they're sprouting up all over the place and that content needs to be managed."

"We talk about unified records management here and what it means is starting to harmonize policy and practice across paper and electronics records. Now we have to manage electronic records with the same rule sets as paper."

For those who want to use SharePoint for records management, some encouragement from Trombley might get you fired up to make a difference. Here are three bottom-line tips:

1. Form that steering committee. "Get people involved from a variety of constituencies, compliance, legal, records management, IT—the more voices at the table at inception, the fewer problems at launch, including global partners and other groups," Trombley said.

2. Be ready to adjust policies. "Tomorrow there could be new content types coming—who knows what's next—and they could contain records that need to be managed. Keep an open mind as to what constitutes a record."

3. Make the hard decisions about records. "Take a long hard look at what you want to migrate in terms of legacy data into the SharePoint environment--what can stay, because it's old but you need to keep it, what's redundant or transitory. These are hard decisions to be made, which is why you need input from legal and compliance. Just because I call this copy an official version, and I get rid of it, I might still have six copies of it on a file share or on SharePoint, and it's still discoverable. It's a fine line between making sure things are kept and not keeping them too long."

In fact, Trombley noted, with new privacy laws in the European Union (EU), you can't keep a record longer than the business purpose it served. "In the past you'd keep it forever because it was easier, but now there are more reasons to get rid of it--the overhead, the backup, the admin cost. All that focuses attention on how to clean up legacy data. I'm an advocate for people cleaning up."

To learn more about the Iron Mountain survey, visit the company's website.

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