Records Management: In-Place, Repository, or Multi-Stage?Jayson Kennedy, Mar 31, 2014
There are many arguments out there surrounding whether or not records should be kept in-place in SharePoint or moved to the Record Center, the “trusted repository”. Not only is in-place records management a standard SharePoint 2010 feature, it is also fully supported by Collabware CLM.Previously, the standard practice was to move an item that had been declared a record to another location to live out its lifecycle, separate from the collaborative documents.
Pros and Cons of Managing Records In-Place
So what exactly are the benefits of keeping records in-place?
• Users can easily declare a record by clicking a button on the ribbon
• The record doesn’t move, making the system less alarming for inexperienced users
• Records are visibly represented by a lock icon (but only if edits and deletes are blocked)
• Previous versions (if versioning is turned on) of the record are preserved for viewing
• The context of the record is preserved; whether that be folder context or team site context
• No new security is required, and the record security remains untouched, adding more context
This all sounds good, and indeed, this can help you engender buy-in from those less willing to accept records management; their files won’t move, and they will always be accessible. No need to worry about clicking that “Declare Record” button!
Of course, there are always drawbacks to anything. In this case, the main drawback of in-place records is the volume issue:
• Over time, a tremendous volume of documents and previous record versions will also accumulate in the library – metadata navigation can help, but won't solve this issue – this system *will* become unusable
• Users may become frustrated with the overwhelming volume of records and demand (or create) new document libraries
• Backup and restore is more complicated because your records and collaborative content are all mixed together
So there are definite drawbacks. The main issue with in-place records management is that it just isn't sustainable in the long term.
Benefits of the Record Center
So what about moving records to the Record Center? Is it the most viable option? Let’s first explore the benefits of the Record Center:
• Records are separated from collaboration content, more easily allowing information policy to be applied without impact
• Records Managers can be given elevated permissions without impacting the security of collaboration sites
• Backup and restore is more effective, as you can restore repository sites without impacting collaborative content (and vice versa)
• Records can still be found through Search and Collabware CLM’s Global Content Query features
In the end, the Records Center sounds like a decent option for keeping long-term records. It moves them out of the way, they are still accessible, and they can be more easily recovered. But that still doesn’t address the main reason why users desire in-place records management in the first place: they want their records readily accessible. In the end, the main problem with the Records Center approach is the usability factor:
• Documents are moved from their collaboration location when declared a record – this can result in findability issues, and will likely frustrate users
• The effect of navigating from a free collaboration zone to a locked-down records management repository can be jarring for users
• Records repositories are often formed using the organizational file plan classification hierarchy, which is often unfamiliar to users
So here we are, stuck between the desire to keep records in a superior way, and the desire to create a user-friendly system to increase buy-in and record capture. An efficient, well-organized system will fail if its users refuse to accept it, but adding too much weight to the needs of the users can result in poor records management.
Collabware CLM's Multi-Stage Approach
Luckily, Collabware CLM provides an ideal solution. Rather than asking organizations to choose one or the other (in-place or Record Center), Collabware CLM advocates the “Multi-Stage Approach”, making use of both in-place and Records Center.
Collabware CLM separates a standard Retention Schedule into two different stages, an active one and an inactive one, to solve this problem. Since the record will remain in-place for a specified period of time, users can feel safe declaring records, knowing that they will not suddenly disappear. The period of time it is kept in place can be easily modified, depending on the working process surrounding the record classification.
The example above is for an Accounts Payable record, which will be needed until the following year’s tax period, after which it will become much less important. Once it has lost that importance for users, it can easily be moved to the Record Center for long-term storage. Not only does this make use of the benefits of both in-place and the Records Center, it makes more sense to the users, because it more closely aligns to record-keeping practices for paper records. Paper records are kept close at hand until they are no longer useful, not as soon as they become official records. After they are no longer useful, they are sent to inactive or off-site storage to fulfill legal obligations. This has always worked well for paper records, and utilizing it for electronic records is the best approach for satisfying both your records management requirements as well as the needs of your users.
In the end, both approaches to records management within SharePoint are valid, for different reasons. The Collabware CLM multi-stage approach brings together the best of both worlds, keeping your in-place content relevant and free of clutter, and preserving long-term records in a trust repository after they have outlived their immediate business utility.